Interviewing Ron Peck in his East End studio in 2009 felt like I had met a fellow traveller. His first feature film Nighthawks – a film shot in 1977 and dealing with the then taboo subject of homosexuality and the double life lead by its protagonist, a teacher named Jim – made a big impact on me as a teenager, around the time I was coming to terms with my sexuality and also my own desire to be a filmmaker. Watching his new film Cross-Channel before I went to visit him made me smile – set on a cross-channel ferry, and shot on a small DV Camcorder, it reminded me of those teenage years when I was, by my own admission, a geeky shipping enthusiast. I would drag my parents onto any passenger vessel I could, camcorder in hand, to wander through the lounges and corridors. There was, as Ron says in the interview, something very “special” about these ships – something magical about the world they contained, and majestic about the ships themselves.
Ron’s films exist in the gap between fiction and documentary. Mixing playful yet dramatic aesthetic styles in his documentaries, and using non-professional actors and improvisation in his dramas, he embodies Grierson’s belief that documentary is indeed, the creative treatment of actuality.
The transcribed interview appears in issue 3 of our journal and can be read here. Ron talks about his film school days, the making of his first film Nighthawks, working with the east-end boxing community for his films Fighters and Real Money, the issues he encounters with funding his films, and finally the making of his latest film Cross-Channel.
I filmed the interview, mostly as a means of transcribing for the printed journal, but I found the footage fascinating and wanted to put together a short video piece around Ron’s early days as an aspiring filmmaker, making Nighthawks and his thoughts on the film, looking back on it 30 years later. One+One’s patron saint Derek Jarman also gets a lovely mention! Part 2 also includes clips from some of his other films including Strip Jack Naked, Fighters, Real Money and Cross-Channel.