How to Start a New Blu-ray Label with Phil Escott of Fractured Visions
Written by Eddie Gurrola
Starting your own home video label sure sounds like the ultimate fantasy for many of us cinephiles. But how would one go about actually doing it? We were curious, so we reached out to Phil Escott, who recently started his own UK-based boutique blu-ray label, Fractured Visions, to learn more about what it's really like.
Phil of Fractured Visions, about ready to drop the mic
A lot of us film fans have always dreamed of starting a blu-ray label one day. You've actually done it. What made you decide it was time to go for it, and what gave you the confidence to start this new business?
Ha, believe me, I was very much a dreamer myself. In fact, back in high school for a business class, we had to create our own company, and I founded a distribution label called Philco...a not-so-suitable nod to a label I adored back then called Vipco, who are largely to blame for my love of Italian exploitation cinema. But yeah, it took 20 years for that silly little business idea to come to fruition.
I’ve been working in the home entertainment sector for about 10 years now, with some great people like Steve Davey and Tim Scaping of 101 Films and Chris Holden of Second Sight Films. Those guys really helped show me the ropes, as it were. So the confidence came with a deeper understanding of the workings of the industry. I’m a die hard film fan and collector myself, so I was already comfortable in title selection and how to package a release, but obviously there’s a lot more to it than that, and that’s what took time to really get to grips with.
Give us a day in the life of a blu-ray label owner. Can we have our WIZARD OF OZ moment and see what's behind the curtain here? How does this really work?
It’s a small operation, as in just me. But I’m also dependent on a host of other, far more talented people to help me bring a title to viewers' shelves. So a lot of my day is spent liaising with these guys, from designers for artwork, to designers on the booklet and packaging, to additional content producers, to the people who encode and author the discs for me. So, while Fractured Visions is run by me, it wouldn’t be doable without a slew of other companies and freelancers that help make a release come together.
Sales are also dealt with via a third party, thankfully! I don’t think my better half would approve of boxes and boxes of blu-rays stacked up in our bedroom. We sell films directly, but the units are all housed safely in a warehouse and sent from there, which makes life a lot easier. So, the image you probably have now is correct: my day-to-day is mostly me at my computer sending emails and talking on the phone. Sexy, right?
[Regarding restorations], I would absolutely love to be able to do a full-on restoration of a film, but my bank roll isn’t as large as some other companies. So I’m dependent on what the sales agents provide me, [and] with that I can get people to then clean those materials up the best they can. It’s never going to be as good as a full-blown restoration that we can oversee from scratch, so that’s a company milestone to work towards for sure.
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The first release, Sergio Martino's SILENT ACTION, is out now. What challenges did you run into getting this one out?
The biggest challenge was working with the master that we were supplied. It wasn’t the best, but we did what we could to make it more palatable and less of a murky mess. My friends at Dogs of Annwn saved the day there, much like they did with the 88 Films release of DEVIL HUNTER.
Then there was the score, which I’m a huge fan of. But what do I know about locating and securing music rights? I was lucky, as Eugenio Eroclani, who handled the special features, is very well connected. He happened to know of a guy who runs a music label in Rome, who was able to help me locate who owned the UK rights to the music.
Phil doing a Q&A with Sergio Martino
What's your vision (no pun intended) for Fractured Visions down the road? What's going to make Fractured Visions stand out from other boutique labels?
To be honest, the vision has always been to share films that I love via releases that I would want to own as a collector myself. So, as long as I keep to that, I’ll be a happy chappy. I think what will help me stand out from the pack is that I don’t have to move as many units as the bigger labels, so I can take risks on films that others may be hesitant about due to their need to move larger numbers of units; which a lot of films just will not do in the current market.
I also work closely with the filmmakers, which I’m not sure other labels do. I let them have a big say in what goes into a release. Having new filmmakers get a physical release of their film, one that they are proud of, is also very important to me.
A still from the SILENT ACTION release
You're UK based, but we want to watch your releases here in the US (and some of us don't have a region free player.) How do you navigate the region coding debacle as a new label?
I always push for region free contracts, but sometimes a licensor won’t budge on that point. [It's] a real shame, but I get why they do it: they are hoping to get a larger sale from the US labels, and as your guys' market is 5 times the size of the UK’s, they can often do it. So where I can, I will always aim for region free releases, but I can’t promise it will always come to be.
Though, saying that, I’ve been region-free since the DVD days when we here in the UK could only get certain titles uncut from the US, so I can’t recommend that enough. It costs a little more, but the rewards make it all worthwhile!
Final question: What's been the most enjoyable part of starting a new label so far?
To be honest, the coolest bit is getting to see people's pictures of the finished product in their hands, or in their collections. That’s been really rewarding to see, and makes all the work worthwhile.
Look out for Fractured Visions' next releases: Umberto Lenzi's FREE HAND FOR A TOUGH COP and Juan Diego Escobar Alzate's LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL, to arrive later this summer. For the latest happenings on Fractured Visions, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.