A very notable Preston filmmaker and possibly another 100 years later

Posted on - 24th October, 2015 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - City Centre, History, Photos, Preston City Centre, Preston Guild Hall, Sponsored Features, Things to Do in and around Preston, UCLan, What's On in Preston
Will Onda & Alan Livesey

Will Onda c.1910 – Pic: Preston Digital Archive. and Alan Livesey taken 2015 – Pic: Paul D. Swarbrick

Just over 100 years ago an acrobatic entertainer turned filmmaker set up a cinematic business in Preston making and producing over 100 local topical and information films, his stage name was Will Onda, real name Hugh Rain: he also created a small empire of cinemas and public entertainment houses in and around the town and became a very popular and successful entrepreneur.


Onda’s cinematic business was known as Preston Film Service and was located in Corporation Street, Preston. Will Onda expert, Emma Heslewood, states on her website: “Will Onda set up the Preston Film Service to import and distribute silent films to cinemas. The business was based in a building on Corporation Street in Preston which still stands today. It is located opposite the University of Central Lancashire’s Harris Building as seen in the image immediately below. Hard to imagine that this was once a hub of northern cinema!

Strangely enough, the former Preston Film Service building is not more than a stone’s throw away from the University of Central Lancashire Media Factory, where Alan Livesey studied for his degree. It would be interesting to see what Will Onda would have thought of the absolutely incomprehensible technology at the Media Factory as compared to the equipment he had in his studio. It is not difficult to imagine that Onda would have considered it to be some type of trickery or even witchcraft.

Former Preston Film Service premises. Pic: Michael 'Retro Mod' Flickr

Former Preston Film Service premises. Pic: Michael ‘Retro Mod’ Flickr

Preston Film Service: Invoice Header

Preston Film Service: Invoice Header. Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Will Onda's Film Company, Corporation Street, Preston c.1908

Will Onda’s Preston Film Service (far right of image), Corporation Street, Preston c.1908

There is no doubt whatsoever that Will Onda was a leading light in the film and cinema operations within the town of Preston and many of his films remain intact today. Emma Heslewood writes: “On his death in 1949 Onda bequeathed these films to Preston Council. Most of these films were deposited with the BFI National Archive and are now known as the Preston Collection. Some Onda films were retained by the council and later deposited with the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University“.

Moving on a hundred years or so from Will Onda’s early days of filmmaking, we now have the fanatical and passionate, cinema film and filmmaker, Alan Livesey. Alan is an independent Director and Writer who graduated from UCLan (Film Production and Screenwriting Combined Honours) and has already received a commission to write a feature screenplay which received an official selection from the Beverley Hills Screenplay Contest 2014. He was also selected from over 50 applicants to join the 5000 Miles Project and produce a short film in Los Angeles 2013.

A quick touch of makeup during takes of The Blackout

A quick touch of makeup during takes of The Blackout. Pic: Alf Myers Photography

Currently, Alan is busy with the final arrangements to premiere his first full feature film drama, ‘The Blackout’. It has been twelve months in the making and with all the filming now in completion and post production work well in hand, it is only a matter of finalising the finer details of the screening of the film at the Guild Hall in November, three weeks from now.

Alan recently stated: “I can’t believe we are only a few weeks away from our screening.

“A year ago The Blackout Film Project was an experimental endeavour into seeing whether a group of enthusiastic creatives could make a feature film from scratch with no budget and a simple concept.

“A year on and that concept is the core of our full-length feature, The Blackout.

“I’m so proud to be part of a team that has achieved so much from such a humble outset.”

The premiere showing of the film will be a full red carpet affair with the film crew and actors in attendance on the night; all taking place in the Grand Hall of the Guild Hall with seating of around 1500 available for the evening’s entertainment.

Anyone over 16 years of age can attend the premiere screening and entry is free. Booking is essential and this can be done on the Skiddle website on this link here.

The bar will be open at 6.00pm where you can have a drink and enjoy viewing a photographic exhibition of the making of the film, captured by local photographers, co-ordinated by Alf Myers, the film’s chief photographer.

This is a great opportunity to see a fantastic feature film drama which has been made in Preston, by Preston people, with Preston street scenes and with the people of Preston in mind.

The Blog Preston team are extremely proud and delighted to be a major sponsor of this wonderful project, wishing Alan and the whole team every success for The Blackout film premiere.

More information about The Blackout Film Project can be found at their website here

or their Facebook page here.

or their Twitter account here.

Would you like to see this fabulous feature film? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to book your free tickets.


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