PODCAST: Malcolm Venville

Whoever it’s with, whenever I do these podcasts, personal links seem to turn up along the way.
Things I’d forgotten or been unaware of – Paul Weiland was once my landlord, I judged the One Show with Gerry Graf 15 years earlier, David Holmes drew a poster for me 25 years earlier.
This isn’t like that, this time it really is personal (isn’t that the Jaws 2 strap line?)
Malcolm and I started out together; he’d shoot pictures for free, I’d write ads for free.
The stuff we created helped us inch forward in our careers.
When I finally got into my first good agency (SPDC&J), my new boss Mark Denton said ‘it was all that extracurricular stuff that got you hired’.

I hope you enjoy it.

We met in 1989, on a Kawasaki shoot.
Malcom was assisting Duncan Sim.

Because it was way back then, getting three shots of a motorbikes whizzing around meant spending a month in Scotland – location hunting, set building and picture taking.
A month?
Ten of us grazing from hotel to hotel every night.
For three stills!
Here’s one.

Days were spent scouting, evenings were spent eating and drinking.
Except for Malcolm.
There was always a reason he wasn’t allowed to join us, he had to build something, drive somewhere or, harshest of all, sleep in the van at the location.

He’d often turn up at the hotel late, cold and hungry only to be told the chefs gone home.
Feeling sorry for this poor wretch, my writer, Alastair, got into the habit of ordering extra food and drink for him, we’d then stay up with him, chatting about film.
It wasn’t a chore, it was a joy, he couldn’t have been more friendly, and enthusiastic about…well, everything.
When shoots end, you say goodbye to your new BFF’s and make plans to meet up, but invariably, never see them again.
Cut to six months later ‘Hey Dave, it’s Malc…from Scotland…Duncan’s assistant? I’m going it alone and wondered whether I could come in and show you my portfolio?’

We organised a time and he popped over with his work.
I was excited for him to break free.
He leafed through his work, telling the story behind each picture…

My heart sank.
He was such a lovely guy, so positive, the last thing I wanted to do was pour cold water on his dreams.
But there was no market for grainy pictures of relatives and factory folk.
Not in advertising anyway.
At that time ad agencies wanted gloss, perfection, not realism.
I offered him a job; fifty quid for a picture of my nan.
He did a good job (it’s still hangs on my stairs.)
A few weeks later I gave him another job; three plates on a coloured background for £200.
Not because I thought he’d do it well, I just thought he could do with the cash.
Also, three plates on a pink background? he couldn’t mess that up (he very nearly did, we discuss on the podcast.)

He then shot an IPA poster for me.
The fee was £100, including model making.

He used the back of an A3 layout pad as the background and insisted on using daylight.
We hashed together the pencil model making ourselves.
It got us into D&AD.
Malc’s first entry, my first for print.

Then one day he came in with this print.

I loved it.
It seemed such a leap in quality.
Almost Penn-like.
This was definitely the kind of thing that could get him advertising jobs.

I decided to give him a proper job with a proper budget.
It was a bit of a risk, I was a Junior Art Director, so if something went wrong people would question why the hell, out of all the photographers in London, I’d used my scruffy, inexperienced Brummie mate.
But I thought he could do it.
The ad highlighted the issue that most companies office lighting wasn’t compatible with these new fangled computers that were becoming all the rage in offices.
Malcolm need to shoot a naked secretary (tastefully), it went with a line about her boss making her wear glasses.
A bit convoluted in retrospect, but there you are.
He very nearly fucked up this one too (also in the podcast).
But ended up doing a great shot.
Before long we were hanging out 24/7, looking for jobs to do together.
For example, when he found out that the company he rented his studio from were considering running an ad to promote their brand new, million pound retouching machine –  he said his mate would do it for free.
Which I did (with Mike McKenna).
Obviously we wanted to do a great ad for O’Connor Dowse, but we also used it as an opportunity to meet the people we wanted to show our books to.
So our idea involved shooting (and therefore meeting) five of the best art directors in London. 

(Paul Arden said no, Alan Waldie never replied.)
When Mike McKenna offered Boxing News a free ad campaign, Malc was part of the package.

When Malc’s casting director mentioned that they need a film, Mike & I were offered up free.

Malcolm got a new studio, I did a letterhead.

Malcolm did a talk, we did poster.

It was a good system.
These freebies were starting to show up in awards annuals.
Each job moved us both forward.
Then, Malcolm shot some tests for one of those blokes we’d shot in our O’Connor Dowse ad – Mark Denton.
Mark was one of the Creative Director’s of the best agency in London, the mighty – Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson.
Those tests turned into a real brief.

Before long, he was their in-house photographer.

Shooting everything from British Telecom.

Luncheon Vouchers.Virgin Airways.

The British Heart Foundation.
As well as the most awarded account in the U.K. at the time; Nike.

Mark Reddy, then at Ayer, and another one of those bods from that O’Connor Dowse ad, gave him two campaigns, back to back.
And Courier.

From there, all the good agencies started queueing up.



British Gas.



Silk Cut.

Whilst doing this, he’d often shoot the people he worked with.
Art Director Andy McKay.

Tom Carty & Walter Campbell.

Art Director Gary Denham.

Copywriter Richard Grisdale and Art Director Mark Reddy.

Art Director Steve ‘The Buttoneer’ Paskin.

Director Tony Kaye.
Copywriter Tom Carty.

Copywriter Chris Palmer.

Director Frank Budgen.

And Mark Denton again.

And again.

And Again.

He also started shooting commercials.
The first was this one.

Audi (Saatchi & Saatchi Amsterdam)

Visa (Saatchi & Saatchi London).

Choice FM (Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy)

Anti-Smoking (AMV/BBDO).


Hyundai (Leagas Delaney).


Pretty soon it was America.

Nynex (Chiat/Day).

Microsoft (Wieden + Kennedy).

Volkswagen (Arnold).

Volkswagen (Arnold).


Nike (Wieden + Kennedy).



Invesco (Leo Burnett).

He then shot a features:
’44” CHEST’.


More recently, he shot the docudrama series currently on Apple+ ‘LINCOLN’S DILEMMA’.

Gettysburg is a long way from Scotland.
My Nan would’ve been proud.



Over the years I’d hook up with Malcolm every couple of years to do small projects.

In my 3 months at Delaney Fletcher Delaney for Halifax.

At Leagas Delaney for Adidas…

…and JazzFM.


When we launched Campbell Doyle Dye, Malc shot our Campaign portrait (on the terrace of his studio). 

We shot a documentary on the dancer, Miss Torso, in Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’, we did the invites to the premier.
(We made special envelopes where the address window was on the back of the envelope – the rear.)

We rustled up some trade trade ads for his production company Therapy Films.

For the launch party for his book ‘Layers’, we created the invites.
A crazy idea; 500 unique, unopened polaroids.

Most people would reject that idea, he shot 500, each with a different person and handwriting.

For his second book, Lucha Loco, Paul Silburn and I did an ad campaign to try and shift a few.

When he shot his first film, ‘44″ Chest‘, Malc set me up with a screening.
He told me the studio said they weren’t sure how to sell it and wondered what I thought.
It was no popcorn movie, I thought the only solution was to be honest about what it was and appeal to the anti-popcorn crowd.
The studio didn’t agree.

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