Phil Sansom

A sepia shot of a man shooting on a handheld camera

The Electric House member recently won the Best Music Documentary award at Raindance Film Festival for his film, TOPOWA! Never Give Up. Here, he tells us about the 12 films that made him want to be a filmmaker

‘It’s so hard to choose six films from the thousands we watch in a lifetime,’ Sansom says. ‘Movies have been a constant companion and a trusted friend. I love films for all reasons, but more than ever it is the power of escapism and the ability to suspend disbelief that I find so unique to feature films. Filmmakers find the extraordinary in the everyday, and the magical skills of industry talents – from production designers to actors, cinematographers to editors – craft the impossible for our viewing pleasure. Good cinema can inspire and delight; it can lift our spirits and at its very best reveal a deeper experience to our lives with each other and our planet.’
Chewbacca and Hans Solo in Star Wars
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
‘I must have watched this film more than any other. It opened up a world of imagination and endless possibility. I collected Star Wars figures as a boy and the Star Wars world didn’t end on screen. This was something I could live out in countless adventures, and share with friends and family alike. My mum even built me a Millennium Falcon out of cardboard for my birthday, because we couldn’t afford the real thing. But it was my sister who actually ended up working on a Star Wars movie, designing parts of the final episode, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. She made a dream come true by taking me for a tour of the set, and I even managed to walk around the Millennium Falcon in real life.’
A man in a hat about to steal an ancient artifact
Raiders of The Lost Arc 
‘Archaeology and mythology are things that I have always been fascinated by. It started with seeing Jason And The Argonauts and Clash of the Titans as a boy, but nothing had more impact than Harrison Ford in the greatest opening sequence to any movie of all time. I was hooked. Indiana Jones was a hero who was both a worldly rebel and a geeky schoolteacher at the same time. This guy was into ancient history, but he also beat up Nazis and shot evil swordsmen dead in the street. He seemed to destroy every amazing place he visited though and clearly stole a lot of amazing artefacts for questionable reasons, but at heart I think he was a good guy reacting to turbulent times. This film, more than any other, made me want to make movies: to travel, explore, understand cultures, and to tell stories.’
An old man sitting in a car with a young man leaning over him
Back To The Future 
‘Nothing made me want Nike trainers as much as the opening scene to this movie. This is Robert Zemeckis at his finest, inspiring a generation and bringing science, and concepts like time travel, into the mainstream. For me, it made science cool, and certainly made me pay more attention in classes. I loved the idea that driving a fast car could allow you to travel in time. This is Michael J Fox’s finest hour – he plays the coolest teenager on planet Earth, caught up in the web of twists and turns that makes this story such a timeless masterpiece. The Goonies, Teen Wolf, Lost Boys and Ghostbusters all sit in this category, and frankly, there could be an essay on each of them.’
A futuristic scene
Blade Runner
‘Ridley Scott builds a future so plausible and realistic that you are immersed immediately. The script deals with genetic modification and the future of humanity, while the imagery sets us in a dystopian future that feels as real as the one in which we live. This world of our near future is dark, bleak, rainy, and nothing is what it seems. The art direction and production design on this movie is quite possibly the greatest of all time: perfection. There is a visceral reality to every frame: miniatures and model set builds are captured with revolutionary camera techniques to create a world unlike anything seen either before or since. The Abyss, Aliens, The Fifth Element, Tron (the original), and Avatar all sit in this arena of inspirational sci-fi – also The Day The Earth Stood Still, a classic sci-fi film that has an amazing message for us all, and is definitely due for a remake.’
Three men close up to the camera
Withnail and I, The Commitments and Trainspotting are perhaps the best British films that came out in my teenage years. Few movies send you out into the world a changed person, but that is exactly how I felt after seeing Trainspotting for the first time: life just wasn’t the same after it. It was the first truly cool British movie I remember seeing (other than Bond, of course) and made me feel that real life in the UK was as relevant to filmmaking as anything in LA. Although set predominantly in Scotland, it was unashamedly British in tone and setting, yet easily sat on the world cinema stage – and that was inspiring. I laughed out loud to the point of crying, and took the journey of highs and lows with these junkie friends as they battled addiction and embraced the malaise of ’90s youth culture. Seven, Mulholland Drive, Fight Club and Pulp Fiction could all easily have been chosen here too.’
A man stood in front of a billboard in a hot climate
