Oxford University Filmmaking Foundation’s (OUFF) first ever student-made feature film, “Privileged”, debuted in 1982. To mark the 40th anniversary of the film’s launch, we talk to some of those involved about how they made the film and its legacy for future generations of Oxford University filmmakers.
A 40th anniversary reunion screening will be taking place at the Ultimate Picture Palace (UPP) in Oxford on 29th October with some of the original cast and crew in attendance.
Privileged was conceived and created by Oriel students and was filmed in and around the College. It launched the careers of many of its cast and crew, including director Mike Hoffman; producers Rick Stevenson, Andy Paterson, and Mark Bentley; writer Rupert Walters; Oscar-winning composer Rachel Portman; and the long list of student actors who made their debuts in the film including Hugh Grant, Diana Katis, James Wilby, Mark Williams, and Imogen Stubbs.
Back in his student days, Oriel’s Provost Lord Mendoza was assistant producer for the film. His interest in the performing and creative arts has been a feature of his career, as he began in the film business and served on the boards of several London theatres and other cultural organisations, latterly being named culture commissioner at DCMS (Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport) in 2020. Now involved in supporting the OUFF, Lord Mendoza said:
‘Looking back this was an incredible technical and commercial achievement from a talented group of Orielenses. We were able to take advice from many in the film business including from the then Provost, Lord Swann who had come to Oriel, admittedly only for a brief moment, from the BBC. It’s heartening that the OUFF (which we all founded) still exists and I’m happy to be the sponsor for it now. My regret was that I missed out on the fun of the production as I had to drive off to Moscow from Oriel Square that summer on a Geography field trip.’
Privileged Producer and Assistant Director Andy Paterson, who has gone on to produce features including Girl with a Pearl Earring, said of his experience:
‘The initial idea was to make a short film. Then Rick said “if we are going to try to borrow all the equipment and make it ourselves, unpaid, why not make a feature film? I don’t see the market for a short film.” We all thought that made perfect sense. We were young….
It was incredibly hard work! Up at 6, trying to rouse half the crew in a makeshift dorm in Tackleys, lugging equipment (I had the only car which was thoroughly trashed by lights and camera), working out how to shoot the scene, politely making sure you got some of the lunch Neville had rustled up on a few pence a day while he wasn’t acting or handling costume, shooting til late then Mike and I would drive to Technicolor at Heathrow to hand in the day’s film and collect yesterday’s rushes, Springsteen on full volume on the way back to keep us awake. Late to bed. Repeat, repeat, repeat…. We vowed we’d never do it again.
What we didn’t know at the time was that the greatest luxury was to have had the chance to go all the way through the strange process of turning words on paper into a screen story. It’s really hard, to get the chance to make a film. I was going to say it’s better to have your first go at it when the stakes are low, but it didn’t feel that way. There’s no room in filmmaking for anything less than full commitment.
The greatest joy of filmmaking is the team. So many different skills all coming together with a single purpose. Managing that process – making sure everyone’s making the film, is what the producer does.’
Mike Hoffman – now an award-winning film Director with a back-catalogue including The Last Station, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and One Fine Day – took on the roles of Screenwriter and Director on Privileged (1982). Recalling the experience of making the film, he said:
‘It was an education. I had not set out to be a filmmaker, saw myself very much as a theatre person, and resisted with all my soul what was a wonderful opportunity and grand adventure. I’m forever grateful to the people around me, Rick, Andy, Rupert, Mark, Neil, for believing in me when I didn’t. I suppose it was when John Schlesinger had dinner with us and offered his generous help and assistance that it became something that even someone as full of self-doubt as myself could not refuse. And thank God, I took myself in hand because this creative life I’ve been able to lead has been a joy. Being a storyteller and telling them with people you love and respect….it doesn’t get much better than that.’
The OUFF is now in the process of making a second student-produced feature film, Breakwater, the music for which will be composed by two current Oriel students. Breakwater is currently in the fundraising process and is set to premiere in 2023. It is a collaboration between Nocturne Productions and the Oxford University Filmmaking Foundation, with some of the Privileged team generously getting involved to offer their advice and support. You can read more about this collaboration here.
We’re delighted to see our current students continuing Oriel’s strong tradition of involvement in the creative arts, and we’re looking forward to hearing more about Breakwater as production gets underway.