The big news from DV Mission 2015 was the revelation that Mission director Jinx Prowse will be stepping down from the helm. For 10 years, he has been the heart and soul of DV Mission, the organiser, the controller and the host on Premiere night. For many, DV Mission without Jinx is unimaginable – but imagine it we must! Before heading off into the sunset for a well earned break, Jinx spoke to the new DV Mission team to reflect on a decade of running the UK’s most rock and roll film competition.
DV MISSION: Tell us a little bit about how it started, how did you come to be running a 48 hour film challenge?
Jinx: So late 1990s, I was involved with technology and I was kind of going online making websites but I desperately wanting to make films. You could have hundreds of thousands of pounds and do it properly but there was this emerging sense that I could do it myself. The first DV cameras that were available in my budget, you could fire wire footage into a computer to edit video. And there’s this empowerment through the technology being available at an affordable price.
When there was the eclipse, we all drove down to Lizard Point with a van and got a BT internet connection via satellite. We were all filming on DV cameras, editing live on the hop and broadcasting it out on the internet. And that rush, that thrill, of flying by the seat of your pants to get footage and working really late at night to get it out. It was exciting.
So when I first heard about a 48 hour film challenge, it seemed to encompass all of that. Mr Odd Ball had walked into a pub in Soho on a Friday night where all his film mates were and he, quite drunkenly, said I challenge you all to make a film, you’ve got to be back here on Sunday. He turned up on Sunday thinking no one would come back with a finished film, but a few people did.
And I loved everything about that so I just presumed that it would be happening all over the place. This was so cool everyone would be doing it. But however hard I scoured the internet, I couldn’t find this thing happening.
So, Portsmouth Screen were attempting to do some film activities in Portsmouth and I went in there saying are you running a 48 hour film challenge, if so where do I sign up? But this guy on the panel said well if you want it, you need to do it yourself. So off I went and tried to organise it.
DV Mission: Tell us about the first challenge.
Jinx: The first year eight terms entered and six teams completed. I entered, and I did everything wrong that you can possibly do in making a film in 48 hours. The technology was so primitive back then that everything took a really long time. You had to press play on your camera and record on your computer. Even though it was digital it was still a very analogue approach. It was a very stressful, horrific, nightmarish great weekend! Back then, rendering off two minutes might take twelve hours if you got it wrong.
So that first year, I got that excitement, got that buzz, and the next year I just thought this has got to happen. However, in all the organising and everything there was just no way that I was going to be able to enter and run it at the same time. I think 18 people entered, maybe 12 people finished, something like that. And the year after that, everyone was saying what date is it on? People started contacting me in May and June and that saying I need to book my holiday off from work, when is it?
DV Mission: What have been the highlights of the last 10 years for you?
Jinx: There have only been one or two occasions in my life when I have stumbled onto a stage and hundreds and hundreds of people have just stood up and given me a standing ovation for just doing what I’m doing. It was one of the ones at the new Theatre Royal and I walked on the stage and it was really bright lights. There was just an audience of hundreds of people and they were going absolutely wild. They were screaming so much that the force of wind off of them was sort of blowing me on stage. And it was just like, my God, that’s amazing. So for me personally that was, bam, that was a moment for me.
In the second ever DV Mission, this kid appeared as an actor in it, he was like a 14 year old kid. But the next year he contacted me and said I’m going to enter my own team, the thing is I am 16. So it was like, well you’ve got to be 16 so that’s fine. He said some of my team mates are 15. I said it’s all right, we’ll do it. And Ben learnt how to make film through doing DV Mission. Got totally enthused, went to college and now has a job in the film industry. A few years ago he stood up and said I’ve been doing DV Mission for half my life. That was a good moment.
There was another team called Team Greenline, the same year that Ben did it. I had a mother contact me going, look, my sons want to enter but they’re like ten and 11 years old. And I said look, there’s a reason why it’s 16 plus, it might be adult content. In the rules I say no racism, sexism and the rest, but in the end I haven’t got control and I can’t really be responsible for what your kids might see. And the mum emailed me back going my sons have been talking about this for years, since they were six years old they’ve been looking at DV Mission going one year we’ll enter, one year we’ll enter. I’ll look after them and I tell you there is nothing you will do that will scare or freak out my sons. And she hammered me for two or three months before in the end I said all right, all right.
