#Thrive Series: Noel Mellor and his VHS Adventures
At MEC we believe in thriving in, and out, of work! We don’t need any excuse to celebrate and share the unique creativity and passions of all our talented employees, so today we’re bringing you the story of Noel Mellor, Senior Content Manager for MEC Manchester.
Noel has written a book called ‘Adventures in VHS’ which explores the Pandora’s Box of delights that was the world of VHS. A journey populated with murderous clowns, demonic dolls and toxic avengers and including interviews with many of the notorious film makers from the 1980’s – all part of this brilliant exploration of the shaping of movie culture.
We got our hands on Noel in order to share his thoughts, learning and most importantly, who would be his ultimate celebrity dinner guest?!
Q.What was the main inspiration for writing the book?
A. The book was inspired by a series of articles I wrote for Eat Sleep Live Film, a movie website I ran with friends a few years back. I’d never been much interested in writing out-and-out reviews and was always trying to come up with new ideas for editorial features. So I started a regular column called ‘Rentals Revisited’, which allowed me to look back at some of the weird and wonderful cult films I grew up watching as a kid and helped shape my love of movies.
While I was writing these, I found myself transported back to a very specific time in my life when my local independent video store was my own personal church and the only thing stopping me from renting (massively age-inappropriate) horror flicks and violent action films was John, the kindly old gent who ran the shop. After a while, I decided I wanted to make more of this by hunting down an old tube TV, VCR and a collection of big box, ex-rental tapes… the same ones I used to rent back in the day. That’s how Adventures in VHS was born.
Q.What was the biggest thing you learnt throughout the process so far?
A. There are a lot of things I learned writing the book… all of which I’ve worked into the story of it. For example, going out and finding a lovely vintage VCR from the early 1980s that looks the part and reminds you of the one you had when you were a kid is easy. Unfortunately, chances are, that 30-odd-year-old piece of kit won’t work very well when you get it home and one of those tapes you’ve so carefully sourced will get chewed up and spat out with absolutely no remorse.
It might sound strange, but that’s actually the kind of thing you want. If something goes wrong not only do you learn from it, but you have a story to tell. Think about your favourite film. What did the protagonist set out to do at the beginning? Let’s say it was open a dinosaur park… did he do it without any problems? Of course not. A bunch of the people he carefully sourced to run that dinosaur park got chewed up and spat out by those dinosaurs with absolutely no remorse – and that was the best bit. We talk a lot to our clients about good storytelling at MEC, so it’s important we understand what it is.
Q.To someone thinking of doing something similar, what advice would you give them?
A. Three things. Be organised, document everything, and don’t be afraid to get stuck in. If you can spend a bit of time setting out exactly what you want to do and how you want to go about doing it, you’ll find it way more manageable. Telling people you wrote a book sounds impressive, but over the couple of years I took to actually write it, I just did a bit here and a bit there as I felt like it – ticking the bits I’d planned to cover as I went along. By documenting everything, I was able to keep track of what was going on. So, for example, when I was approaching a publisher I was able to tell them the podcast that was supporting the book project had over 25,000 downloads in 43 different countries – because I’d kept the numbers up to date. And finally, when I say ‘get stuck in’, I really mean believe in what you’re doing. I’ve been able to interview a bunch of directors whose films I grew up adoring, but only because I got over initially thinking they wouldn’t want to talk to me.
Q.Critically, who’s your ultimate celebrity dinner guest?
A. There’s a guy from Manchester who, back in the early 80s, decided he wanted to make Hollywood-style action movies shot on video especially for the new, content-hungry home video market. His name was Cliff Twemlow and, having already had a successful career as a novelist and musician, he got together with a director he knew from Granada TV (who importantly had access to filming and editing equipment), a local Kung-Fu instructor and a load of his burly mates who worked on the doors of clubs in the city – and they just went out and did it.
They had no permission, very little acting experience and absolutely zero interest in health and safety, but they didn’t care. They wanted to make films, so they got what they needed and just made it happen. Those films won’t be to everyone’s taste (needless to say I love them), but you can’t fault the passion and determination Cliff had. I did a one-off documentary podcast on Cliff and, in many ways, he’s inspired me to keep pushing on with the podcast and the book. Sadly he passed away back in 1993 and a lot of his work has criminally been forgotten – but I’d love to hear some of his stories over a glass of brandy and a cigar.
Adventures in VHS is currently being crowd funded through Unbound so please check out the link for further details and how you can support Noel www.adventuresinvhs.com
Follow more of Noel’s musings and adventures on @filmrant and www.facebook.com/adventuresinvhs