Busy life in a quiet place

by Roger Watkins

My problem is I can’t resist a start up. When I retired from Variety in 1995, I linked up with a couple of journo pals and, together, we gave birth to three trade newsletters.

One survived‚ DVD-intelligence‚ that covered the aborning optical disc phenomenon almost immediately prior to it breaking out into the leviathan we know today. We were very lucky.

The startup newsletter morphed into a startup web site, www.dvd-intelligence.com, which looked at the DVD industry through European eyes, rather than from a U.S. perspective.

With the benefit of good timing, the web site took off and we locked in some 50 advertisers in the first year. But it also spawned another startup – the DVD Annual Review & Primer. Like the web, it was heavily ad supported.

With an online presence and an in-print presence, the next startup took us into conference territory to give us face-to-face visibility with industry leaders. We started the “Film-to-DVD Seminar” at the National Film Theatre and, fortunately, it was a sellout even though leading UK trade paper Screen International had a similarly themed powwow just two days later at a London hotel.

For our seminar, we published another first – the Filmmakers Guide to DVD, which explained to producers some of the practicalities, opportunities and pitfalls associated with releasing product on DVD. Again, we seem to hit the right button with this startup and we are under some pressure to turn this publication into a quarterly.

We are hesitating because we are in the process of opening up on another front with a publication call the Media-Tech Buyers Handbook. This one will be out in the Spring and will be a preview publication linked to a Las Vegas trade fair for companies that make and sell the machines that stamp out those shiny silver DVDs. Sexy? No. Lucrative? We are quietly confident.

Frantic and ongoing that this activity is, it pales into insignificance when compared to the energy Pat and I spend on six grandchildren Katy, 13; James, 12; Susanne ,11; Matthew, 10; Thomas, 7 and David, 3 who visit us at every opportunity, often all together.

I should explain that we live by the sea, on the North Kent coast (near Whitstable, which is famous for oysters) in a village that time has passed by. The local shops still close for lunch, there is just one pub near the beach but otherwise there is nothing but swimming, surfing, fishing, sailing, horse riding, tennis, bowls, golf, walking, bird-watching and masses of green areas for soccer, cricket and other sports. The kids love it, hence their frequent visits.

But when the tribe and their parents, and often friends, descend, we find ourselves sleeping and feeding 13 or 14 people, including my 95 year old mother (who famously said when she arrived here seven years ago, that if the East wind didn’t kill her right away, she would live to 100!)

The peace and rhythm of living by the sea in a remote and commercially unspoiled spot provides the perfect antidote to my electronic workload. If stress levels rocket, who needs a scotch? I just go for a stroll on the cliffs and plan for the next time the kids get here! And chances are I will start thinking about another start up.