FrightFest 2023 - Interview with Jake West director of Mancunian Man

A quick chat with the FrightFest favourite

James Whittington
August 29, 2023

NYX: When did you first come across the work of Cliff Twemlow?

JW: When I was working on our Nucleus Films (which I run with Marc Morris) ' Video Nasties the Definitive Guides' we interviewed C.P Lee who wrote the brilliant book with Andy Willis ‘The Lost World of Cliff Twemlow’ and it was at that point I became aware that Cliff had done a bunch of other films after GBH that I didn’t get to finally see until we started work on Mancunian Man over 3 years ago.

NYX: He is the ultimate polymath, what do you think was his greatest strength and how would you describe Cliff?

JW: From interviewing the people that worked with him I would say Cliff greatest strength was his unshakeable enthusiasm for getting a film made and his ability to basically talk any one into doing anything. Great skills to have for a low budget filmmaker.

NYX: He really did have foresight such as direct-to-video releases as seen with his G.B.H., do you think he opened many doors for others at the time?

JW: Definitely as most of the people who worked with him would never have had careers in films as actor, stunt people or technicians without ever having caught the film bug off of Cliff and being given an opportunity to work on a feature film i Manchester as a time in the UK when at best only about 20 films were being made a year. Very different times.

NYX: Why do you think his body of work is overlooked?

JW: Because of his lack of business sense although Cliff was great at getting projects started, he wasn’t so great at getting things finished to a point where they were finished and sold to distributors.

NYX: He was the ultimate “guerrilla movie maker”, do you think there’s anyone around today who matches his passion for “let’s do the show right here” sort of production?

JW: I think absolutely ‘Every’ first time film maker who works on a micro budget and uses guerrilla techniques will understand that and share that universal passion. Understand  and chime with that Twemlow state of mind. So if that’s you - insert your own name as you know the hell  what that entails!…but if you want that to be you, then stop making excuse and  just start and make your goddam movie already!

NYX: How did you get hold of scenes from his unfinished/unreleased movies?

JW: The archive God that is Marc Morris. One of the worlds’ greatest cult film experts who is the Sherlock Holmes of cult films.

NYX: What information did you uncover which was new to you?

JW: Pretty much all of it beyond GBH!  So much incredible stuff in Cliff life. I really don’t want to spoil it, watch the movie and the best of that is there to discover fresh!

NYX: Was there anyone you wanted to interview but wasn’t able to get hold of?

JW: There were a few people because they were dead or unwilling to go on camera. However, we found an amazing resource in fellow filmmaker Stephen Crompton who had started a documentary on Cliff 15 years ago but for the normal reasons (funding/time/etc) had abandoned it. But he had shot some great interviews with people like Brett Sinclair and Cliffs son Barry who are sadly both np longer with us. So, we got lucky on those.  We tried to get hold of Joan Collins, but her agent wanted a ridiculous amount of money so alas we couldn’t get her to weigh in on her time with Cliff which was a shame as that would’ve been fascinating!

NYX: This documentary oozes love for Cliff, do you think it’s time his body of work was re-assessed?

JW: Thanks, it’s hard not to like Cliff who you learn more about him and yes Cliff definitely deserves his place in independent British film history as he really was a pioneer in the way her got his films made in the 80’s & early 90’s. So yes, I do hope so.

NYX: His life would make an incredible movie, would you be up for directing it?

JW: Hell yes, absolutely! That would be awesome. I’ve done the research and love the subject. Come on producers get me some money as it would be a great project.

NYX: There’s some incredible archive material here, from adverts to trailers, which piece was the hardest to track down?

JW: That’d be the stuff we couldn’t track down - for example a decent quality version of the original, earlier cut of GBH 2. Marc is still searching but it can no longer make the documentary !

NYX: Do you still get nervous when your work is shown to an audience?

JW: Always, it terrifying…. especially when the premiere which is at the Empire Leicester Square (at FrightFest) on the huge IMAX screen which is one of the most famous cinemas in the world with an absolutely huge audience.

NYX: So, what are you working on at the moment?

JW: I’m working on getting my next narrative feature up and running, tearing, ripping gouging and goring. It’s a werewolf film called ‘Feral’… but like all these things need the finance to fully come together.  

NYX: Jake West, thank you very much.

Mancunian Man had its World Premiere at FrightFest 2023 from Severin Films.