Image above: "Steve Downey [centre] on location in Hyde Park in 1969 for the film "Just Before Dawn", with his Director of Photography and Camera Operator.
In 1967 in my last year at Art School, I became interested in photography and film making. I ran the Reading University's film society "The Pictures" and started making experimental 8mm films. I submitted these together with some film scripts as part of my application to the London Film School and was accepted on the 2-year course 1968/69. This turned out to be the best educational experience of my life. I was taught by 2 famous film directors: Wolf Rilla [Village of the Damned] and Charles Friend [Scott of the Antarctic] with further input from Don Siegal [Dirty Harry], Nicholas Ray [Rebel Without a Cause] and Stanley Donen [Singing in the Rain]. I crewed on 3 films as Editor and Director of Photography and wrote and directed 3 other films [2 features and an advert].
A short 30 second colour 16mm film made by Steve Downey aged 23 years in 1969, while a student at the London Film School. The film features Maureen Downey, with voice over by Timothy Crowther. A tongue in cheek ad for disposable panties, which had recently appeared in shops but never really "took off". The film [a solo project] was highly acclaimed as one of the best ads produced at the Film School and described by the then Director [Robert Dunbar] as "excellent".
Steve Downey [left] directing Tony Sheer [right] and another actor in "Dream Palace"
Steve Downey [centre] on set with Tony Sheer [left] and the Assistant Soundman
The first feature "Dream Palace" in 1969 was based on a short story by James Purdy and starred the actor, Tony Sheer. Personally I was disappointed with the film as I could only see the mistakes [what film maker doesn't experience this feeling?]. However the film was received with much acclaim as one of the best ever made at the Film School and was shown at 3 International Film Festivals [London, Prague and Chicago] as well as at commercial cinemas.
"JUST BEFORE DAWN"
Steve Downey directing Stefan Kalipha in the feature film "Just Before Dawn", on location in my flat in Ilford.
I followed this up later in 1969 with writing and directing another short feature film "Just Before Dawn", starring the well known film and TV actor Stefan Kalipha, which again was shown at the London Film Festival and at other film venues.
Stefan Kalipha and Richard Pryor in "Superman 3"
MY SHORT EARLY CAREER IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
Murray Head in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" with Peter Finch
For a few months in 1970 I worked in Wardour Street as a film and sound editor on the feature film "Aphrousa", starring Murray Head and Delia Lindsay, as well as some documentaries and adverts. My cutting room was visited by the film director, John Schlesinger, who was casting for the major film "Sunday Bloody Sunday", and as a result chose Murray Head [better known then as a singer who was the first Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar] as a lead actor opposite Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson. The film "Aphrousa" went on general release across the country as the support feature to "Straw Dogs".
At this time I was offered the post of Assistant Director for the major feature film "A Day In the Death of Joe Egg", starring Alan Bates and Janet Suzman, but I turned this down because it would mean I would have to live away from my wife and young daughter for several months. I had already been offered a job with the Inner London Education Authority, and decided to take this instead. This soon led to rapid promotion and a 20-year career in media resources as a senior manager, adviser, trainer and publisher.
50 YEARS' LATER IN 2021 MY FILM MAKING RESTARTS
After a long and successful career as a visual artist, I decided to start film making again. I undertook online and real training in video production and editing and felt ready to embark on my first new "artist video", I had recently been diagnosed with Autism and made contact with a local autistic poet, Christina Jane ["C. J "]. Together we planned and executed the film, which was completed in February 2022.
This film features the poem "We are the Lost Girls", written and performed by Christina Jane ["C. J "]. Like me, Christina is on the Autism Spectrum, but was not diagnosed until she was adult. This late diagnosis helped to explain the challenges we had both experienced when children, growing up and later as adults. It is now widely recognised that traditionally it was believed that it was primarily boys who were autistic, not girls. As such many women and girls with autism were not diagnosed and therefore had to cope as best they could without proper support. These are the "Lost Girls". This is the first of a series of films about autism and ADHD, planned to be created by me and Christina during 2022.