A culturally significant part of the 70s and 80s was the rise of the independent VHS store. These small, but important businesses kept genre horror, porn and subversive cinema alive for dedicated fans and collectors. The story of the owners, clients, movie stars and producers that shaped the VHS era is captured perfectly by director and writer Mark Williams. I was fortunate indeed, to ask him a few questions about this important documentary, VHS Forever? Psychotronic People (review).
Eric Karell: Given that all documentaries involve serious effort and work, was VHS Forever? Psychotronic People as fun to make as it was to watch? How long did the process take, from pre-production, to the actual interviews, post-production and editing?
Mark Williams: Indeed it was, the film took about 9 months to complete in all, with lots of location filming in or around London including The Cinema Museum located nearby the Imperial War Museum and also at The Genesis Cinema which is located right in the east end of London, nearby Stepney Green Tube Station and of course the famous Camden Electric Ballroom which has played host to many a famous name, such as Prince and also bands like Madness and Blur to name only two.
I think it gave the documentary a very authentic and gritty atmosphere.
Eric: Given the large scope of the documentary, how did you determine which people to interview, as well as what aspects of the era to include?
Mark: Well we had a list of people that we felt were crucial to the documentary such as Tony M. Clarke, Kim Newman, Marc Morris and Graham Humphreys. And we then reached out to people via social media such as artist Thomas Hodge, Allan Bryce, David McGillivray, etc.
Also, our associate producer Roger Pyke who is a well known DVD/Blu-ray dealer at the Camden Film Fairs was very helpful in recruiting a few of the regulars such as Caroline Munro, Norman J. Warren, etc. We were very lucky in getting some of the key people who were actually involved in the booming film/video scene during the 1980s.
Eric: What did you feel was the key element of the documentary; i.e. censorship, nostalgia, or the wide range of personalities onscreen, including actors, producers, store owners, collectors, and critics?
Mark: I think all of the above elements combined make this documentary film truly unique and very diverse too. We actually cover a lot of ground in just over 90 minutes which is quite a feat to achieve!
Eric: Were any of the interviews more memorable to you personally? Caroline Munro has always been a personal favorite of mine; seeing her as one of the icons of subversive cinema. Was she as thrilling to interview as I imagine it to be?
Mark: I feel everyone gave 110% but I must say filming with veterans such as Caroline Munro was a real honour, and she has a very natural way with the camera too. Nothing was too much trouble and her interview was a joy to behold.
Eric: I think it was brilliant to give Lloyd Kaufman the final word on the general subject of government interference and censorship. He seems to be a congenial fellow, so how was he to work with?
Mark: Uncle Lloyd was an absolute pleasure to work with and he actually filmed his interview with questions provided by myself at Troma HQ in New York City. Most of the interview was then further ad-libbed by Lloyd as he went along and at his own expense too. a total professional and very supportive of independent filmmakers too.