Jonathan Gems

My Story

Jonathan Gems was born in 1952, in London and went to a variety of schools because when the tension between his parents became too intense, they’d move house. Like most decent children, he despised school, and left at the age of fourteen to found a magazine called Student, to promote a re-think of the education system. This re-think never happened, and schools are now even worse than they were in the 1970’s.

Initially successful, Student magazine folded after nine issues, in part due to Jonathan’s parents realizing he was too young to be out of school and forcing him to go back. Student, which he produced with Richard Branson, was not a complete loss, however, because it was the birthplace of Virgin Records, which began as a mail-order company selling record albums through the magazine and grew into a chain of record stores, a recording studio, and a successful record label.

So, at the age of fifteen, Jonathan went to the local comprehensive school, from which he was expelled and, after two more schools, he left the school system to work for his father at Gems Wax Models, the family firm, which manufactured wax figures and shop window mannequins. After being trained in every aspect of the business, in order to eventually succeed his father as managing director, his father sold Gems Wax Models to live the life of Riley on the proceeds.

Out of work, Jonathan started a business publishing a comic called It’s All Lies, which ran for six issues, then worked in restaurants, cleaning companies, a travel agency, a hotel, and shops, and wrote and performed songs in several bands, before starting a firm named Capricorn Graphics that printed and sold silkscreened posters, and provided artwork to magazines.

This company was wound up shortly after he was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to do a stage management course. After this, he started a fashion company making clothes designed by Jean Colette Seel, and got a job as an assistant stage-manager at the Open Space Theatre in Tottenham Court Road. Soon after this theatre was closed down, he was hired as stage manager at the Half Moon Theatre in East London, where he wrote his first play – an adaptation of A Christmas Carol – by Charles Dickens, which sparked an interest in writing plays, which he had hitherto avoided because watching his mother’s suffering as a playwright had put him off.

For the next two years, he went on the dole to study playwrighting, and wrote several short plays, which were produced at fringe theatres in London, and a full-length play, The Tax Exile, which was presented successfully at the Bush Theatre. His next play was Naked Robots (Royal Shakespeare Company), followed by The Dentist, and Doom, Doom, Doom, Doom (Royal Court), The Paranormalist (Greenwich Theatre), and Susan’s Breasts (Royal Court.)

He was then hired to work on the movies Nineteen Eighty-Four and White Mischief, both directed by Michael Radford, followed by Batman, directed by Tim Burton, after which he spent nine years in Los Angeles working on a wide variety of projects including the movies Cry Baby, Mars Attacks! and The Treat, which he also directed.

On the verge of directing his second feature, he fell ill with Hepatitis C – was given three to five years to live ­by the doctors – and returned to London.

For the next twenty years, he was ill with Hep C – with symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome – until, in 2018, he was cured thanks to a combination of natural and allopathic medicine.

In 2019, he published a book on the British film industry called Who Killed British Cinema? – co-written with Vinod Mahindru.

My Story

Jonathan Gems was born in 1952, in London and went to a variety of schools because when the tension between his parents became too intense, they’d move house. Like most decent children, he despised school, and left at the age of fourteen to found a magazine called Student, to promote a re-think of the education system. This re-think never happened, and schools are now even worse than they were in the 1970’s.

Initially successful, Student magazine folded after nine issues, in part due to Jonathan’s parents realizing he was too young to be out of school and forcing him to go back. Student, which he produced with Richard Branson, was not a complete loss, however, because it was the birthplace of Virgin Records, which began as a mail-order company selling record albums through the magazine and grew into a chain of record stores, a recording studio, and a successful record label.

So, at the age of fifteen, Jonathan went to the local comprehensive school, from which he was expelled and, after two more schools, he left the school system to work for his father at Gems Wax Models, the family firm, which manufactured wax figures and shop window mannequins. After being trained in every aspect of the business, in order to eventually succeed his father as managing director, his father sold Gems Wax Models to live the life of Riley on the proceeds.

Out of work, Jonathan started a business publishing a comic called It’s All Lies, which ran for six issues, then worked in restaurants, cleaning companies, a travel agency, a hotel, and shops, and wrote and performed songs in several bands, before starting a firm named Capricorn Graphics that printed and sold silkscreened posters, and provided artwork to magazines.

This company was wound up shortly after he was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to do a stage management course. After this, he started a fashion company making clothes designed by Jean Colette Seel, and got a job as an assistant stage-manager at the Open Space Theatre in Tottenham Court Road. Soon after this theatre was closed down, he was hired as stage manager at the Half Moon Theatre in East London, where he wrote his first play – an adaptation of A Christmas Carol – by Charles Dickens, which sparked an interest in writing plays, which he had hitherto avoided because watching his mother’s suffering as a playwright had put him off.

For the next two years, he went on the dole to study playwrighting, and wrote several short plays, which were produced at fringe theatres in London, and a full-length play, The Tax Exile, which was presented successfully at the Bush Theatre. His next play was Naked Robots (Royal Shakespeare Company), followed by The Dentist, and Doom, Doom, Doom, Doom (Royal Court), The Paranormalist (Greenwich Theatre), and Susan’s Breasts (Royal Court.)

He was then hired to work on the movies Nineteen Eighty-Four and White Mischief, both directed by Michael Radford, followed by Batman, directed by Tim Burton, after which he spent nine years in Los Angeles working on a wide variety of projects including the movies Cry Baby, Mars Attacks! and The Treat, which he also directed.

On the verge of directing his second feature, he fell ill with Hepatitis C – was given three to five years to live ­by the doctors – and returned to London.

For the next twenty years, he was ill with Hep C – with symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome – until, in 2018, he was cured thanks to a combination of natural and allopathic medicine.

In 2019, he published a book on the British film industry called Who Killed British Cinema? – co-written with Vinod Mahindru.

Jonathan Gems

My Books

My Bestselling Books

Books

My Bestselling Books