Movie-obsessed dad fulfils lifetime dream by making smash-hit RoboCop documentary 

Thursday 8 February 2024

A movie-obsessed dad has fulfilled a lifetime dream by making a smash-hit documentary about 1980s blockbuster RoboCop – including interviewing legendary Hollywood star Peter Weller.

Coventry-based Severn Trent videographer Chris Griffiths fell in love with the futuristic film after first watching it as a youngster and later embarked on an eight-year journey to direct a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the classic 1987 movie.

The dad-of-one finally fulfilled his burning ambition by releasing RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop, after securing interviews with more than 60 cast and crew, including elusive leading man Weller – all in his spare time. The fascinating four-part series is now running on Amazon Prime in the UK and on cable in America – winning five star reviews.

Chris, 36, spoke during National Apprentice Week after helping train now qualified Severn Trent videographer apprentice Max Stokes - who himself runs a smash-hit football vlog called VillaOnTour away from work.

“It’s been wonderful to see how Max developed his video and photography skills at Severn Trent where he is now a key member of the communications team,” said Chris, who has directed Severn Trent campaigns like Grease Fighting and Be A Binner Not A Blocker.

“Like Max, I’m sure my outside documentary work has really benefitted my role here. It has hopefully helped us both get across important messages to our customers in a really engaging way.”

RoboCop told the story of US cop Alex Murphy, who returns as a crime-fighting machine with a conscious after being stabbed to death by thugs while on the beat in Boston, USA. The at-times darkly comic film became a world-wide smash and spawned two more sequels.

Chris, who has worked for Severn Trent for seven years, said: “RoboCop is my favourite film of all time, one I became totally obsessed with. I must have watched it hundreds of times over the years as it resonates on so many levels.

“It worked for me when I was a kid as a funny, action film. Then as an adult I got the satire side of the movie and now I’m a little older I get the sentimentality of it all.

“It’s almost like a tragic horror film to me now and its themes of crime, violence and future technology are still prescient today.”

Chris developed his deep love of all films from his own father. He said: “Dad had a library of 3,000 to 4,000 movies and books. I was an only child, so watched a lot of them and became a bit of a movie nerd.

“I was brought up on 80s classics like Ghostbusters and the Goonies, but RoboCop was the film that first really blew me away. It was just so different from anything around at that time.”

After leaving school, Chris later completed a film and media degree at Northampton University before landing jobs working at various firms as a videographer and photographer.

He joined Severn Trent in 2017 and used his growing video skills to highlight customer focussed campaigns, including money saving tips, apprenticeship schemes and network improvements.

Away from work, he spent much of his spare time working with best friends Gary Smart and Adam Evans on horror documentaries and formed the independent company Cult Screenings UK. It has been behind other horror documentaries including Pennywise: The Story of IT and an award-winning film on Freddie Krueger star Robert Englund, called Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares. Its release saw Chris attend a Spanish premier alongside the horror legend.

Chris first came up with the idea for the RoboDoc in 2015 but gaining funding and interviews took years of meetings, phone calls, emails and hard work.

The finished series includes an exclusive interview with RoboCop himself Weller – a major coup. Chris said: “Peter very rarely gives interviews so it took many years to get him to agree to talk to us on camera.

“He spoke with us for three hours via Zoom from Los Angeles in 2021. It was amazing. He went through everything, scene by scene, including also speaking about RoboCop 2 for the first time ever on film. For a fanboy like me, it was spellbinding to hear the real inside story.

“Peter was quite tricky at first to interview. But when he asked where I was from and I said Cardiff, he replied that his family was originally from Wales too. So we connected over our Welsh heritage.”

Weller’s interview is the centre piece of the fascinating documentary. But for fans there are insider facts and anecdotes from dozens of others involved in the movie, including Hollywood actors Ray Wise and Ronny Cox.

 Chris said: “We interviewed more than 60 people in the end, from writers to actors. Everyone gave 110 per cent, so we are very proud of what we have created.”

Like father like son, Chris has now created his own ‘movie man-cave’ at the Northampton home he shares with wife Rachael and their eight-month-old baby, Roman.

The couple met ten years ago and, perhaps unsurprisingly, enjoyed a movie on their first date night – but watched American Gangster.

Prince fanatic Chris laughed: “Not the obvious choice! She has seen RoboCop and does quite likes it, but obviously not to the extent I do.”

Chris has used skills picked up with his documentary film-making at Severn Trent to publicise public campaigns including a spoof of Love Actually. It parodied the famous cardboard message scene to warn people against putting the wrong thing down the sink or toilet.  “The company really encourages creativity among its staff,” said the dad, who is telling his story as Severn Trent shines a light on employees doing extraordinary things.

RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop is now available to buy online in the UK and USA. It contains four hours of footage, with many more hours left on the cutting room floor. So would Chris ever embark on such a project again?

“No, I am NEVER doing this again,” he chuckled, shaking his head. “It has been a real labour of love and I’m so glad we have finished it and very proud that it’s now out there for other fans to enjoy. For the very first time we were able to break this incredible film apart and show how it was made, from opening credit to end credit. If we had not made this, no one else would have done it.

“So no, I’d never do it again,” he said… but then added quickly: “Although we probably do have enough footage for a RoboCop 2 documentary. Now THAT film is very under-rated in my opinion…”