Cat no. 226514

British Cinema History Research Project Oral Histories: Vernon Sewell (film director)

c.1988

Vernon Sewell (4 July 1903 - 21 June 2001)
Interviewed by Roy Fowler

Vernon Sewell began his career in 1929 as a camera assistant at Nettlefold Studios before gaining experience as a camera operator, sound recordist, art director and editor. He also became adept in the use of special effects, and these featured prominently in his directorial debut, 'The Medium' (1934), written by Michael Powell. He directed several short films in the 1930s and in 1943 he achieved some prominence with the wartime drama 'The Silver Fleet', produced by Archers. Despite other successes in the 1940s, he worked in B-feature production, particularly horror films, for much of the 1950s and 1960s.

In this entertaining and very frank interview, a 91 year old Sewell dicusses his long and varied career with Roy Fowler. He gives an account of his early career at Nettlefold Studios, explaining that he was motivated to learn as many film industry trades as possible in order to advance to film direction. Pressed by Fowler, he provides a great deal of detail about the working culture at the studio and about its owner, Archibald Nettlefold, who Sewell claims never went anywhere near the studio. He describes his experiences of quota film production as 'fantastic', although he claims it was common to work from 8am to 1am in order to meet the schedules. He has much to say about his work with Michael Powell on 'The Edge of the World', and also discusses his various inventions, including a 'baby crane' and a gyroscope for stabilising cameras. There are also entertaining accounts of his experiences directing films for Hammer.