The Boxer from Somewhere Else 2022 Update

In 2010  I embarked out on an ambitious project to capture the life of Ken Buchanan, one of the world greatest ever boxers, on camera in a feature documentary. The idea came about after talking with my late father in the pub. He was telling me a story about how tough his mate Billy was who owned a rough pub in Edinburgh. When I laughed, my dad said “well he knocked out Ken Buchanan one time”.

Intrigued about this new piece of information, I asked my dad who is this Ken Buchanan?”

After some conversation about Buchanan I became even more intrigued. I went home and immediately googled about him. Finding a lot of old archive videos on youtube of his fights, I was hooked instantly. I had to find out more about this mythical Scottish figure from my dad’s generation. Discovering that he had written an autobiography called ‘The Tartan Legend’, I bought the book on Amazon and waited eagerly for it to arrive. When it did I read it from cover to cover in a couple of days. After finishing it I phoned my dad up and asked him: “So if your friend is Billy and Billy is Ken Buchanan’s friend…does that mean you know Ken Buchanan?”. My dad’s response was “Well, we’re not exactly mates, but I do know him and I’ve met him a few times”.

Do you think you could set up a meeting so I could talk to him?

With the cogs turning around in my brain, I said to my dad: “Do you think you could set up a meeting so I could talk to him?” My dad said “Yes, probably”.

A few weeks later he had come through. I travelled up from London from my job as a cameraman and editor in London and I met my dad and Ken Buchanan in the Costa coffee shop inside Tesco’s on Broughton Road. I knew immediately I was in the presence of someone special. You have ordinary people in the world that exist like you and me, and then you have extraordinary people. Ken Buchanan was one of these extraordinary people. I could tell, because when he started talking he had stories to tell that could only have come from a person that had lived a remarkable life. He reeled them off one by one. How one day he woke up in the morning in LA to go for a morning run during his training for the world Lightweight title fight against Ismael Laguna and how he fell to the ground because he suddenly realised that he was caught in an earthquake. He told me another story about being in South Africa during apartheid, bringing together everyone through his boxing match. He told these stories like they were nothing more than him telling someone he had gone to the shops to buy some milk. I was completely taken by this amazing man.

So I asked him right away if would he be interested in filming an interview with me – a long one based on his whole life story. Being the humble man that he was, he smiled at me and said: “Sure Jamie, I’ll do that for you”.

Filming with Ken Buchanan

Jamie Steedman and Ken Buchanan filming on Prince’s Street, Edinburgh.

Being a keen filmmaker I wasted no time at all. I got a new digital HD camera and I arranged to do the interview in Edinburgh in December 2010. I travelled up to Edinburgh and set up an atmospheric interview environment in the meeting room of my dad’s office with a black canvas background and invited Ken along. He sat and talked with my dad reminiscing about old times laughing and joking while I was setting up the camera. I believe this put Ken at ease and set up a great environment for an in-depth interview. I had already read his book over and over again and researched his life intensely. I had a pad of paper with a series of questions in chronological order about moments of his life. Except they were not questions, they were prompts. I knew how good a story-teller he was, so I mentioned these moments and I just asked him to tell me about them. This way I was able to get the most natural speech patterns from him and be able to piece together the story in the most natural way.

We knew what we had captured was unique.

We talked like this for over 2 hours! My dad and I were behind the camera and Ken was just talking about his life. When we arrived home and watched the footage we knew what we had captured was unique and the only time this would ever be seen on camera from Buchanan. I knew that Ken had a deep mistrust of the mainstream media from the negative press he had started receiving after his retirement from boxing. I had this strong feeling that he viewed me in a completely different light. I felt he looked upon me as some young student-type, possibly naive, young fan who just wanted to hear him tell his truth. He was absolutely right and this is all I wanted.

He trusted that I was not there to get sensationalist media, headline-grabbing details and that I was there in a genuine investigative journalist’s capacity to get his story the way he wanted to tell it. This meant I knew I was going to capture on camera something nobody else in the world would ever get – Ken Buchanan’s truth and his real story. The results were amazing and from that moment onwards I was on a mission to make this into a film. I contacted the BBC motion gallery and they kindly sent me screener copies of about 2 hours worth of his old archive fights they held the rights to at the time – Maurice Cullen, Jim Watt and Ismael Laguna the rematch. I started editing with vigour and I knew I was making an amazing film.

Documentary taking shape

At the start of 2011 I had been shaping the edit and forming the story in my home edit suite in London on Final Cut Pro 5. I realised quite quickly that I was missing quite a lot to make a proper documentary. What was I missing? It was more filming with Ken! I called Ken up and I asked him if I could come and film more of him in his daily life fly-on-the-wall style. As I had become accustomed to with him he happily obliged. In April that year I went up to Edinburgh and I took him to the Portobello swim centre or ‘the baths’ as he called it. This was a place he told me he held very dear to himself and where he learned how to swim when he was a child. When I was filming him I discovered that he had never been back to visit this place since he was a child.

I went filming with Ken to various other places over the course of the year and by the end of 2011 I knew I had amazing material for a full feature length documentary. Something else amazing happened – I made friends with Ken. We got to a great place where we laughed and joked and really connected on a human level.

Full steam ahead

KPMG Sponsored screening at the Traverse Theatre.

By the end of 2011 I had finished editing the film and I knew I had a piece of boxing film history in my hands. My dad, who was my hero, and my biggest encourager, my biggest support had talked to some people in his world of tax and accounting and we managed to show the film to KPMG in Edinburgh. They were so delighted with the film and the project that they talked to me and told me they would be happy to support it with a sponsored screening. So we went for it and we paid the BBC for a licence to show the archive footage in a one-off screening. In March 2012 there was a full screening of the film with Ken Buchanan present at a black tie event at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. The night was a tremendous success and I stood alongside Ken after the screening at a Q&A session with the guests very proud of where I had got to with the film.

