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Interview with Oliver Harper

Oliver Harper is a film maker, YouTuber and lover of 80s action films. He loves 80s action films so much so that he set up a Kickstarter campaign to make a film called In Search Of The Last Action Heroes. It turns out that hundreds of other people also love 80s action films, as his campaign to raise £15,000 was fully funded with over 3 weeks still to go!

Obviously we at 80sNos love films too, so we were delighted when Oliver agreed to an interview with us.

You’re welcome to read on but before you do, *adopts best Arnold voice*, I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle…

At what age did you first get into 80s action films? I’ll admit that for most of the late 80s up to the mid-90s I was a fan of horrors, and only got into them retrospectively in the late 90s thanks to DVDs.

It would’ve been the early 90s for me when I was 8 or 9, I grew up watching Superman, Ghostbusters and Star Wars because they were very accessible but the big blockbuster action movies tended to be 15 or 18 rated making them impossible to rent or required some heavy persuasion to your dad to rent them for you. What made them so enticing to watch was their covers, VHS covers were so dynamic and eye-catching back in the day, seeing whole rows dedicated to them was mind blinding, the PG-rated section just seems so tame in comparison. If I couldn’t rent them I would have to rely on my sister Emma who was a few years older than me. She would rent films like ALIENS and RoboCop 2 and I would do my best to sneak in and watch bits of them. Aliens I found too terrifying as a kid but seeing RoboCop in action was just so exciting. I would most often get kicked out of the lounge when my dad discovered I was watching these films so the next best thing was to visit my friend down the road where his parents just didn’t care what he watched. So I had to the opportunity to watch Kickboxer, The Terminator and Predator. From then on I was hooked.

Do you remember the first film that you watched that inspired to you want to make YouTube content about it?

I started YouTube in 2011, at that point, the website was dominated with angry ranting reviews on movies or video games. James Rolfe had really kicked off the angry style of reviewing for his Angry Video Game Nerd series and his work spawned many copycats some were great and others were just garbage. For movie reviews, The Nostalgia Critic was dominating that scene but it wasn’t something I was inspired by despite enjoying what he produced at the time.

That year I was watching retrospectives produced by Gametrailers, which covered games like Star Wars and Resident Evil. These were serious educational videos and are available on YouTube, they’re definitely worth watching. I thought these retrospectives were superb and I wanted to try and take that approach and use it for reviewing movies. I love documentaries and I was a big fan of Charles de Lauzirika’s work on the Alien Quadtrilogy so I wanted to take elements of both styles and combine them into my own original piece. I chose Superman IV as my first Retrospective / Review. It’s a bad movie but one with good intentions and I knew a lot about the film. My style of covering movies has changed a lot since 2011 and my confidence has greatly improved but once the video went live on YouTube it gained a strong audience very quickly and viewers found my approach to reviewing movies very refreshing.

You have produced hundreds of hours of content on YouTube, covering action heroes, commentaries and film analysis, so what gave you the idea of creating a full film to release on DVD and Blu-Ray?

I made a documentary late last year with a talented filmmaker and friend of mine Tim Partridge about the shooting locations of Superman IV (yes more Superman!) called The Man of Steel and Glass where I visited Milton Keynes which doubled for Metropolis in the film, Elstree Studios and many other spots around the UK the production used back in 1986. This was my first proper documentary that we strived to make to the quality of a TV production. It went down very with my audience and got the attention of Robin Block from www.creatorvc.com who had been following my work for a while. He saw an opportunity for me to go on to produce a feature-length documentary wanting it to be the next big step in my career. Robin had experience in making documentaries and wanted to assist me in anything I wanted to do. After some brainstorming I settled on 80s and 90s action movies as my topic. It was a genre I loved but also many of the movies I loved watching as a kid hadn’t been covered in any great detail over the years and I wanted to change that.

What format will In Search Of The Last Action Heroes take? Will it take a chronological look through the films, or will there be a Top 10 format for example?

At this point in time, It’s a chronological look through the films from the early 80s to now. Documentaries are always created in the final edit and things may change but the story I wanted to tell its beginning, its success, its downfall and return.

It must take hours and hours or research when developing an idea for a project. What preparation have you done for the new film?

We are currently now in pre-production and reaching out to actors, directors, writers etc to commit to the documentary to be interviewed. We already have great names already confirmed which is very exciting. But the whole process of preparing the Kickstarter hasn’t been easy. You need the right people involved to make sure everything is done correctly. I don’t believe I could’ve done this by myself. Robin Block has really helped in bringing a great team together to support me in the crowdfunding process and when we eventually move onto making the documentary in the coming months.

As we speak, your Kickstarter is 18 days old and already 147% funded. Did you anticipate there would be as much interest as there has been?

