We were merry. All of us. Every single blessed soul had been on a high – even myself, the person who doesn’t really enjoy being in crowded spaces with people I don’t know.
As stated in my previous entry, however, the night wasn’t like that, and regardless of how many glasses of wine or bottles of beer we had devoured like oxygen – there was a lot going around – it was a natural high, this wave we were all seemingly surfing on.
Following an introduction to MediCinema and the work it does, director Lisa Downs treated us all to a trailer of Life After Flash.
“The documentary really came about after I had worked on a number of shows in recent years, realising other people’s passion projects, so I decided I wanted to step out and do my own,” Lisa said.
Oh, how I can understand that!
“I had directed a feature film a couple of years prior, but really loved the idea of feature documentaries. Then it happened I met up with a friend Lisa Doyle at a party one night, and she had just worked on The Jump with Sam [J. Jones]. When she mentioned that, I remember just saying ‘I am in love with Flash Gordon – I would love to do a documentary on Sam, and the idea of one person still being so popular for a character 35 years later.’
The Jump is a reality TV show on Channel 4 which puts the celebrities through their paces on the slopes of Austria. Unfortunately, Jones had to leave the show on medical advice due to an injury sustained through celebrating a jump.
He told RadioTimes.com the reason: “I celebrated a little bit too early. All I’ve been preaching is ‘listen to these instructors and don’t add and don’t take away from what they’re saying’… well I added. I nailed it. And I though ‘Oh my god, it was right! Then it was boom, boom, boom…
“We’re asking a 60-year-old body to do what 40-year-olds do.”
This is why we shouldn’t celebrate achievements, Sam!
“I wrote up a treatment, the agent sent it to Sam, we had a call, and then I was out in Texas in January, 2015 meeting him with Ashley Pugh from Sledge who are the production company supporting me. Then, over the next 6 months I worked really hard to build up an audience to get crowd funding for a US shoot, whilst getting UK interviews in the can.”
Interestingly, Sledge acquired The Bigfoot Project, proudly listed as working with Flash Gordon. Very much appropriate, taking into account myths and legends.
Despite not being a filmmaker – living in Cloud Cuckoo Land means my attention span is similar to that of an owl – I’ve seen the work a friend had put into a 15-minute movie – just 15 minutes – so I don’t envy Lisa’s task. However, perhaps for a big fan, this was the easy part. I know from experience that it’s the waiting that can be the killer. So how smooth did it go? And wht is it like waiting for an answer from your hero?
“The treatment didn’t take long at all, because I knew what I wanted to say. A couple of hours maybe, and then Ashley Pugh – the EP – just fine-tuned it. Of course you’re conscious of time. I didn’t want to leave it that long so it was case of emailing the agent with ‘I’ll send you something by the end of the week’, then they have that deadline in mind and you have a deadline to write to.
“The agent got back relatively quickly, and I think it was even in the space of a week that we had a call with Sam to move forward on it. We decided to invest in a trip to Texas to meet him, see if he liked us and then start filming for the crowdfunding video. While we were there we just started filming for the doco too, which was great content to get going and sound out the story.
“But of course waiting in between emails was a tough one. You get excited that the agent passes it on. You get excited that Sam likes it, and wants a call. But that doesn’t guarentee it will happen still. Then you get excited that you are going to meet him, and chat with him, but that doesn’t guarentee he will still want to do it. What if he didn’t like me? It’s such a personal journey you need them to connect with you, and trust you.”
“But it all worked out! I have to say leading up to the first call was the biggest waiting game of all. I was so nervous!”
Every now and again, you hear someone announcing that they had to do something, they had to be the one to bring the goods to the table. Lisa’s modesty is somewhat endearing. In fact, anyone who met her that night, from what I heard, thought she was fantastic. Definitely somebody grounded, charismatic, and, above all, somebody approachable who you actually enjoyed being around. Spiritually put, she has a good aura going on.
“I can’t say that I knew I HAD to be the one to make the film initially – but I knew I really wanted to.
“I kept thinking ‘I wonder why he said yes to me,’ but I truly believe everything happens for a reason,” she gushed, “and now a year into it, and having just done the reunion, I feel it’s meant to be, and that I am the right person to make it now because I completely have Sam’s best interest at heart.”
That’s the mark of a true fan and friend. Good Ol’ Brian Blessed, who I keep referring to because he’s a monument of inspiration for me, pissed off the BBC by dropping out of the film he wanted to make about his idol, boxer Bruce Woodcock. He had been over the proverbial moon (mentally, perhaps more literally) when he had the chance to play Woodcock but pulled out of the project. Blessed “was devastated,” but he had become friends with Woodcock during the years since the boxer had ruffled an excited seven-year-old Blessed’s hair and he wanted to protect his friend, who at this point had become upset about the prospect of new-found fame and stressed over the taxman trying to find out how much he could take.
Jones, in the meantime, had apparently come under scrutiny for his role as Flash. Apparently the film was set to be a trilogy; a rumoured tiff between Jones and the producers (read as: the fiery Dino De Laurentiis) scrapped that plan. During an interview with Maxim, Jones clarified this, as well as the dubbing issue.
“No, I didn’t have a falling out with the director, but producer Dino De Laurentis and I bumped heads a few times – there were a few misunderstandings,” he said. “In my naivety at the age of 25 I just let the attorneys handle everything – I just let my representation handle it and they did not do a very good job at all. The bottom line, though, is they worked for me and I take responsibility for what happened. I didn’t go back for looping and dubbing so they ended up using another actor to loop – I think about half the film was actually not my voice.”
Jones states that he had been spotted on a dating show that De Laurentiis or a member of his family had been watching. According to IMDb, he had two film credits prior to Flash. He has the kind of voice I associate with U.S. Military – Drill Sergeant Jones (I can’t quite imagine that someone with such an innocent face and smile could be That Guy, but hey) – but the hair gives him away. His credentials were Marines, two films and a dating show. Perhaps he was naive, but for a 25-year-old man beginning his foray into acting in a world where some toddlers have had more experience, it seems understandable.
In addition to the rumours, for some reason perhaps unknown to fans, Jones’s turn as Flash earned him a nomination for Worst Actor courtesy of the Golden Raspberry Awards.
Lisa loves the film. She loves Flash Gordon, so after meeting Jones and being invited into his private life, it stand to reason that she now has to make her film her way.
“I didn’t want to take it to a network who might try and find drama where there isn’t any, or make Sam out to be someone he’s not,” she said. Their newfound relationship has allowed her to know Jones as Jones. It’s obvious that this is not a matter of a fan making a film about her hero. This is a hero being filmed by his new friend.
“I have total trust in Sam to offer up himself to the project, and visa versa,” Lisa told me. “He’s allowed me to film his family, and close friends, and without that trust you couldn’t make a film as honest as Life After Flash is going to be.
“So I’m very excited to be the one to finally make a film that I can’t believe hasn’t been done already. Flash Gordon is a classic, and should be brought back into the forefront.”
Is anyone else as excited as me for this documentary’s release?
It’s not too late to contribute to Life After Flash – jump in there and show your love.