The Exclusive Films Project is the product of freelance film historian, broadcaster and visual artist, Robert JE Simpson.
Northern Ireland-born Robert discovered Hammer horror at an early age, devouring the films via late night television screenings in the 1990s. In 1998 he started sharing his affection online via chat groups and his own website. During a visit to a friend in Dublin he was introduced to the non-horror films produced under the Exclusive banner and an interest was piqued.
Whilst studying for a BA and later a Masters degree in Film at Queen’s University Belfast, Robert began work researching a book on Hammer’s films.
Life got a little strange around 2006 when Robert was telephoned by the then CEO at Hammer Films to come to London for a meeting, which led to him working for the company firstly as a webmaster and later as an archivist. During his time he actively developed content that embraced all of Hammer’s history, including the often-overlooked Exclusive era comedies and thrillers. He wrote sleeve notes for Blu-ray releases, consulted on restoration and archive activities, curated screenings at festivals, and presented a series of introduced screenings on YouTube.
While working with Hammer, Robert also set about pursuing a self-funded PhD study of the company’s distribution activities under the Exclusive name, at Trinity College Dublin. The project aimed to tell an alternate history of the Hammer companies, and to provide the first ever comprehensive catalogue of Exclusive Films’ output. The combination of working with the Hammer group and as an academic allowed access to a number of archives, and some promising inroads.
In 2012, Robert reluctantly had to put his PhD on hold following a period of illness. With his mental health at breaking point, Robert reluctantly stepped back from his research and the Hammer community at large.
In recent years Robert has returned professionally to the world of film, appearing regularly on BBC Radio as a commentator on film and popular culture, and contributing to articles, books, documentaries and commentary tracks. He founded CinePunked, and regularly appears at festivals and conventions discussing both film and mental health.
During the global pandemic of 2020-21, Robert found himself returning increasingly to his research on Exclusive and the early Hammer history, and resolved to finish the task of cataloguing the company’s output – a goal he originally set himself as part of the PhD project. Without the support or security of an academic institution, Robert has drawn upon his existing files and notes, and conducted new research and intends to publish a book in early 2022.
This website and blog accompanies the research process and will eventually supplement the Exclusive Book with any additional findings. Robert is also planning on a second volume, focussing on the life and work of Hammer and Exclusive founder William Hinds (aka. Will Hammer), which he is currently aiming to have ready ahead of Hammer Films’ 90th anniversary in 2024.
He hopes, additionally, to one day to complete the PhD.
For more about Robert and his other work, a list of links is available here.