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Jeremy Thomas donates personal collection to the BFI National Archive
Jeremy Thomas. Photo: Anoush Abrar.

LONDON.- The BFI announced that Jeremy Thomas, one of the industry’s most revered independent producers and founder of Recorded Picture Company, has made a significant donation from his working archive to the BFI National Archive. The archive spans Jeremy Thomas’s remarkable career both as a producer and executive producer from his first film, Mad Dog Morgan (1976) by Philippe Mora, through to Ben Wheatley’s High Rise (2015).

Consisting of both moving image and paper-based material this donation includes rare 35mm prints, scripts, production material and international posters from some of his most important and distinctive films such as Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing (1978), Nagisa Ôshima’s Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983), Bernardo Bertolucci’s 9-time Oscar®-winning The Last Emperor (1987), David Cronenberg’s controversial adaptation of JG Ballard’s Crash (1996) as well as Jonathan Glazer’s landmark cult classic Sexy Beast (2000) and David Mackenzie’s Young Adam (2003).

The Archive will continue to receive donations from Jeremy Thomas ongoing, and once fully catalogued the paper-based material will be collectively known as The Jeremy Thomas Collection. The donation also includes rare moving image material such as the original sound tapes by David Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto for their Oscar®-winning soundtrack for The Last Emperor as well as Thomas’s 35mm print of the film, plus 35mm prints of Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Karel Reisz’s final film, Everybody Wins (1990), adapted from Arthur Miller’s script, Bernardo Bertolucci’s adaptation of The Sheltering Sky (1990) and Jeremy Thomas’s own film as director, All The Little Animals (1998), starring John Hurt and a young Christian Bale.

The donation gives us a fascinating insight into the pivotal role of a producer in shaping a filmmaker’s vision and in particular highlights Jeremy Thomas’s success in international co-production, charting the development and production history across a number of high profile films including those made with his close friend and long-time creative collaborator Bernardo Bertolucci. There are creative materials across Jeremy Thomas’s renowned epics with Bernardo Bertolucci including The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky, Little Buddha (1993), Stealing Beauty (1996) and The Dreamers (2003).

With a filmography that reads like a who’s who of independent and world cinema, the donation features archive material from an extraordinary catalogue of films made by prominent directors including Stephen Frears, Terry Gilliam, David Mackenzie, Jonathan Glazer, Takeshi Kitano, Bob Rafaelson, Jerzy Skolomowski, Takashi Miike and Richard Linklater.

In many cases this unique archive documents the history of a production from initial story and script drafts through to art department drawings, location work and production stills as well as marketing and press campaign materials. This previously unseen paper documentation helps to illustrate the producer’s involvement in each stage of a film, from its original inception and development through to production and final release, foregrounding the care and level of detail given to nurturing new and emerging British talent.

Jeremy Thomas said, “The BFI has been important to me since I was young, and a lot of my film education has been through preservation of things past which I enjoyed at the National Film Theatre. My affectionate involvement with the BFI culminated with my work as Chairman. I’ve decided to entrust my archives starting at the beginning of my career through to my recent work, and I intend for all my extensive material to eventually be together in the BFI National Archive. In the words of Cocteau: “There's no such thing as love; only proof of love.”

Heather Stewart, BFI Creative Director said, “I couldn’t be more thrilled that Jeremy is donating his personal collection, a history and expression of everything he has stood for as one of Britain’s greatest producers, to the BFI. Jeremy has fought for film culture all of his working life, and as ex-Chair of the BFI he understands perfectly the critical role that the BFI’s film, television and moving image archive plays in making sure that these key documents and many rare films are preserved for future generations to enjoy. It is a big step for him to take to let go of so many personal prints. I can’t thank him enough for his generous spirit. The collection offers an amazing opportunity for students and researchers to understand more about how films are made, and is a real treasure trove for the BFI to use to illuminate and contextualize our public programme.”

Chair of the BFI for five years from 1993-1997, Jeremy Thomas was honoured with a BFI fellowship in 1998, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture, and was the subject of a BFI Southbank retrospective in April 2014, ‘Made in Britain’, celebrating 40 years as a producer.

Jeremy Thomas’s donation follows the recent move of Recorded Picture Company and HanWay Films offices from Soho to Notting Hill. His archive will join other significant personal collections held and preserved at the BFI National Archive John Paul Getty Jnr Conservation Centre in Berkhamsted. Once the donation process is complete and cataloguing is underway, it will be accessible to view by appointment through BFI Special Collections at the BFI Reuben Library.

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