A sort of narrative bio – John Rogers

When I was a kid I read comics and played a lot of sport. I went on long walks over the hills and fields with my Dad. Some nights we walked along the A40. We lived in a nice Council house and I went to the local Secondary School where I was made Head Boy to everyone’s surprise. Then I discovered music and started a fanzine with a mate at college while doing my A-Levels. We started a goth band that only had two rehearsals then folded. We were rubbish.

I moved to London to study Politics, History, and Media at City of London Polytechnic. Started writing for the student magazine, formed a band and we rehearsed a bit, did two gigs and had a lot of fun. We didn’t care if we were rubbish or not. I was elected to the Student Union Executive, we staged a 2-week occupation and I was responsible for media. We had TV, Radio, and national newspaper coverage. I wrote record reviews, volunteered for political magazines and Liberty, worked in West End theatres, went backpacking and stayed in Australia for two-and-a-half years after meeting my wife. I did some radio and some acting in Sydney, saw lots and lots of films and bought a Super8 camera to take travelling through India. Came back to London studied Theatre Directing, wrote and performed in a weekly show at the Riverside Studios, started my own theatre company and performed a political satire show I’d written at Labour Party Conference two years in a row. Jeremy Corbyn saw our show and said he liked the politics but wasn’t sure if it was funny. I took it as a compliment.  The political press mentioned us. A young lad called Russell Brand was in the show. He was funny and wanted to learn more about politics.

I went to teach English in Italy and wrote a book that will never be published – I printed 3 copies for myself that are sat on the shelf behind me. I went back to Sydney and taught English in a University. I had an office with my name on the door. I directed some theatre and shot a TV pilot for a satire show. Came back to London ran events at an Art Gallery, made a TV pilot with Russell Brand, had my first child. Wow. Had to stay at home more. Started blogging while on Paternity Leave. I loved blogging straight away – it was liberating. My second blog post became a story in the local paper. Started making videos with the video camera I bought to film my baby son. They showed in some galleries and a couple of cinemas. Worked with my sister on a project funded by the Arts Council – we used blogging and walking and videos and installation and maps and screenings of old archive film. It was great. I uploaded videos to Google then YouTube not long after it launched. It was like blogging but with a video camera – it was  liberating.

I started working full-time for Russell Brand‘s production company. Russell had become famous – he was still funny and still wanted to learn more about politics. I had a meeting with the Head of BBC2 in my second week. I didn’t really have a job title but I wrote notes for stand-up material, came up with ideas for documentaries and TV shows, talked to publishers and film producers. Nobody in the office really knew much about the internet so I became responsible for that. I took a camera with me and filmed as much as possible. I went to Los Angeles and helped Russell do his first US stand-up shows. It was a crazy, fun experience. Loads of people came to those shows. We went to New York and Montreal, and Newcastle and Basingstoke. We worked on books, films, documentaries, radio shows, podcasts, stand-up comedy tours, political campaigns. I also worked with some other brilliant people and learnt so so much.

I made my first feature documentary independently in my spare time. It had started out as one of my first YouTube videos. It screened in some cinemas and festivals. Some of it was used on BBC Newsnight. I made another feature documentary independently and it screened in more festivals and some galleries and cinemas. I got a book deal with Harper Collins. That was amazing. The idea had developed from my blog. We did some cool online promotion and worked with Google and took part in Hackathons. I spoke on the radio and did loads of public events (and still do). Worked some more with Russell on a new tour then his new book, then his new website and his YouTube channel with a new channel of my own linked to his. I’d been doing YouTube for nearly 10 years – I was a veteran. Russell said he wanted to start a revolution and things went a bit nuts and the online platforms exploded. Our posts frequently made the news. Then Russell quit social media for a year.

I’d become very interested in vlogging and started a ‘slow vlog’ walking series. I made another feature documentary independently and it’s still screening in festivals and cinemas. I still blog at least once a week, I upload a YouTube video once a week. I’ve started running a social media workshop so I can share some of my experience, I really enjoy these sessions. I made a YouTube art series with a great artist with two names – Bob and Roberta Smith (he designed my book cover). I worked with a charity and some housing groups in South London making a documentary – was an exciting project and a great story.

Both my sons are now teenagers, which sometimes blows my mind. I learn a lot from my kids, mostly about science and computer games. We go to ComicCon in London twice a year – it’s like our Christmas. So now I’m occasionally reading comics again – the ones I read as a kid, but I don’t play a lot of sport, but I do a lot of walking just like I did with my Dad, mostly in the city though but lately I find myself heading back out to the fields and hills. Then I come home and blog about it and make YouTube videos of my walks.

I’m half-way through writing my next book.

I reckon that’s enough about me for now.


John Rogers writer film-maker

photo by Travis Elborough

– John Rogers, October 2018

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