White Horse Pictures and Reelin' In The Years Productions have formed a far-reaching multi-picture partnership to develop and produce documentary feature film and television projects. White Horse Pictures has produced a number of award-winning films, including the BAFTA Nominated, Critics’ Choice and Grammy Award-winning The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years, also directed by Ron Howard. Reelin’ in the Years Productions is one of the world’s leading archival footage and licensing companies.
Building on a thriving relationship dating back to 2006, the White Horse team, led by Nigel Sinclair and Nicholas Ferrall, and including Head of Documentaries Jeanne Elfant Festa and Head of Television Cassidy Hartmann, will work with David Peck, owner of Reelin’ in the Years, to develop archive-based event documentary projects that draw on his company’s extraordinary catalogue and his knowledge of the wider universe of archival footage. Peck will continue to operate Reelin’ in the Years Productions for the range of clients they service, at the same time as producing select projects with White Horse Pictures on a non-exclusive basis.
We caught up with both Nigel Sinclair and David Peck recently to find out more about their new partnership.
Footage.net: Nigel, how did you come to the idea of partnering with Reelin’ in the Years?
Nigel Sinclair: We’ve worked with David Peck for at least 15 years on different projects. Over that time, we became aware of not only the magnitude of his library, but also the fact that he himself had developed an incredible knowledge of archive, and a point of view about where the likely best material for any project lay. It seemed natural to us to find some projects to do with David in a more committed way.
FN: Is the focus mainly on developing projects from the Reelin’ in the Years archive? Or will you also be licensing footage from other archives as part of this deal?
David Peck: The starting point will be our archive but that in no way will exclude any of the amazing archives such as Retro Video, Global Image Works and Historic Films, all who have rich invaluable content that would be a crime to ignore when producing a documentary.
FN: Why is a production partnership preferable to a bulk licensing deal?
NS: Creating fine documentaries is about magic, not volume. Like a good curator of a museum, David Peck curates his own library, and because that is where his interest lies, he will help you curate your project to find material that is not even in his library. Of course sometimes he wishes it was and will try to get it!
FN: Nigel, what are the main benefits to you and White Horse of partnering with Reelin’ in the Years?
NS: The main benefits are that David Peck’s skill, which is normally available to his customers through his ability to supply high quality material and advice in terms of other clearances and so forth, is now actually harnessed with us to develop high quality archive-heavy projects. David not only knows his own enormous archive like the back of his hand, but he talks to people all of the time in the community and he knows when a private collector’s special items are available. Also, he has a producer and a storyteller’s point of view on how to use archive. When you look at the way Reelin’ in the Years is organized, the scope of its library, and its sense that these are treasures, that vision is David’s.
FN: David, can you talk a bit about your role as a producer and adviser within this production partnership?
DP: I started my fascination with footage, music specifically, in 1984 at the age of 18 and to say I was obsessed and still am would be an understatement. I was relentless in trying to collect and see as much archival music footage as possible and it was because of that I started to make a name for myself as a person with extensive knowledge of music footage. My first gig was thanks to Jessica Berman-Bogden, who now runs Global Image Works, who called me in December of 1989 to help find footage for The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction ceremony. I think I got $400 and my name in the program, which at 23 years of age was pretty cool. In 1998, I started to represent archives around the globe and now 20+ years later we rep the rights to over 30,000 hours of music footage, 7,000 hours of interviews, and now also still photography of music artists. I bring all of this up because after 35 years immersed in archival music footage, in addition to my own sizeable archives, I have a very good idea of all of the other footage that’s out there as well. Also, and this will no doubt sound egotistical, but one by-product of obsessing over music footage for as long as I have is that my knowledge base has become rather encyclopedic, something that very few in the industry can offer. So what I bring to the partnership with White Horse Pictures is a vast high-quality archive, experience as a director/producer, and a rigorous and deep knowledge of music footage.
FN: Will you be focusing primarily on developing music-based projects?
DP: While music is my passion this will not necessarily be just music based projects as we control the rights to 7,000 hours of in-depth interviews with the 20th century’s icons of Film and Television, Politics, Comedy, Literature, Art, Science, Fashion, and Sports, filmed between 1962-2012. The interviews are from legendary talk shows around the world, including those hosted by Sir David Frost, Merv Griffin, Rona Barrett and Brian Linehan.