At the time there was interest gathering and I was contacted by the Guardian newspaper who interviewed me and subsequently did a piece on the film. After that was published in February 2012, the internet started going crazy with news that a film about Ken Buchanan was coming out. I was contacted by numerous distribution companies desperate to all have the film, from American distribution companies that would place it on TV networks, and streaming platforms such as Hulu and Netflix. I was contacted by Sky TV channels such as the Boxing Channel and various other places. The world was eating out of my hands and everyone was desperate to show the film. But I had a BIG problem, I was just a single person on my own without a big production company behind me, or lawyers, or film producers or any other representatives.

A spanner in the works

I had been so focused on making the film by this point that I hadn’t really though about the consequences of one major factor. One of the things that really affected me at the start that brought my attention to Buchanan was the freely available ability to view his fights on Youtube. If I hadn’t seen those archive fights I’m not sure if I would’ve really felt how much I did feel that I knew how fearsome and how amazing he actually was, even after being in his company and hearing it from his own words. I knew that whoever posted them had breached copyright laws but the internet was a whole different world to national television and cinema. So I never really thought too much about it, always thinking ‘I’ll deal with that later and it’ll be fine’. Nevertheless I insisted that we go and speak to a solicitor.

We did this and the solicitor told us all about ‘Orphan Works’ as it’s known in the copyright legal world. Orphan Works are pieces of material extending from music, artwork, photography to film, poetry, literature, sculpture and literally any other thing that can be classes as a creative piece that is known for what it is in the world but that nobody knows who created it. She said that many productions go ahead with these in it but will generally have a reserve budget ready to pay for negotiated licences as and when the copyright licence holder surface and claim they own the copyright to the material.

So as a lot of the archive came from these YouTube sourced archive fights we had a lot of ‘Orphan Works’ in the film, around 15 minutes. This was another reason to be extremely nervous from my point of view as an independent filmmaker with no budget.

2013 and a new real distribution potential

After the KPMG film screening had subsided and I went back to London, I still did not give up. I contacted a film distribution company in North London and told them about the film. They were immediately interested and invited me up for a meeting. I went there and we talked about the film. They said this was absolutely something they would take on, but without the copyright licences already paid for their hands were tied. In other words they would not be able to distribute it. Over the coming years I contacted countless distribution companies and I had the same responses. I looked into various kickstarter events and campaigns and various other crowdfunding ideas. For some reason, I just could not ever get anyone else as excited and passionate about this project as I was and was never able to secure the funding for the copyright licences.

Onwards and looking for solutions

I still did not give up and over the next few years I edited out more and more of the archive footage, I replaced the music with licensable alternatives that were affordable and I removed anything else I could that would prevent the world from seeing my film. From 2013 till about 2020 I took a backseat and let it lie with the thinking that when I get the time I will revisit this project and look at other ways to be able to release it. I had a mortgage to pay and a job to do and so I did the things that everyone else did in their lives. I worked. I lived. I paid my bills.

Going down the rabbit hole of copyright law.

Throughout these years, I’ve been contacted randomly by many, many people who found out through the internet and the media coverage that I made a film of Ken Buchanan. It still happens to this day. And every time I get an email from one of these people asking where they can see the film, I always respond and I tell them the true story. I am an honest person and so it is not within me the ability to release the film without having secured these licenses properly to make sure the appropriate owners have been made aware of the footage use and the licences have been paid. The copyright licence holders who were lost must be found and paid for and then it can be released (orphan works included would be referenced).

I did a final re-edit in 2020 where the film only needs the archve footage either paid for or removed before it can be released. Unfortunately when I contacted the BBC and was directed to Getty Images who manage their archive library now, I was told after months of their investigating that they no longer hold the right to the footage and they would not tell me who they sold the rights to.

The current chapter

My plan now is to find an amazing animator who is is willing to give his or her skill as charity to the project and create animations that will replace all the archive footage. This is a technique commonly in use with steaming services such as the one we all know to reduce the reason to have to pay for an archive footage licence. I am currently looking for a very talented person who would be interested in doing such a project knowing that when it get’s released there’s already a worldwide audience ready to view their work.

Of course if anyone is willing to invest and help find and pay for the archive footage licences to get the film released this would also be amazing.

The Boxer from Somewhere Else Trailer

This project for me was never about financial gain. It is a project of passion and my main goal is to get the story of Ken Buchanan out there in to the media across the world so that people who know about him can learn the things they don’t know about him and people that don’t know him can learn something about him. To this day, because of the media attention from the KPMG screening and the newspaper articles (Daily record, Edinburgh Evening News and the Guardian) and the word being spread around the internet I still receive messages from people around the world constantly asking me where and when they can watch ‘The Boxer from Somewhere Else’.

To me, more than anything else if the film never gets released at least I know that I didn’t waste my time creating it because every message I receive reaffirms to me that there is an absolutely massive, huge global audience out there who want to see and learn more about the man Ken Buchanan. A man who I was lucky enough to spend a year of my life filming with and make friends with. A man who inspired so many people around the world to get up and achieve things they might never have thought were possible before.

This article was written by Jamie Steedman. Jamie produced, filmed and edited ‘The Boxer from Somewhere Else’ by himself with the help of a small production team. The film is currently unreleased waiting for either investment to pay for the copyright licences or Jamie is looking for a animator to create original animations to replace the archive footage. 

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