FILM: Tufnell Park Film Club founders

Written by: Sophie Taylor

We said, the films will be entertaining but they’ll be intelligent and we’ll take it from there.

We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse behind the scenes of the Tufnell Park Film Club and meet up with its lovable founding members, Nigel Smith and Wayne Gooderham. They might disagree on Wes Anderson but these two are in sync, finishing each other’s stories and never running dry on film debate topics. We caught them as they were setting up for the screening that evening.

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So let’s start at the very beginning…

Nigel: “We started the club just over 4 years ago in 2012. The idea came from a friend of mine who runs a cinema club in an upstairs pub in Acton. I was out for a drink with him and he invited me along. A few weeks later I was in another pub with Wayne and as I was telling him all about it I remembered that the Lord Palmerston used to show films upstairs.”

Wayne: “And I remembered something just the other day. Coincidentally I used to run a music club called Uptight that ran for 10 years. We’d play stuff like The Velvet Underground, The Smiths. I was wanting to do something else as I was thinking, I’m getting too old for this and I just couldn’t be arsed anymore!”

Nigel: “He was hanging up his headphones..”

Wayne: “And I had weirdly thought a film club would be something I’d be interested in..”

Nigel: “So off we went to the Lord Palmerston and asked them if they’d be up for it. They wanted to know what we were intending on showing as the films they used to play were really boring and people stopped coming. We said, they’ll be entertaining but they’ll be intelligent and we’ll take it from there.”

Wayne: “Stuff you haven’t necessarily seen yet.”

Yes, I like that you pick films that people have heard of and have wanted to see but never got round to it

Wayne: “Which was the same principle at Uptight. We wanted to play the stuff you wished they’d play but you wouldn’t normally hear out. Now you hear that stuff all the time.”

Nigel: “Exactly, yes. So we began with Robert Altman’s The Player because we wanted to start with a film about films. Then Wayne had the genius idea about the set up”

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Robert Hardy’s PA said he’d love it, he loves to meet fans of the film

Wayne: “Mm, when Nigel suggested the film club to me I slept on it and came up with the idea of finding a link between films. Finding three films that people could choose from and vote for I thought would involve people more. Then you’ve got a never ending double bill. I mentioned this to Nigel and he asked me to come on board.”

Is it true you had The Wicker Man director in for a Q & A last year?

Nigel: “It is, yes”

I can’t believe I missed that!

Nigel: “Yeah, so this is amazing. We’ve tended to do tribute screenings in the past, so when Christopher Lee died last year we thought to show The Wicker Man.

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It’s a film we’ve always thought would be a good pub film anyway, so we put it on our website. That was it. I was away for the weekend and Wayne telephoned saying, “Have you seen this message we got through the website mail?”

It was through your website?

Nigel: “Yeah! A message from Robert Hardy’s PA! It said, ‘we see you’re doing this screening in tribute. Would you be interested if the director came along to introduce it?’ We were like, of course! So we told her, just so you know it’s an upstairs room of a pub, it’s a DVD…”

I bet he loved that!

Nigel: “Yeah, she said he’d love it, he loves to meet fans of the film”

Wayne: “Although we didn’t show the Director’s Cut. The original is perfect.”

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Nigel: “Haha yes. So before we showed the film he gave a very, very brief introduction which set alarm bells ringing. We thought, oh perhaps he’s not a fan of our set up. But he loved it and stuck around for a long Q & A session afterwards. He was trying to raise funds for a new film at the time so we thought he was just trying to promote that. But he barely mentioned it. It was brilliant.”

Wayne: “And it’s good because the members really appreciate those events, it’s always packed and people get really involved and ask a lot of questions.”

Besides Q & As, what have been your favourite screenings?

Wayne: “The ones where there’s a really good atmosphere”

Nigel: “Yeah.. Harold and Maude? That was brilliant. That was quite early on, it was one of those films we really wanted to show and a lot of people hadn’t seen it, it was busy, people really got into it.”

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The soundtrack would’ve helped!

Nigel: “Yeah!”