‘Cinematically stunning, this is a film noir in colour. Roman Polanski is definitely inspired by Bernardo Bertolucci’s master work Il Conformista, in which every frame is a painting, and photographically beautiful. The cinematic approach to each frame makes it impossible to take your eyes away from the screen, and the powerful depiction of corruption and political upheaval makes it as relevant today as it ever was. The performances from Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway are fantastic, and the story of the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles politics laid the path for movies such as LA Confidential. The Killers was probably my favourite film noir though – Ava Gardner at her very best.’
Two people sunbathing on a beach
The Talented Mr. Ripley 
‘An amazing reworking of the original Plein Soleil (or Purple Noon), which is also an excellent and perhaps even darker version, with an even more shocking ending. The 1999 version is impeccable, it makes me want to move to Italy every time, and is just beautiful to watch. It’s suspense thriller that shocks and delights at every turn, and Jude Law is captivating as the spoilt rich boy Dickie Greenleaf, running away from responsibility – I can’t wait to see when Johnny Flynn does with the character in latest TV incarnation.’
Two brightly coloured dressed people sat on a bed underneath a canopy
True Romance
‘Tony Scott triumphs with this Tarantino script; the action never stops. Gary Oldman is almost unrecognisable, but the amazing writing and direction bring out stellar performances across the board. This is a modern-day love story on a collision course with the world. I love a romantic story that turns the genre on its head, and this one has it all. It is laugh-out-loud funny in places, and truly romantic in a twisted, modern way. I went to Tony Scott’s memorial screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles to pay my respects – my friend Danno was Scott’s assistant at the time of his passing, so it was quite an emotional night. Manhattan, Annie Hall, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Call Me by Your Name, Amelie and Some Like It Hot are all also up there on my romance list.’
Four people stood in front of a red background
The Grand Budapest Hotel 
‘Who doesn’t love Wes Anderson movies? The way he writes dialogue in this film in particular is incredible. His use of multiple time periods and character narrators is spellbinding – like a poem in motion. Ralph Fiennes and Willem Defoe are incredible in this film, and it’s just a brilliant watch from start to finish. Anderson’s production design, and use of a single 40mm anamorphic lens to film with, give his imagery a picture-book quality that makes a world completely of his own. Every colour choice on the wall or in a costume, the symmetry and composition of each frame – his eye is across everything on a level of detail that is truly mind-blowing. It is a film I can watch again and again.’
A man poking his face through a crack in the door
The Shining
‘Kubrick brings out some lifetime-best performances here. The emotional and psychological turmoil that he put his actors through in shooting this shows on screen. His mastery of production design at Shepperton Studios in London, where the entire film (save two exterior wides) was shot, is an unbelievable feat of cinema magic. This film is piece of art, and brings a deeper sense of what is possible in film, both physically in making it, but also in how it affects us psychologically, using metaphor and symbolism to bring a deeper meaning to each character and scenario in the film.’
A black and white portrait of a man
La Decima Vittima 
‘Elio Petri directs a sci-fi comedy that merges brilliant ’60s styling with a surreal reality TV concept that would easily sit in a modern-day episode of Black Mirror. The music, clothes, and architecture are the vision of cult cinema and Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress are electric. I love new-wave Italian cinema, and the fresh view these directors created in ’60s Italy was inspiring: everything was so poetic and stylish. Federico Fellini is, of course, unmissable, and Amarcord is my favourite of his films. It’s beautifully observed and conjures a dreamlike state that transports us into another time and place. His macabre sense of humour is delivered with a lightness that has influenced a lot of my writing in short films. 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita are both essential viewing too.’
A topless man looking distressed
An American Werewolf in London 
‘What fascinates me most about the horror genre are the monsters and creatures that film breathes life into. Transformation stories of wolves and vampires, superhuman powers, the supernatural, and a connection to another world beyond the one we know is just irresistible. An American Werewolf in London by John Landis is one of the finest. It is a horror film, but it is funny as hell, with the undead that protagonist David slays following him everywhere he goes – even to the cinema. The special effects are incredible and the werewolf transformation scene is better than any attempt in CGI. When you hear the bones crunch, and the screams of pain as his feet and nose begin to elongate… Becoming a werewolf doesn't look like fun at all – in fact it is truly horrific. Pan’s Labyrinth is also one of the finest creature films I have ever seen, bringing the genre truly up-to-date with an incredible mix of CGI, puppetry and prosthetics.’ 

‘Plus, some other note-worthy mentions: The Intouchables, The Unforgiven, Point Break, Goodfellas, Birdman, The Colour Of Money, Leon, Spirited Away, The Social Network, Lord of the Rings, Wall-E and Mary Poppins.’