Large Door was founded in 1982 by Keith Griffiths, Simon Hartog and John Ellis as an independent production company to make programmes for the then new Channel 4. Large Door’s first commission was for Visions, an adventurous series of 15 programmes about world cinema. Visions eventually ran for 32 episodes until 1985, and subjects included a history of cinema in China, the work of Jan Svankmajer, contemporary cinema in Africa. Visions reported from the Cannes and Ouagadougou festivals and commissioned shorts from filmmakers including Chantal Akerman and Marc Karlin. Keith Griffiths left the company in 1984, but continued to make occasional films about cinema through Large Door including shorts on Raul Ruiz and the opening of the Frankfurt Film Museum.
After the cancellation of Visions in 1985, Large Door continued, making acclaimed series like This Food Business (1989) and major programmes like New Chinese Cinema (1989), Distilling Whisky Galore (1991) and Brazil: Beyond Citizen Kane (1993) which was Simon Hartog’s last film before his untimely death. John Ellis continued to run the company making The Man Who Ruined the British Film Industry (1996), French Cooking in Ten Minutes (1995), and Riding the Tiger (1997-8), about the handover of Hong Kong to China, which is the company’s last production to date.
John Ellis is now Professor of Media Arts at Royal Holloway University London. He is the author of Visible Fictions (1982), Seeing Things (2000) and Documentary: Witness and Self-revelation (2011) among other books. He was a member of the editorial board of Screen magazine and is currently an editor of VIEW, the online journal of European television history and culture.
John is currently leading ADAPT, a European Research Council funded project on the history of technologies in television production. This includes filming of simulations of historic production methods undertaken by professionals using the equipment that they used to use.
John is also chair of Learning on Screen, the British Universities and Colleges Film and Video Council, which gives researchers information on and access to historic television material.
Simon Hartog (8 February 1940 – 18 August 1992) was a British filmmaker who worked as both director and producer. He helped develop an independent film industry in the United Kingdom (UK), founding London Film-Makers’ Co-op in the 1960s, key to the avant-garde; working on independent documentaries, and founding the production company, Large Door Ltd. Through the Independent Filmmakers’ Association, he campaigned for an independent Channel 4 (UK). Through his company, Hartog produced a series on world cinema, Visions, that ran on the channel for three years.
Long interested in the Third Cinema of African and Latin American nations, Hartog at one time worked for The Other Cinema, a distribution company in the UK, to gain such films wider audiences. In the 1970s, he served as a consultant to help the newly independent Mozambique set up a film industry.
After having grown up from age eight in the United States, he returned to England and Italy in the 1960s for graduate work and settled in the UK.
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What made French Cooking in Ten Minutes so enjoyable has been its attention to detail from the authentic-looking 1930s kitchen down to the passing street noises below. But best of all has been Christopher Rozycki’s performance as the meticulous de Pomiane. Let’s hope there are seconds.
“Visions, a programme that digs deeply beneath the topsoil of sentiment in search of serious issues”
“Visions is different to a good deal of television in general in terms of both its presentation and the whole way in which it addresses its audience”