You can never predict how well a Kickstarter will go. You always fear the worst. Before I launched it I was full of anxiety and felt depressed but once it went live and the funds started rolling in, it felt like this huge pressure was lifted off my shoulders. I certainly knew there was an interest on the action genre, the views on my Retrospectives confirm that but what I was unsure about was if people wanted me to tell this story and be confident I could do it. Robin Block who is managing the Kickstarter campaign keeps telling me off for doubting my own abilities, I often over think too much and always think the worst.

Do you have any ideas for Kickstarter stretch goals?

Stretch goals aren’t mandatory but we are updating the page with the talents committed to the documentary that will help encourage further backers. We have many more exciting announcements coming before the campaign ends.

You must have an extensive collection of films. Do you have any favourite “go to” action films for when you can’t decide what to watch?

Yeah, I’ve got hundreds of LaserDiscs, DVDs and Blu-rays and now I’m replacing many films with 4K versions. When I’m stuck on what to decide to watch I put on RoboCop or The Terminator. When I was editing a Top 10 video recently and using clips from both of these movies I was desperate to watch them again. They’re both so re-watchable.

How do you go about planning a YouTube episode? Do you have a list of ideas that you draw from? And how long does it take to make one?

Once I’ve picked a movie I listen to the audio commentaries if available and watch any additional making of’s and cherry pick information I think my audience will find interesting. Sometimes none of these avenues is available so I go back through old film magazines to find interviews and on set reports to help expand the discussion on a films production. It usually takes me about 2 weeks to do a retrospective because im often working on other videos such as audio commentaries and episodes of Fix it in Post. But if im pushed I can get one done in a week. I usually only think 2 movies ahead on what I want to cover. I flip flop a lot on what I want to review. Its often about timing, if there is a sequel or remake coming out on a classic movie there is often a huge traffic of people wanting to watch something on the original so being strategic can be beneficial. But often times I just pick a movie I desperately want to cover no matter how well I think it will do with my audience.

Although I enjoyed most of the 80s at the time, I feel as though I didn’t experience as much of it as I should have done. A lot of my love for the 80s comes from looking back at it. Do you remember much about the 80s from the time, or did your enjoyment of the 80s also develop a little after the event?

I was born in 1982 and have no real solid memories till around 1988 so really I’m a child of the 90s because I have a good memory of that decade and growing up. All I recall movies wise from the 80s and what was around me was getting a sticker album for Masters of the Universe the motion picture, seeing Superman III for the first time on the BBC and the hype for BATMAN in 1989, I was so desperate to watch it but far too young to see at the cinema. The release of Terminator 2 in 1991 was a big deal, still another movie I couldn’t watch but thanks to many of the video games based on these films they got me into them and encouraged me to seek them out any way I could. I also had a TV in my room at young age so that did help when watching action movies late at night. I still remember watching RoboCop heavily edited on iTV back in the day. All the violence was cut out and the swear words dubbed over for less offensive ones. It’s comedy gold.

Are you a gamer? Do you have any favourite games from old computers or consoles, or did you play in arcades?

Oh yes, I’m gamer but don’t play them as much as I want too because I don’t have the time anymore to really get into a game. I’ve owned every console under the sun apart from Sony’s PlayStation consoles. I always supported the underdogs, so I had a 3DO, Jaguar, Saturn and Dreamcast etc. I even had an NEO GEO AES and a big collection which I regret selling. I did have a Jamma arcade cabinet for a short while, which I picked up off eBay for £150 with games such as Street Fighter II Turbo and Final Fight. I nearly killed myself lugging it up the stairs.

My favourite retro games have to be Flashback, Street Fighter II, Jungle Strike, Road Rash 3DO, Duke Nukem 3D and Streets of Rage 2.

My first computer as a kid was a Commodore C64, it came with Terminator 2 on the cartridge as its pack-in game. I got the C64 when it was pretty much on its way out but thankfully there were still many games on sale, which I could get with my measly pocket money. Nowadays if I want to play retro games I just emulate them, the retro scene has got out of control and many common titles are being sold for stupid prices and I don’t really have the space to build up a retro collection.

What is the most 80s thing you currently own?

I’ve got dozens of old film magazines, a lot of memorabilia on the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, LaserDiscs and some big box rental VHS tapes of Superman II and Masters of the Universe.

Check out the Kickstarter trailer below.

If you would like to back In Search Of The Last Action Heroes, the Kickstarter campaign is here – https://www.kickstarter.com

You can follow and subscribe to Oliver on YouTube here – Oliver Harper YouTube Channel

Oliver is on Twitter here – https://twitter.com/ollieh82

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