FN: Have either of you ever done a deal like this before?
DP: No, and to the best of my knowledge no one else has ever done a deal like this. Yes, archives have done bulk deals but no archive company has structured a deal with a major producer where they join forces to produce documentaries around an archive.
NS: We work closely with other archives, but we have never developed this kind of production relationship.
FN: This is a multi-picture deal. How many films do you plan to produce?
DP: Our goal is to do at least three over the next few years and if they do well then of course there will be more.
FN: The Beatles film was a pretty massive undertaking. Are you looking at projects of a similar scope?
DP: Nothing is off the table. Yes, we may produce something on that scale. I hope so. Or it may also be smaller subjects. The ideas, archive and clearances will dictate where the projects will take us.
FN: How will this deal benefit the companies whose footage you represent? Is it a straightforward licensing arrangement or will those payments come out of the fees paid to your joint venture by the networks?
DP: This deal is amazing for my archive clients and let me stress 100% that any footage used in the films that I will produce with Nigel will be licensed with payment for those clips up front. Yes, there’s an overall lower license fee but there will be more volume so my clients will be very happy to have their material front and center for consideration in his projects. All of my clients that I’ve spoken to were very excited that I was making this deal with Nigel.
FN: Nigel, will this partnership matter to the networks? How will it factor into your pitches?
NS: Assuming by networks you mean our customers, this partnership will be evidenced in the richness of storytelling that better archive resources produce. We will weave our relationship with David into our pitches, particularly with archive-heavy projects.
FN: David, you’ve done some producing in the past. Can you talk a bit about the shows you have produced previously?
DP: I started producing in 2003 when I, along with Experience Hendrix (the Jimi Hendrix Estate), released The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966 series on DVD. It was a series of performances of legendary blues artists filmed in Germany & England in the early to mid-1960s. I was nominated for a Grammy Award as Producer for Volume One in that series. In addition, we shockingly beat out Martin Scorsese, yes, that Martin Scorsese, in 2004 at The Blues Foundation in The “Achievement In Film” category when we were up against his seven part documentary series “The Blues.” In 2005 we created the Motown DVD series called “Definitive Performances” and released ones on Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and The Temptations. Each release featured full performances of the hits that made them famous but all were filmed at the time of original release from various TV shows around the globe. Between the archival performances were newly shot or archival interviews with the artists so that it told the tale of their career solely focusing on the music. We also did something very unusual with those Motown releases, we created a bonus section where you could hear the original vocal tracks from the sessions synced up to the footage in cases of lip sync. Our attention to detail was rewarded in the fact that these three titles each sold over 50,000 units garnering gold, and in the case of The Temptations, platinum awards. I should point out that these were very unusual numbers for archival release such as these. In 2006 we created the Jazz Icons series which focused on full length performances of the legends of Jazz filmed primarily in the 1950s and 1960s. Between 2006 & 2011 we produced and released 36 DVDs and five boxsets featuring artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck & Duke Ellington. During that time I also directed and produced documentaries on Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield & six films on the artists from The British Invasion – the Hollies, Dusty Springfield, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Small Faces, Herman’s Hermits & The Pretty Things. All of the films I’ve directed would always have new or archival interviews with the artists between full performances. It’s a very different style of filmmaking, it was very successful and we built up a huge fan base around the world. With the exception of a 12 DVD release of The Merv Griffin Show in 2014, we have not produced anything else in that world due to the collapse of the DVD/home video market. Since then I have put all of my attention towards licensing footage and representing new archives.
FN: Is there anything else either of you would like to add?
NS: Creative work in the documentary area is exploding at the moment. Producers are trying to lock up first look deals with magazines and sources of IP.
DP: Personally I was so honored that Nigel thought so highly of our work and wanted to partner with me, because I have the utmost respect for all that he has done and am so excited to start to create with him and his amazing team. I think it’s important to note what makes this deal so unique, and really is a message to our industry, is that we need each other. There’s so much that we the archive houses can do with the producers and there’s so much they can do with us. We need to try to work with them on budgets and they need to respect our footage and not always rely on fair use - you know who you are!