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Guest Column - Svengali: "Rock'n'Roll is the only industry where bad behaviour is encouraged"

Guest Column - Svengali: "Rock'n'Roll is the only industry where bad behaviour is encouraged"
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The most rock’n’roll film of 2014 Svengali is out on DVD and Blu-Ray today (7 April). In a guest column, the film’s writer Jonny Owen discusses the true influences behind this tale of music industry shenanigans.

Alan McGee gave me the line which pretty much summed up the whole ethos behind Svengali. We were in the Northumberland Arms in Goodge Street. Huddled over a pint (he was on sparkling water) he looked at me and said in his famous Glaswegian drawl, stabbing the air as he spoke: “Rock’roll is the only industry in the world where bad behaviour is actively fuckin’ encouraged!!” We all laughed with him but he’s absolutely right. If you fall over drunk in a bar and your a rock star everyone says your a genius artist, if you fall over drunk and your an electrician you get thrown out on your arse and banned. I immediately thought “what a perfect backdrop for a comedy drama.”

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I was in a band myself in the early 1990s called The Pocket Devils. A waspish pre-Brit Pop Mod band. We even got a deal and sold a few thousand singles (they go for loads of money now on eBay. We’ve become a cult band. A bit like the 60s “British Birds”… look em up. They were great). Thankfully though I fell into acting around the same time landing a lead part in a long running Welsh drama series but I’d tasted the world. The most juicy succulent fruit of them all. The sweet fruit of rock’n’roll successes, being flown to New York first class and supporting INXS and the Stereophonics among others. We were bastards though. Narky, arrogant, sometimes brilliant but mostly just bastards. We were early twenties Welsh lads thrust into a world of poor food, no sleep, speed and of course, girls. I’m so glad now we didn’t make it massive. I would have been insufferable. The manager of the band was called Dixie and we loved him but boy we gave him a hard time. Constantly demanding, thank the god lord above there was no such thing as mobile phones with camera and video to document what brats we were.

All of this provides the back drop to my script that became Svengali. It began on line with five minute episodes. Me playing the band manager Dixie with my own set of bastards to look after. It took off immediately. Gushing reviews and thousands of hits. Suddenly there were offers to make a movie and here we are. People from the music world love it. I based all the characters on people I’d met in the world of music. Pimps, hustlers and con men have nothing on promoters, agents and A&R men. Sounds like I’m being overly dramatic, but trust me Im not. (Remember Alan McGee’s line). Everyone from the ‘biz, as those inside call it, has come onto me after seeing it and said: “you must have been in a band because that’s exactly how it is!” I nod… “Yep, that was me”. Falling over in that bar. Please chuck me out on my arse if I do it now won’t you? Thanks!

Jonny Owen

For more head to Svengalimovie.com.


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