Jonny Owen, The Man, The Movie and The Scene

MOTM Reading 2014SvengaliIMG_2339

Tell us a little about yourself personally and creatively?

Well I’m a 42 year old Welshman who has lived in many places. I have size 10 feet and I’m battling greying hair and a 34 inch waste line which needs constant attention. I have been in bands, I have acted and now I am writing scripts too. I am useless at DIY although I can use a drill alright.

What first got you interested in film?

The first film I ever saw at the Pictures was Star Wars (showing my age now). It left me in a kind of euphoric stupor for at least a week, until I went to see it again. I saw it three times actually. I was quite famous in my primary school for that. Seriously, other kids would say…have you really seen it three times? And I’d nod with a smug smile. I used to love going to the Pictures as a kid. The queues and the atmosphere. When VHS came out is was then that I started watching everything that came into the house. Well except the 18 video’s, but even then my brothers and I would watch them when my folks went out. I wasn’t a massive horror fan though. It was more stuff like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. The real game changer though was Quad. I can remember watching it the first time very well and thinking immediately….I want to be one of them! My older brother kind of flirted with revival Mod but he was a Punk really and then later loved The Roses. They were his band. But Mod was like the starting point or guide map for me. From there I found out about the history and what was Modernism, what they listened too, how they dressed. I used to collect fanzines and save up for the clothes. I got into the ‘casual’ look as well, especially at the football. I saw it as a natural progression. Film wise, I used to watch a lot of older stuff too. I was into Capra especially. Still am. Older actors too like Charles Laughton and Spencer Tracy.

What was the inspiration for Dixie and Svengali?

He’s based on the manger of my old band Paul Dixon or ‘Dixie’. Quite well known around the revival Mod scene as ‘Taff’. Managed a band called The Scene in London in the early 80’s. He later managed my band The Pocket Devils. He was (is) a great guy, kind of indefatigable really. Always ready with a smile and encouraging word. I liked the idea of a character like that you know? Especially in the world of Rock and Roll which is so full of sharks. Someone honest and decent landing in the middle of all that and his best mate a successful A&R man who has all the opposite attributes, which is why he’s got on so well.

How did this progress from a you tube short series to the big screen?

It became very popular on-line. Mods have a great sense of humour but it quickly went viral and then picked up some gushing reviews from the broadsheets. I got flirted with by some broadcasters and production companies but it was when a creative design agency based in London called ‘Root’ got in touch and said they were interested in going into films. We got it funded through a private investor and the rest as they say is history. We made it. Entered it into Edinburgh and it was up for best film.

How much are you like ‘Dixie’ or ‘Dixie’ is like you?

Well he looks like me! 😉 I mean there’s bits of me in there but I’m different in other ways. He certainly has a longer fuse than me when it comes to dealing with ego’s and the band. I wanted to make him an everyday Mod but also he’s got his pulse on the future, especially as you’ll see The Prems become huge. Of all the characters I’ve ever played he’s the one I like the most.

When does Svengali go on general release in the UK, Worldwide etc?

It’s all being negotiated now with a major distributor. It’s amazing we’ve got as far as we have really. Soon as it’s confirmed you’ll be the first to know. Promise.

How would you describe ‘The Mod Scene’ where you live?

Well in London it’s great, there’s loads going on. I used to help with the Modcast and I DJ at events. I’m keen on playing to younger audiences, spreading the word as they say! I’m doing lots of tie ups with Fred Perry and their subculture events, which I love. I’ve done stuff like DJing for Jake Bugg and get offered stuff all the time which is very flattering. I love the clothes at the moment. I’ve always said a ‘Mod’ look is perfect for a fella to grow into. Suits and the Ivy League stuff, it’s a great timeless style. I look forward to wearing more suits in the next few years. Go see Mr.Powell once every six months….I’d rather enjoy that.

What does it mean to you, to be a ‘Mod’?

To me it’s about a code to live your life. How you look, watch you watch and read, how you conduct yourself. I also like Mods. The people. Their great. Friendly and funny and they’ve backed Svengali all the way from day one. Fantastic really. It’s why I always try to spread the word and say how important the whole culture has been to me and helped me really. It has many different strands and faces (excuse the pun!) but I like the fact it’s inclusive too. That it finds new young people and that people come back to it. I was obsessed with casual clothing right through the late 80’s. I even went slightly dressed down in the mid 90’s. Longer hair and chords with sherman shirts but it was always there. I was always listening to The Small Faces and Motown. Always watching old RSG programs. To use the quote on the poster itself it really is a way of life.

What are your thoughts on what MOTMs does?

March of the Mods is a fantastic concept with an inspiring message coming from one of the worlds great subcultures. I’m very proud to have been asked to DJ for them in Reading in 2014. Ironically it’s with The Scene who were once managed by the real life ‘Dixie’ the inspiration for the film Svengali.

Let’s hope we can keep adding to the remarkable 50 thousand pound that’s already been raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust. My partner Vicky McClure had been involved with the trust in Nottingham and she said the work they do is so inspiring. I’m delighted to help in the small way I can. Well done to you all and keep the faith.

A Massive Thank you to Jonny Owen for his time, and involvement with Reading’s MOTM 2014 event and support of MOTMs.
We wish Jonny and the cast of Svengali loads of luck with the film, Svengali goes on general release Friday 21st March.
Watch this space for the ‘Auction of tickets to the Premiere of Svengali’.