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SxSW 2016 Interview: THE MAN FROM MO'WAX director Matthew Jones

by Jason Whyte

"Imagine you got everything you ever wanted by the age of 21. Imagine your wildest dreams came true when you were just a teenager. That's what this film is about. Set across 25 years of one man's life, it's a pulsating classic rock 'n roll story about the rise and fall and rise again of underground DJ and music industry icon James Lavelle, his MoWax record label, super band UNKLE and the many friends he has loved and lost along the way. All told through never before seen home video footage, exclusive interviews and lost archives." Director Matthew Jones on ARTIST & REPERTOIRE which screens at the 2016 edition of the South By Southwest Film Festival.

(Editor's note: This title has changed from ARTIST & REPERTOIRE since its screening at SxSW.)

I am thrilled to hear THE MAN FROM MO'WAX is showing at SxSW! Is this is your first time having a movie show here in Austin?

Yes, this is my directorial debut, and the first film I have directed being shown here in Austin. I have produced a short that has been here before, but as I director, this is me fresh out of the blocks. It's great to be here.

Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and your previous work in the industry!

I started out in short films. I actually set up a short film distribution label briefly when I first left university, and met a whole bunch of friends and contacts through that. I then set up my own production company called CAPTURE, which I jointly own, and we have been producing digital content, commercials, animations and branded documentary content for companies like Nike, Roche, Jamesons, Picturehouse Cinemas and Sky. We have also produced several short films over the last five years working with other directors. I have produced a lot. This is not only my debut feature, but my company too.

So how did this whole project come together from your perspective?

It has taken an astonishing amount of time. It has almost been 10 years in the making as we first picked up a camera in late 2006. It really evolved from there; initially we thought we would make a tour film about UNKLE and it just grew from there very organically. As we discovered more about James, I just became increasingly intrigued by his persona and his achievements. He is such an interesting, one-off guy with an unparalleled rich history. He's the kind of character I love in films; driven, full of desire to achieve his dreams, but also naive and deeply flawed, which makes for an incredible centerpiece to the film. We started digging into his history, finding archive footage of MoWax and UNKLE, and we followed the rabbit hole down and ended up finding so much amazing footage. James' now ex-wife was involved for a while, which got us amazing access to his life. Then James embarked on curating his history into an exhibition and a book, which set in motion a whole sequence of discoveries from his past, old friends and collaborators who had archive in their parents' dusty lofts. James going through his storage yielded some wonderful imagery, and in the end, even DJ Shadow opened up his personal home video archive and allowed us amazing use of videos and photographs dating back to the early 90s. The story just naturally became more and more compelling culminating in the 2014 Meltdown Music Festival in London, which was a massive deal for James. Previous curators of Meltdown included David Bowie and Yoko Ono, so for James to follow in their footsteps was a huge thing and it gave us a glorious ending that even James couldn't have dreamt of getting.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?

Well I drink loads of coffee, I love a pint at the end of a long week and I want to make movies I would pay to watch; movies that excite me, take you to a walk of life you don't see every day. I'm driven by creating something that will provide some insightful entertainment for two hours and take people to another world for a brief moment of escapism. I like the idea of others being excited at reading about my film, seeing the poster, the trailer and saying "Yeah, I'm in for that! It looks cool." There are so many doubters, you have to trust your instincts and make decisions based on what you would want to see at the cinema. Don't try and second guess an audience. Just go with what you love and the audience will be there.

With such a long production history, what was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you, where you knew you had something special?

The biggest challenge? Convincing the people James had fallen out with and lost contact with to be part of the film. People don't like looking back at areas of their life that didn't go well. I had to convince many people that their insights would shed a light on the nature of artistic collaboration and hopefully learn from James' mistakes. Listening to those contributor's concerns and trying to create a space where they would feel comfortable talking about what happened. Persuading them it was not just a self-indulgent fluff piece. I doubt this group of people will ever talk about this story together again, I am really proud that we have managed to pull together so many vital individuals to help tell James' story.

The most rewarding moment was almost moving an old friend of mine to tears at a test screening. He had many similarities to James in terms of trying to forge a career whilst starting a family and the hardships and stresses that come with that. To know it moved him made me think ok, maybe this film can really touch people.

I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie; what camera did you use to shoot, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

Being a documentary set across almost three decades and starting in the late 1980s, this film is made up of almost every type of visual medium that has come and gone over that period, so here goes; we have Super 8 film, High 8 Tape, Micro MV, MiniDV, DVCam both NTSC & PAL, VHS, VHS-C, 35mm Stills, Large Format photography Digital Photography, betaSP, Digital betacam, HDcam, 35mm film, 16mm film, Sony A1, Sony Z1, Sony Ex1, Canon 5D Mark II, 7D, GH2, BlackMagic Cinema Camera, and Red Epic. Everything! We got it all. My cinematographer, Morgan Spencer, filmed most the final act and a number of cutaways of records which pepper the film amongst the archive footage. All of that was mainly Red Epic!

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

Having a music loving crowd! It is the perfect festival for our film. I think the SxSW audience will love it.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?

I can't say yet, but we are in discussions with some very prestigious International Film festivals, I expect it to tour the world at festivals before a release in nine months to a years' time.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

It has got to be London; it's an English story that unfolds in some of the coolest areas of my home city, so I can't wait for the London premiere further down the line.

What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?

Why would you do that? Sitting in the cinema is great because it is the one time you can forget about all of modern life's distractions. Sit back and get absorbed into another world. It's about escapism, and having that space to dream.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the film-making business as a piece of advice?

Don't let the doubters get you down. Trust your instincts and only make movies that you would pay to go see yourself. Otherwise the years of toil to get an idea to screen might never be worth it.

And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

At a festival, most certainly it was NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by The Coen Brothers at the Cannes Film festival in 2007.

My all-time favourite movie, however? It is BACK TO THE FUTURE.

Be sure to follow the progress of the film by visiting and on Twitter at @Capture_tweets!

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our interview series for our site. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 11-19. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/06/16 13:35:13
last updated: 06/14/16 23:13:20
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