All About Maxim Ford

Origins

My father was a printer and my mother a secretary. They were a politically active working-class family. My parents gave up smoking and only drank a little cider on a Sunday.

They were self-educated both having left school early. I was named Maxim as my mother Joan was reading “Mother” by Maxim Gorky. The story is that the real family name is Alexander but our Grandfather used the name Ford to get into the Army underage. He lost a leg for his troubles in the battle of the Somme featuring a corporal Adolf Hitler on the other side. Adolf later regretted this as my father setting the score from 1939 to 1945.

I was born in Bristol in 1951. Went to state schools in various towns as my father’s job moved him. When I was 15 years old my father bought a Super 8 camera and I got to make my first very bad film. I started to read about film making, reading The Movie Maker magazine.

I was involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement, student politics, left school rejecting a dull career in chemistry, worked a year on the buses, bought a 16mm Bolex and some cheap Italian Black and made a Black and White film and made my second movie ‘The April Plan’ about Cardiff development.

Poland

Through luck, I met a tutor from the Art college and did a foundation year at Cardiff College of Art,  made a film for the College. A part-time tutor William Stair was brought in to teach three students who wanted to make films. Bill had just returned from Hollywood where he had worked with John Boorman on the film “Point Blank”. Bill said I should try and go to the Polish Film School.

After Art College Foundation year I moved to London. There I joined a revolutionary cinema group  “Cinema Action“. It was 1970 and there were the Anti Vietnam War campaign and a large working-class strike movement.

I went to London, worked as a postman, and went to the Polish Cultural Insitute and applied to the Polish Higher State Film, TV and Theatre School.

An interview with Maxim Ford about Cinema Action.

After learning Polish for a year falling in love with a Polish girl, I started at the School. It was like no other school I had heard of. There were lessons from 8 am to 6 pm, there were more professors than students, and there were professional film workers, electricians, makeup, costumes even production managers who worked for the students on their films.

There I make a few films, two examples here:

UK

In 1978 I returned to a different Britain.  I started to work in the Film Industry based in London. First as a camera assistant, then slowly as a cameraman and director.

The work as a freelancer was depressing after the artistic freedom and great cinema of Poland. Working as a camera assistant on London Weekends “Kids” a hack director, shooting a hack programme with a hack cameraman, to make a programme to fill the spaces between the adverts. Most of the work was like this, adverts, sponsored documentaries even films….the aim to make money for the already rich.

On the fringes were little films made for Arts Councils, made with pennies. But not trying to sell you anything.  Then films outside of the system like Cinema Action.

Other than paid work a group of us decided to film a free concert of the Unemployed, using short ends of film stock and borrowed camera.  Channel Four TV started and Alan Fountain commissioned the film to be finished. “Live a Life”. 
Lots of work followed as a cameraman and a few films as director.

Sometimes film making got a degree of freedom to make some interesting films:

Digital & Erotic

As film was phased out, digital time-lapse overtook film. I sold my film cameras, the Internet put an end to the film library work. The new digital camera meant that the cost of film stock stopped being the barrier to film making.

Having a friend with his own studio and me with some money we decided to make an Erotic Feature film. It was a reaction to violence in films that was accepted whereas making love was taboo. So ‘Make Love Not War.  The problem is that making erotic films has a central issue; people who act don’t want to be naked and people who don’t mind being naked cant act ( or are not trained to act).

And so “Picture of Beauty” was made.

Burbiszki

As life in London became less interesting, more expensive and film work less motivating, and with falling wages and worse working conditions I decided to move to Poland.

I found a small wooden house on the Lithuanian Polish border.  For most of my life, I lived in London and travelled to somewhere beautiful to film. There, for a couple of weeks, we would try to capture the beauty of the place. But there was never enough time and I always left feeling if only we could have stayed longer.

So now I was living in a beautiful place all the time, so I decided to film over a couple of years, just in one village, to show that in one place how much a person could see just by looking. With little money,  a couple of cameras and hundreds of hours of filming…

Burbiszki – An Ode to Nature‘ was made.

Wapping

Chris Reeves is a friend of mine from Cinema Action days. He made films on the Irish struggle for independence and working-class politics.

We both made films for Channel Four when the channel was open to a few radical ideas.

I saw his Wapping film and was very impressed. I helped to get the film translated into other languages and authored the DVD.

Chris is very modest and does not have a page about him, his companies’ website is www.platformfilms.co.uk

IMDB

Here my IMDB link, showing some of my work.

Maxim Ford