And they turned up and they made a film that was so rock n roll and so raucous and on the edge! Just the fact that this kid had been waiting since he was six years old to enter and he got to 11 years old and just couldn’t wait any longer. That’s a perfect moment.
DV Mission: One of the things about DV Mission now is that there are people who have been doing it for so long that it is part of their life, part of their career.
Jinx: So there’s Rob Hind who’s entered for ten years. The first year he entered his students from St Vincent College and then the next year the teachers are in it too.
But the team I remember the most is Three Angry Men. Ten years ago these guys got on quite well and the first year of DV Mission they had some massive argument and they didn’t speak to each other for a year. Then it gets close to DV Mission and Bill contacts Ian and goes I know we haven’t spoken but it’s DV Mission again, should we do it? And Ian went, yes, all right. They had a weekend where they just screamed at each other all weekend, didn’t talk to each other for a year. And this went on and on and on. At one point I thought I was going to have to split them up. There’s a photograph of them sat on a sofa, one on one end, one on the other end and one in the middle. It’s a very long sofa and none of them are looking at each other again. They hate each other and DV Mission did that to them but they’re in every year. Ten years worth of hell for them.
Bill was just amazing on the year that loads of funding fell through. People were hassling me oh do DV Mission, do DV Mission. I said well come on, there’s no money and I haven’t got the time. People started getting quite angry with me as if somehow it was my responsibility to do it. And then this guy Bill phones me up, he goes I’m from this team, Three Angry Men. I go oh yes, hello Bill, and he goes what’s this I hear about it not happening? I said I haven’t got the money and I haven’t got the time.
He said how much money would it take? I said two grand. He said how much time would it take, I said about 100 hours and he put the phone down. I thought he was a bit pissed off with me but he phoned me back five minutes later and he said this is the telephone number of a guy, he’s expecting your phone call. He’s been to DV Mission as an audience member twice so he knows exactly what you’re talking about, you don’t have to pitch to him. He’s expecting you to call now, this is his number.
So I go all right, and I phone up this guy and hi, this is Jinx, this is why I need the two grand, and he said all right, you’ve got it. I put the phone down thinking that’s amazing. Bill phones me back up and says did you get the money, I said yes, but it doesn’t help I still need 100 hours of someone’s time. Bill said I’m yours, 100 hours, 200 hours, you’ve got it. And I just wrote a list of what needed to be done and he ran the entire challenge. It’s only happening now with consistency and everything because that guy phoned me up and he wouldn’t let it die.
DV Mission: Let’s talk a little bit about the community. The first DV Mission, was in 2006, and at that time there wasn’t really a community of film makers and audio visual professionals in the area. Whereas I definitely get a sense of that now and there’s a number of reasons for that, perhaps one of them is that graduates are staying in the area because they can’t afford to go to London anymore. But I think one of the things for me is that I can see a very strong community around DV Mission.
Jinx: That took a while you know, it took a little while before the Worcester Massive would appear and everyone in the audience went oh, it’s Worcester Massive again. People started supporting each other but it was only when it went to the pier and we started to get tables with teams sat around the tables and you could suddenly cross pollinate tables and so on. I think we might have been the last event that happened on the pier before it literally fell into the sea. But somehow the rock n rollness of this old pier just about hanging on for the weekend, it was great, really good actually, and lovely people. There’s been four or five years where the seating has been more conducive to teams talking to each other. And that community has really come strongly out.
DV Mission: I think DV Mission does give that community its identity in a way because once a year everyone who is involved in film making one way or another, pretty much, is…
Jinx: If you’ve got some editing work that needs doing on that weekend in Hampshire, you’re fucked, there are no editors left. There are no editors left basically. There’s not rendering capacity anywhere and there’s no editors.
DV Mission: Indeed. I’m aware of people who have been my students in the past ten years and now I see them taking part and they’re running their businesses and I can really see the way that DV Mission has kind of fed them. And it’s kind of, almost like it has fed them, hasn’t it?
Jinx: Feeds your soul, yes, there’s something about it that is good for the soul.
DV Mission: I mean Jo won in 2014, you tell that story about how they almost failed but then…
Jinx: Team Mad Dogs last year, I mean they had won worthy awards in the past, astonishingly good too. In the real world they are Starboard Media and make films for a living. They’re a talented bunch. However last year the genre was hybrid disaster, which I’ll give you was a tough one, I’m never easy on them. I was following a Twitter feed and by about 11 o’clock on Friday night they had gone online and said any other teams out there with good ideas, we will pay good money for a bad idea. We will pay money, please anyone help us, we are totally and utterly stumped.
