Leo Pearlman

Film and Documentary Producer and Managing Partner of Fulwell 73 and Fulwell North at St. Peter’s Campus, The University of Sunderland

Lifelong Sunderland AFC fan, Leo Pearlman, is co-founder and managing partner of Fulwell 73 Productions and the producer and executive producer of T.V. documentaries and film, including ‘Sunderland Till I Die’ (Netflix), ‘Cinderella’ (Sony/Columbia) and ‘I am Bolt’ (Universal Pictures). 

St. Peter’s Campus at the University of Sunderland is the new home of Fulwell North, the new regional base for production. The base will focus on developing new programming, nurturing local talent and discovering local new creators. This new location aims to help address the skills gap for those starting out in the industry.

Listen to Leo’s story:

Read the transcript of Leo’s interview:

Connection to Sunderland.

“I was born in Sunderland, and I was born in Sunderland because my parents were out for a meal in Newcastle at the time when my mum’s water broke and my dad made her sit in the car for the drive to the Sunderland General Hospital rather than go to the RVI because in his words, ‘He wasn’t having his first child born in the wrong city’. I realise this is insane and have spoken to him many times since about just how crazy it is. He did point out he was eighteen at the time and he probably wouldn’t make that decision when he was little older. The insanity of that always stuck with me. I feel like I always born into this. What is it historically about this place that draws people here and keeps them here? It certainly could act as a poster child for a northern city that was left behind. Left behind with no plan- no plan whatsoever to try and give it an opportunity to rebuild. I think what the city has done in the last decade or so is remarkable. Absolutely remarkable. Also, the University plays a massive part in that push and drive into tech, push and drive into media. There is a real ambition. Every time I come up here, the new building plans, our plan around the studio, you know, everything around that, I think shows the excitement and the ambition. I hate the idea that anyone would look at this city and think that the negativity is down to any lack of ambition or laziness”.

The origins of Fulwell 73.

“I never grew up thinking that I was going to work in TV or film or media. It was certainly never a dream of mine to do so. It came about far more out of out of chance. I came across a bunch of young kids who were football freestylers, off the back of that, a young guy called Woody, Paul Wood. So, he came up to me one day and said ‘My hero is Diego Maradona. I’ve always dreamed about meeting him. He’s inspired me through my life,’ and he used to carry around with him in his rucksack all day, every day, a worn-out VHS tape of Diego Maradona’s best clips, worn out because he’d watched it so many times, but he still carried it with him, which was beautiful to this day to me. So, he said, ‘You know, I want to go meet him. Would you guys follow us with cameras- me and a few of the other boys’ and we were like, ‘No, that’s the worst idea ever heard. You want us to find money to take you to go and meet your hero?’ And he was like, ‘Well, yeah, no, no, we don’t even have passports and we don’t have any money, so I guess we busk our way to Argentina’. And that film became In the Hands of the Gods. In the Hands of the Gods went to Cannes. We were so inexperienced that when they said ‘You ought to bring the film to Cannes’, and it was shot on films, we had cans, literally.

We got in the back of my Mini and the four of us drove from London to Cannes with the cans in the boot, got there and handed them over to the person they got there, you know, six hours before the first sales screening. And the guy was like, ‘The state of you guys…’ we were like, ‘We’ve just driven from London with the film’, ‘But why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you ship it? There’s a whole process we got!’. We just thought we’d bring them with us. It was safest. And at the film festival, in a bidding war, it was bought by Lionsgate. Then Fulwell 73 came from – just as a side point to that – when we did decide to form a company and the name Fulwell 73, I mean it simply says what it is, but Fulwell End was where we stood as kids together”.

Love of Sunderland AFC.

“And that was always a reminder of where we’ve come from. And ‘73 was the miracle. And so always reminded us of what was possible. And we felt with In the Hands of the Gods, that was our little miracle. And my kids now, my two boys five and seven, are huge Sunderland fans- absolutely didn’t have a choice, obviously. I remember them starting school and everyone was wearing Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United, you know, whoever. And they didn’t understand good or bad clubs, but they’d say, ‘Why can’t I wear the same kit as my friend Levi? Why can’t I wear the same kit as my friend Zach?’ And I would say I would always try and explain to them, ‘It’s who we are. It’s where we come from. It’s a part of you’. And it’s amazing how quickly they changed it from a negative to a positive. And it became them saying to me, ‘I’m so proud that my kits are different. I’m so proud that no one else has got a kit like mine’. And I know, for example, first game of the season is a lunchtime kick-off on Sunday, July 30th in L.A. It’s going to be a 4 a.m. in L.A. kick-off. My two partners there at the same time, all our kids are there. We already know the pub we’re going to go to watch it, which we know is open to watch at 4 a.m. And we already know that we won’t be the only eight or nine people in that pub and no one’s going to be there to watch Coventry. There’ll be twenty to twenty-five Sunderland fans who we didn’t know before, who at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning are going to be stood there”.

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