Allan Niblo: From banking to film-making

The award-winning producer talks about his unusual career path from trainee banker, to 'skateboarding punk rocker' to setting up his own film company.

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The Independent Culture

Back in 1983, I was a skateboarding champion. Well, I was a skateboarder by night and a banker by day. I believed in living your dream, so the day I passed my banking exams I was on a plane to California. Then I was a full-time skater and punk rocker. My dad’s never forgiven me for quitting banking! I had to do it though.

StreetDance 3D was a popcorn movie, but we simultaneously released it with Ajami, a film about the mixed religious community in tel Aviv, which was totally different. You need to be able to make movies you believe in. You don't have to stick to one genre. I think there’s enough time for everything.

Not everyone will like every film. We screen tested StreetDance with a hundred 13-year-old girls and 98 per cent said they loved it. I’m sure The Independent’s art critic’s reaction would be more muted. The hope is that it will mean something to someone.

You know when a film will work. A film pitch has to be conceptual. You want to be bowled over really. It’s a visceral thing. When Gareth Edwards approached us with his pitch for Monsters, it was his personality that convinced us. You could see in his eyes he believed with absolute certainty it would work.

It would be hard to pitch a Lynne Ramsay film now, because generally, people are taking less risks. Hollywood will commission 20 films; most make a loss, three will break even and one or two will make enough money to cover the rest. But not all film studios can do that. The box office and commerciality mean more now. Commercialism and artistry aren’t totally at odds, though, there’s often room to combine the two.

At the moment I’m totally obsessed with quantum physics. We’re on the verge of discovering the Higgs boson, it’s the last little piece in a very big puzzle. I wouldn’t become a physicist and stop making films though, I love film and there’s too much film that I want to make. Having said that, if someone could make a film that captured the feeling of listening to a band like The Fall, I could die happy. But no-one’s come up with it yet.

Allan Niblo is an award winning film producer and a founder member of film production and distribution company, Vertigo Films. He has worked on an eclectic range of films like cult classics Human Traffic and It's all Gone Pete Tong to mainstream successes like StreetDance 3D and the critically acclaimed Monsters. Allan is a judge for the Relentless Energy Drink Short Stories Film making Competition. For more information, view one of this year's entries above and the rest here and, for more information visit relentlessenergy.com/shortstories

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