Wayne: “There’s some screenings where the atmosphere in the room is amazing, There have been a handful of screenings where you can tell everyone’s engrossed. I think Repulsion was a good one- the Roman Polanski film with Catherine Deneuve.”

Nigel: Or Aguirre, The Wrath of God by Werner Herzog. So films where you’re made to feel a little uncomfortable

Wayne: It was absolutely packed for The Red Shoes. People sat on the floor, people were in tears.

The projector was on a chair and every time a bus went past the film rattled

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I love that the pub does discounts for the club members

Nigel: “That’s the really brilliant thing about the pub. They’re so supportive of what we do. Duncan the landlord is a brilliant bloke, and Erik the manager is terrific. We did a trial screening here last Summer and it was great. There were no curtains,”

Wayne: “The projector was on a chair and every time a bus went past the film rattled”

Nigel: “Yeah, so we got some curtains in, put the projector on the ceiling and we went halves on the larger projector screen. Duncan came up with the idea to give a discount for members. It feels like a community pub which is what they’re really focused on. The people really make it, the members, the people who work here. It has become a bit of a habit for certain members. Most people who come are locals and they trust us.”

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What was your worst screening?

Wayne: “Brigadoon!”

Nigel: *groans* “It’s a musical directed by Vincente Minnelli. We thought it would be perfect”

Wayne: “Yes because we’d just shown Local Hero which was heavily influenced by Brigadoon which was our link for the chain”

Nigel: “We never show a film we haven’t seen before, but we assumed it would be great. It’s rotten. It’s an absolute stinker.”

Wayne: “Haha. It was still interesting in terms of the chain. Even though it was shit, you can still see what Local Hero has done with that idea. But was it worth screening Brigadoon to reach that conclusion?”

Nigel: “Our tastes are somewhat different. Wayne is a lot more discerning, I’m more easily pleased.

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There are films I’ll absolutely love that Wayne will absolutely hate. And there are films Wayne will love that I think.. are perfectly fine. But I just wont be as enthusiastic.”

Looking back at what you’ve shown I’m sad at how many great films I’ve missed out

Nigel: “Yes, we have one member who joined two years ago who was trying to watch every single film he missed on the chain!”

I’m not surprised! It’s like an education

Wayne: “That’s how we look at it”

Nigel: “That’s how Wayne looks at it.. *Wayne cackles* I was definitely a teenage film nerd, got distracted by music for a while and became far less obsessive about film. But since starting the club I’ve started watching so much more to think about the programme.

North Four, North London magazine, The Star, Tufnell Park Film Club, interview, article

I’ve been watching a lot of older films, like a brilliant Billy Wilder film I saw at the weekend called Witness For The Prosecution with Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton. I texted Wayne about it, knowing it would be a brilliant film club screening. But Billy Wilder films have always been brilliant”

Wayne: “Apart from 1,2,3 and Ace In The Hole

Nigel: “What! They’re brilliant!”

With that, we continue to explore Wayne and Nigel’s slightly differing stances on Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson and the size of the crayfish salads in the pub downstairs. Over dinner we watch the film club members stream in, each greeting Wayne and Nigel like old friends with knowing looks and raised glasses, joining us at the table one by one to catch up since the last time they dropped in. At 8pm it’s time for the screening of The Virgin Suicides by Sofia Coppola, chosen to coincide with Scalarama Festival 2016 and Directed By Women.

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There are a mixture of inside jokes and welcoming acknowledgements for the newbies, making this a film appreciating community you instantly want to become a member of. We’re going back next Tuesday for their screening of Grey Gardens, Film Club badges securely pinned to our lapels.

Your first screening at Tufnell Park Film Club is free (try before you buy, as Nigel says) and an annual membership is a measly £15. You’re basically robbing Wayne and Nigel, so do it nicely at least and give them a smile as you steal your weekly cinema experience from them like the naughty little cat burglar you are. Then don’t forget to brazenly pilfer your 20% off in the pub downstairs and fill your cinema loving bellies from The Star’s scrummy menu. Win win.

Pop along to the Tufnell Park Film Club, Tuesdays at The Star, 47 Chester Road, N19 5DF

Photos by Mike Barry

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