“His work has to do with precision of understanding and portrayal, humour in both, and fellowship as an ideal.” Peter Sainsbury
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After a career in film making, Nick Gifford and his wife Judy, decided to move to France and change direction completely. They successfully founded an upmarket jam making business with an illustrious international clientele, then “retired” to run a Tea Room in the heart of the French countryside. Now, when he has some spare time, Nick sometimes paints or tinkers with his very old classic Citroen car.
Here is a brief history.
"If Gifford were a German, it is extremely doubtful he'd be so little known, since his talent for observing others with sympathy but without patronage would be better recognized by television if not by the cinema. The West German cinema , however, would surely have demanded features from him.”
When I first came up to London Derek Hill had taken my first film A TONGA CAB IN MYSORE, and Carole from that agency got me a job at Samaritan Films- with Peter Smith, Kevin Brownlow, Mamoun Hassan and others. It was a very lively place. Chris Menges, then a young cameraman, often came in. Kevin was just launching IT HAPPENED HERE in the cinema, with queues around the block.
I then got a job with Allan King Associates where I worked with Peter Moseley on the gruelling WARRENDALE about emotionally disturbed youth in a hostel in Canada. I think Peter Moseley was pretty forgiving of me – I was a hopeless assistant, always losing bits of film. There were good film technicians there: Bill Brayne and Richard Leiterman as cameramen, Nic Knowland too (who helped develop the AATON camera), and Christian Wangler and Ivan Sharrock , both top notch sound recordists.
Richard Key was starting to edit. He helped me survive the pace. During that time. Roger Graef joined as a director – he went on to do the extraordinary Police series with Charles Stewart ,amongst other things. Chris Menges and Dick Fontaine visited a lot. It was a lively time.. I made a film of a Nottinghill Gate West Indian roadsweeper in that period - REST MY BONES.
So, for eighteen months I worked my arse off, transferring sound, assisting editors, attending dubs, running constant errands, projecting films – a huge learning curve. Occasionally I went out on shoots.
Then I got my Union Card, so I left, and went freelance. Upstairs from Allan King’s was Document Films. Barry Barton was kind to me; he let me transfer sound for my films for next to nothing at weekends and was generally very encouraging. Dave Findlay, the ex BBC Australian cameraman worked for them. I often was his assistant and learnt a lot, but I think we could get too boisterous and lost one or two jobs that way. He was an exceptional music cameraman, working with Christopher Nupen at Allegro Films.
Dave knew my films well and always said they would be valued when I was dead. He also got me started as a cameraman on the BBC list. So I was launched – in a small way.
Over thirty years, I worked with all sorts of good directors. I shot LAST NIGHT ANOTHER SOLDIER… with Eric Davidson - Catherine Linstrum, who directed a series on a Welsh Hospital for the mentally-handicapped as it was about to be closed down. She went on to write and direct dramas - numerous films including CHILDHOOD with Angela Pope - who constantly encouraged me on my own films - arts films with Derek Bailey, DEATH & DYING with Nigel Miller, REMBETIKA with Simon Heavan, BOMBAY JAZZ with H O Nazareth, early low budget dramas with Karl Francis, and the drama series MR PYE, which my wife Judy Marle produced.
Judy & I met in India whilst making HOWARD HODGKIN IN CONVERSATION for the Arts Council. We then went on to make films with Craigie Aitchison and Bhupen Khakhar, both on their home turf – Craigie in Camberwell, Bhupen in Baroda. Self-funded, they were eventually bought by the Arts council thanks to Rodney Wilson’s film department.
Nearing sixty, I realized that the window for my kind of films was closing..
Meanwhile, the organic jams for five star hotels were starting to get serious. It was a pretty terrifying learning curve, having never made jam before, but somehow we hit the mark for the Dorchester, Claridges and their equivalents throughout the world. We had eight French workers, labour laws you couldn’t follow/believe and constant pressure. But it was exciting.