- Interview with Andrew Gray
Gray is Managing Director of Timereel Studios; a film
production company based in Norwich. Using original
archive footage, much of it that has never been seen before,
Timereel creates unique and evocative films showing how the
lives of ordinary people were affected by extraordinary
has produced several titles about our capital city, including
Haunted London and London’s East End (1900s-1930s).
They have also developed a stunning collection of
atmospheric films prompting happy memories and reminding us of
some historical milestones in East Anglia; from life on the
Norfolk Coast in the 1920s to Anglia at War.
Please tell us about your background and the background to
That’s quite a long story! I first became interested in the
film business when I was 18. I grew up without a television,
so I was always sucked in by the magic of cinema. I purchased
some books on film-making, and shot my first film a year
later. It was a 30 minute costume drama set in the Great War.
I read History at Cambridge, and after graduating I worked on
documentaries for Channel 4 and Discovery. Timereel resulted
from a flash of inspiration when I was standing in a bookshop
one afternoon. I realised that people buy books on history and
nostalgia, so why not make DVDs available showing film from
We started the business with just two titles, and grew it from
there. We have worked with the East Anglian Film Archive on
local interest DVDs, and have now signed a major deal with ITN
You have a very broad range of nostalgia titles. How much work
and research goes into your titles and how do you decide what
topics to focus on?
The work involved is considerable. People like our titles
because we unearth film that has not been seen for over a half
a century, so that takes a lot of research time. It’s
important to dig out the gems of film. Once the film has been
researched, we then commission a script writer to create and
research the story.
We choose topics based on feedback from the public, and by
keeping an eye on what’s currently popular in the book
trade. Some titles are dictated by the film itself – we have
recently come across some unseen footage of the Dunkirk
evacuation, and this has prompted us to make a documentary
about those dramatic days in 1940.
The titles are beautifully presented and produced. Does modern
technology make this any easier and how do you maintain this
Absolutely – it would be much more costly and time consuming
if we were handling original film. Everything we use is
digital. The film arrives on a hard drive and is edited on a
Computers have changed the whole business. Some people will
say there’s no substitute for the original film, but the
fact is that technology can improve the image. Film gets
scratched and warped over time, but we are able to clean the
footage digitally, so that the customer can see it at the best
So, what sort of feedback do you get about your products from
We have a very high level of repeat custom, so I guess
they like what we do! I think our films have an enduring
appeal because we go the extra mile to get unusual film. A lot
of DVDs on the market are simply old TV documentaries. Ours
are made from scratch, and have a strong literary feel. As a
result, all our customer reviews on Amazon have a minimum of 4
A customer emailed me this week to say:
“As a newcomer to your DVDs, can I say how impressed I am
with my purchases of Haunted London and The Krays’ story -
very well done. I note your DVDs cover southern counties - is
there any future plan to expand to areas outside of these as I
think your style of production would do justice to any
location. I will certainly be buying more! Thank you”
Where is the product range developing in the future and what
sorts of requests have you had for new products and titles?
We really value our customers’ opinions and make an
effort to try and find out what kind of films they want to
see. Listening and responding to feedback is one of the
ways that we plan our new product development. We
receive a lot of requests to make titles about the North of
England, so we’ll be making some about mining, industry and
so forth. Crime titles are also very popular.
Our main focus will be creating DVDs about national topics.
These will include biographies of people like Winston
Churchill and Stanley Matthews, as well as titles about
places, music and events.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of what you do?
For me, it’s finding a very rare piece of film. The main
satisfaction of the job is when the production is nearing
completion, and the music is added. It really brings the
production to life, and it’s at that moment that I see it as
a complete feature, and not a series of different pieces of
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies satisfying
our demand for retro and nostalgia. Why is retro and nostalgia
so enduringly popular?
a big interest in retro at the moment. I think it appeals
because unlike the present, the past is secure. As the past
grows more distant, people like to salvage pieces from it,
whether it’s vintage clothing or snapshots of a simpler way
of life. Old film often reduces people to tears – not because
they’re upset, but because there is something poignant about
a time that has gone but lives on in memory.
Digger: What is your retro passion?
to pin it down – I own an old mini in British Racing Green
and a working 1930s gramophone! I’m quite a fan of 1930s Art
Deco, whether its architecture or furniture.
Digger: Can you tell us about your future plans for Timereel?
well as releasing titles nationwide, we are building our
relationship with cinemas. We have trailed cinema screenings
and they have been very popular, so we’re looking to expand
those across the UK. Beyond that, we may also be creating titles for television –
but watch this space!
All Timereel Studios films are available on DVD. For
more information on the range of titles available or to place
an order please visit
reviews Timereel's titles in our Reviews section.