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Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 16:43 UK
Filmmaker talks music and movies
By Jason Martin
BBC Oxford

Jon Spira
Jon's upcoming film - Anyone Can Play Guitar - is about the local music scene

"I knew I was going to be a film director at the age of 5. I never wanted to do anything else."

Oxford born Jon Spira was introduced to the medium of film by his dad and one of his earliest childhood memories is assisting his father in the creation of short animations using Super 8mm film.

"I think film is the most expressive form of art.

"It encompasses everything else - writing, photography and music - a combination of every other art form."

This fascination with the all-encompassing quality of film led Jon to enrol for a number of courses at OFVM (Oxford Film and Video Makers) as a teenager, learning to operate a variety of film-making equipment.

This experience would be invaluable in his securing a place at the Scottish Film School in Edinburgh where he would spend the next four years "making as many films as I wanted with no interference."

It was here that he was to meet producer and co-writer Andrew Selzer and together they wrote a number of projects for the BBC as well as a number of independent companies. Despite securing such work Jon is keen to point out that very little of what a film writer submits will actually make it to the screen.

"You assume that you'll write something, someone will buy it and then it'll end up on TV or in the cinema. The reality of the industry is somewhat different." He believes that the trend towards the comparably cheap to produce 'reality TV' is a major factor in the lack of new writers coming through the ranks.

Jon and Andrew's big break would come courtesy of a short film which became popular within the film industry and eventually led to a stint working on cult Sci-Fi comedy series Lexx, based in Halifax, Canada.

Jon admits that "they hired us because we weren't Sci-Fi fans. We could bring something to the genre which wasn't clichéd or done to death." However, this was to lead to some unrest amongst the show's dedicated fanbase when he posted a message on their website which betrayed his lack of Sci-Fi credentials. "Big mistake - they were livid!' admits Jon.

In late 2001 Jon returned to Oxford to be closer to the film hub of London as well as to reacquaint himself with OFVM to whom he felt he owed a great deal for giving him his start in film. He taught a 16mm film course at OFVM before training with the UK Film Council in 2003 and has been teaching their approved course entitled "Introduction to Screenwriting" ever since.

In addition to teaching Jon was to realise a dream in 2002 when he went into business with his father to open an independent video shop, Videosyncratic, in Summertown. This was followed in 2005 by a second store which also doubles as Oxford's only comic book shop, on the Cowley Road.

He is keen to highlight the indie credentials of Videosyncratic: "Everyone who works there absolutely loves a wide variety of films and that comes across in the stores."

Since returning to Oxford Jon has been engaged in an ongoing documentary project which seeks to trace the history of Oxford's music scene over the last 30 years.

As well as filming concerts and making music videos for local up-and-coming bands, he has interviewed members of Radiohead, Supergrass, Candyskins, Foals and many other Oxford bands, along with the people behind the scenes who helped make it happen.

He is currently in the process of trying to secure funding to complete post-production for sound mixing and legal and licensing fees for the feature-length documentary.

Despite the financial restraints, Jon is hoping to premiere the film towards the end of the year and remains optimistic: "It's hard not to be passionate when we've got such an unbelievable pool of talent here."


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