Ian Venables on Richard Arnell


In 1982, at the suggestion of my composition teacher Richard Arnell, I enrolled on a short course at the International Film School in London.

After a few months working there he remarked one day, that he felt keenly that I had a natural flair for writing film music and that I should seriously consider a career in the film industry.  He even gave me a letter of introduction to one of the major advertising companies, who incidentally, later offered me a job! It was after one of my sessions at the film school that Tony [Arnell] asked me if I would like to join him in the screening of a new short film for which he had composed the music. Of course, I was delighted and jumped at the opportunity, and so we went off in search of one of those tiny film studios one finds dotted around Soho. On our arrival, we were ushered into a small darkened cinema where on the front row were seated a group of young film directors. Tony and I sat down and then the lights were dimmed. He then said that there were three short films being viewed and that I would have to guess which was his!

Well, the first one up as I recall, was a documentary underscored by some well-written and appropriate mood music. I naturally concluded that this was his film score, but his name was not on the credits.  So, I held my tongue! 

Next up was a film called ‘Chickens Never Walk Backwards’ directed by George Pavlou. What a ridiculous title I thought as the music plunged us into a pop rock sound-world. It was at this point, I thought to myself:  ‘Surely, it can’t be?’ The film itself was a rather sinister black comedy, but nevertheless very amusing. Then the credits came up and there was Tony’s name emblazoned upon the big screen! I was simply dumbstruck with admiration. Tony was then 65 years of age, and I just couldn’t quite believe how he was able to write such music, and may I say from what I knew of rock music, it was very memorable indeed.  When I asked him why he written such a score, he simply replied that that was what the film required and any composer worth their salt should be able to turn their hand to whatever kind of musical composition is required.   It was one of the best composition lessons I ever had!


"Chickens Never Walk Backwards", 1982, released by 20th Century Fox, theatrically as a support to "Conan the Barbarian". (Director George Pavlou)


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