Having appeared as an actor in over 30 tv dramas during the 70’s and 80’s, and written for 50 episodes of tv, it is a wonder it took the hyper active Conway so long to become a movie producer. Encouraged by his son Jordan, who studied both film acting and making at The Met, LAMDA and Pinewood studios, they created oneway films in 2016. The company name is inspired by David Hasslehoff, who remarked on set one day, “There is only one way… the Conway”. Following the full length made for tv stage musical LAST NIGHT A DJ SAVED MY LIFE, father and son wrote, directed and produced GRIMALDI-THE FUNNIEST MAN IN THE WORLD, a touching period drama about the great clown Joe Grimaldi.
Congratulations on winning Best Picture at Festigious! We absolutely adore Grimaldi why did you decide to write the screenplay of Grimaldi and bring this story to life? What were some of your inspirations?
I am fascinated that the great clowns and comedians always seemed to have a troubled life. The film was set in the year 1806, when Grimaldi was proclaimed the funniest man in the world, yet the issues for him and his son dealing with fame were the same as if it were today. I loved the challenge of making a period drama using comedic sequences to tell the narrative, especially since the script was based on a biography by Charles Dickens. There is a certain majesty to the battered dignity that a clown uniquely endures.
Jon and Jordan Conway
How did you become a creative director and a filmmaker?
I had been a writer, producer, director in live theatre for 30 years, but recently started using cgi animation and live action film in multi media theatrical experiences. My 21 year old son Jordan, did an intensive course at London Met Film school and a trainee course at Pinewood and encouraged me into film.
Jordan Conway in Grimaldi with The Chuckle Brothers, directed by Jon Conway filmed at Blackpool Tower Circus
You've produced over 400 pantomimes, devised shows for BBC TV, West End, Broadway, China, Celebrity cruise lines, Las Vegas showrooms, and concert tours around the world. What are some of the highlights of your career so far? What were some of your favorite productions?
The most bizarre was writing Aladdin in Mandarin and working with a dual nationality cast to tour China. Jimmy Osmond co produced with me and his nephew Stephen, played the lead speaking fluent Mandarin.
My ambition fulfilled was to have my own shows in Vegas and I created two new shows for the re opening of the Golden Nugget a few years ago.
The scariest was playing the lead role in my own play off Broadway and in the West End, in the controversial 'Truth, Lies, Diana' about the inquest into the death of Princess Diana.
The show closest to my heart was ‘Boogie Nights-The 70's Musical’, (named before, and nothing to do with the movie). It was the first ‘jukebox musical’ and became a cult in the UK clocking up over 1,500 performances.
Tell us about your experience working with David Hasselhoff on the musical "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life". What did you take away from this experience?
The biggest stars that I have worked with, like Debbie Reynolds, Henry Winkler and the Hoff, were all childhood heroes of mine. Great pros who still wanted to work, especially with emerging talent and were incredibly humble. One day on set of a made for TV movie I did last year called 'Last Night A DJ Saved My Life', Hoff said to the cast…. ’There’s only one way…. the Conway!” Because of him, I named our film company ‘oneway films'
Tell us about your collaboration with Steve Sheen and Adam Spinks, the producers? When did they come on board, and what was your collaboration like?
I’m a bit of a one man band, but I needed more experience and industry craft to temper my enthusiasm. Adam is a gifted young film maker, who supplied the crew and whispered in my ear at every stage of the shoot as assistant director. In particular, he helped with the framing and composition, he’s also the fastest editor on Premier Pro I have ever seen! Steve Sheen is an experienced tv producer in the UK. A great partner, who encourages and can stand back with an objective view.
Jordan getting ready for a take with Jon
You did a wonderful job assembling a wonderful cast! What was your casting process?
The Chuckle Brothers are legends of BBC Children’s TV. I have known them just about all my life, creating many of their tv shows. They are the last of the great vaudeville acts still working. It also turned out to be the last performance my dear friend Barry Chuckle ever made on film in the lead role.
David Essex as Dickens, was a massive UK film and pop star, being the original Che in Evita. Vicki Michelle and Charlie Quirke are established tv actors giving depth to the cast. But it’s actually Robin Colville as the doctor and Peter Piper as the policeman that really give the film gravitas with, in my opinion, superb supporting performances. Of course, my son Jordan, plays the errant, epileptic, hedonistic son who abuses his father’s generosity because he feels trapped. Oh my, let’s hope this doesn’t turn out to be autobiographical! I'm proud of his performance, but more so the way he approached preparing for the part, looking for direction in motivation and questioning the text, not looking for acting notes as such.
What is your favorite scene and why?
The final confrontation between crippled father and emotionally deranged son at the end. It was a measured performance by Jordan as his built up anger lets rip, beautifully balanced by Barry Chuckle who cannot stand the idea of confrontation. It was the very last scene we shot and I remained emotionally unattached directing my son in such a dramatic scene, but was moved when I saw the make up artiste shed a tear.
How did you interact with the different departments during post-production? For example, with Adam Spinks, the Editor, Jamie Gamache (Supervising Sound Editor) and Composer Olly Ashmore? Did you use any cinematic/ theatrical references when communicating your directorial vision?
I chose the music early on, all composed in the 1800’s and left it to Olly, who I have collaborated with for so long. Unusually, we cut the film to the music length that Olly arranged rather than the other way around. I like being inspired by others work. Adam really took charge of the post production. He is very focused, intense and can do everything. He’s better than me, so I let him get on with it!
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
LAST NIGHT A DJ SAVED MY LIFE
The Hoff, plays Ross, a hilarious hedonist. He’s Ibiza's top 80's DJ who doesn't realize a new decade has dawned. Disco is out, the club scene is in.
He tries to keep up with the times... and with Mandy, his new younger girl-friend but matters are complicated when his teenage daughter Penny arrives to stay. Father and daughter haven't seen each other for three years, since a messy divorce. No longer a demure school girl, but a wild child who quickly falls for a local holiday rep.
It's the story of two generations colliding, as a badly behaved parent, tries to control a wild child teenager... telling her, 'Do as I ay, not as I did!'!
This hilarious hit fest is also a touching father and daughter drama, set against a background of sun, sea, sex, drugs and rock and roll… taking us back to the 90’s.