Then there were tweets at about one or two o’clock in the morning saying I can’t believe it, we’ve failed, we haven’t even got an idea, we’re fucked. Saturday, I’m off down to the pub in the afternoon. Saturday night, I’m so plastered, I can’t believe I’m not in DV Mission. Sunday morning, 11 o’clock, we’re back in, we’ve got an idea, we’ve got four hours, off we go!
The film they made was the essence of DV Mission. It was basically two people in front of a piece of plastic and they had to fill two minutes with about six gags. The two actors were looking beyond the fourth wall at a laptop with a two minute counter on it. They were basically told, these are your gags, you’ve got two minutes to deliver them. But in the end it was only about a minute’s worth of gags so what makes that film work so well is the extra minutes worth. And the actor, little guy who I feel shone out for me, he didn’t know what DV Mission was, he didn’t know who these people were, they just told him to sit in a ring and tell these gags and have it out for two minutes. He was brilliant.
DV Mission: All right, so this is the tenth year, you’re retiring, tell us about that, what’s with that?
Jinx: After the last few years, it’s a lot of effort to put it on, and some money as well. I guess there’s no time in my life when it’s particularly quiet but I’ve got a job and I can’t do my job for the few weeks that DV Mission is on because DV Mission takes so much of my energy. For my health and for my sanity, I kind of need to stop. And that should have happened a few years ago really. I don’t get anything out of it, if anything it costs me money. I’ve got a job. It costs me in time, life, I’ll probably die ten years younger for having done ten years DV Mission. Last year I was so prepared to tell everyone that’s it, I’m out, but actually something about the number ten seemed to say well actually I should do the tenth year, I can’t walk away from this nine years in.
I was in a meeting for work and someone was saying, look, the work you do is brilliant. Why aren’t you selling it more, why aren’t you bigging yourself up, why aren’t you going out there and putting it on the line again, getting more and more and more people interested? And I realised that actually it’s something I’m no good at, if there’s one thing I’m weak at it’s actually blowing my own trumpet. I’ve always believed that my actions define who I am so if you look at what DV Mission has done, fantastic, there you go you’ve done it, I rest my case.
My natural strength is to develop an idea to a point where it’s working really well, my weakness is to take that idea to the next level where you’ve got to sell out of it. DV Mission has never been about money, no cash prizes ever, up until today. Teams get in for free, literally, everything. It’s cost me money just so that money is not part of it. And I realise that if you’ve got to grow it it’s got to be about money and you’ve actually got to sit and go I’m fucking brilliant, this is fucking brilliant, listen to me. Give me the money. And that’s what I’m no good at. So actually now is a perfect time for me to walk away with my ethics and someone with less of a hoity nose than me to actually do justice to the idea and take it to more people.
DV Mission: So that’s a great legacy. Obviously you’re going to let go of it and that’s quite a difficult thing to do when it’s your baby in a way. But you know, you’ll still be around. Do you have a kind of vision for what might happen now?
Jinx: On YouTube there are over 150 films, some of them are stunning. Moments of pure genius, moments that will make you cry, there are films that will make you laugh out loud, there was absolutely genius amongst them. I think the YouTube’s had about 30,000 views so you know it kind of gets out there. But actually those good films need to be shown at a national or international level.
I could pick five films now off the top of my head which stand up in their own right without even saying they were made in 48 hours. If you had six months to write it and six months to shoot it and you came up with that, it would still be an amazing film. And those should be seen. There should be a big cinema in London with industry people who just get to see five two minute films who walk away and to be going that was fucking brilliant.
It’s not necessarily about DV Mission, it’s about the teams. Broken Bricks who two years ago gate crashed DV Mission. They’d never filled out the application form, they never let me know they were entering. There’s a start line, there’s loads of people there, I didn’t spot them. So it was only at the finish line when 20 teams had entered, 20 teams had finished, and then another team walked through the door with a finished film. So, who are you guys? Oh, we’re Broken Bricks. Well you could have let me know you were going to enter. People have been booked to this since May. And their film was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, and it was so funny, such a talented bunch. And last year again another amazing film. They’re set up as a comedy film making bunch. Their break is when their film gets shown in a London cinema to those industry bods. Whoever is sat in that audience they’re going to be racing to get to Broken Bricks to sign them up. And that should be happening.
Jinx Prowse was speaking to Roy Hanney.