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No Ordinary Expat: Clive Gray. How the man in the suit from Sheffield became Our Man in Torrevieja

Many expats reinvent themselves when they move to Spain and try something radically different, often acquiring new skill sets along with their tans, but Clive Gray has managed to take different to a whole new level. The former building society customer services supervisorr and Environment Agency worker from Sheffield has pretty much reinvented himself since he came to Spain to help out a friend who was snowed under with work in 2007. Now the self-confessed computer and telecommunications geek can add Executive Film Producer, Actor and Movie Mogul to his CV, and as with everything else he’s ever tackled, he’s rather good at it.

Being rather good at things has been a bit of a problem for Clive over the years, although it’s a definite advantage here in his new life in Spain. He was continually passed over for promotion to management level at the building society because he was so good at his job, hence the career change to the Environment Agency.

When he came to Spain to help out his friend, Clive noticed that there were only three adverts in the local English speaking press for computer shops, and there was no home repair service. The expat population of the Costa Blanca is around the same as the total population Clive’s native Sheffield, and the thought of only having three computer shops to service that demographic, along with a lifetime of working in customer service, persuaded him that he could fill a much-needed gap in the market. There was another consideration too, as Clive explained:

‘The expat population is aging, and for many of them, it’s their fist experience with a computer, because they want to keep in touch with friends and family at home. It’s not on that they should have to disconnect 100 wires to take the computer to be repaired, then reconnect them in all the right places when they get it back.’

So Clive Gray Computers came into being. 10 years down the line, Clive still works with his very first customer and has a thriving business. He lives in Pinoso, but will travel up to 100 miles to tend to poorly PCs and temperamental tablets. And if he can’t fix it in your home, he’ll take it to intensive care back in Pinoso. The great thing about the service is that you pay the same whether you live in Mazarron or just around the corner from Clive.

Clive is also heavily into telecommunications. When he first moved to Spain, the only viable option other than mobile phones was VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), since Telefonica would only install ladlines when the urbanisations that were flying up before the crisis were 50% occupied. He’s still doing all that, but a chance meeting with Billie Anthony Gaddess meant it was time for something completely different, as they say in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Billie is an actor and screenwriter who divides his time between San Luis in Torrevieja and the North East of England. He founded the AdHoc Players theatre company, and persuaded Clive to appear in their production of ‘Sex Please We’re British,’ even though he’d never been on stage before. Appearances in ‘Allo, ’Allo’ and ‘Not Now Darling’ followed, by which time Clive had well and truly got the acting bug. Again, he was rather good at it, so when Billie wrote his first-ever screenplay – ‘The Cucaracha Club’ with Philip Routledge – Clive was assured of a role in that too.

‘The Cucaracha Club’ is a spy thriller set in and around Torrevieja. It’s remarkable on many levels, because it was made on a production budget of just €23,000, and for most of the people involved in it, it was their first experience on either side of a film camera. However, the story was about to get even more remarkable, and Clive’s life was about to take yet another turn.

Just five weeks before filming was scheduled to start, the British production company lined up for shooting and editing ‘The Cucaracha Club’ pulled out of the project. With locations, actors and everything else organised, it looked like Billie’s dream of writing and starring in a movie was over before it even began. Working on the premise that if you want something done, do it yourself, Billie and Clive persuaded Rai Woods to direct the film. They even set up a new company – Siesta Productions – to take care of the production.

Nothing remarkable in that, you might think. Except that although Rai has almost 50 years experience in broadcasting and had worked with big names such as John Schlesinger, he had never directed a full length feature film before. And Billie and Clive – who Rai recruited as executive producers – had never been on the business end of a movie camera and had no idea how to dress a set, set up a shot or get a grip on continuity.

Clive was expecting to appear in 19 of the film’s scenes in his role as Smoggy, one of two retired not-so-special agents who spend most of their days in a drunken haze but are unwillingly pulled out of retirement to rescue the kidnapped children of the Ambassador. Instead, he had to be there for all 60 of the film’s scenes, either acting, on camera, or both. For the six months of shooting, he was there every day, often from 7.00 am until 2.00 am the following morning.

Now ‘The Cucaracha Club’ has had its world premiere, and it’s lined up for a British premiere in Billie’s native North East, as well as being scheduled for showing at the Darlington Arts Festival in May. So, is that the end of Clive’s flirtation with film? Not a bit of it. ‘The Cucaracha Club II’ is written and ready to go into production in October 2017, but Siesta Productions has other plans as well.

With Rai Woods now recruited as resident director for Siesta, the newest project is ‘Costa Blanca Your Move’ – a ‘Place in the Sun’ type documentary series which picks up once the offer has been accepted. Working with estate agents, lawyers, health care experts and other people in the know about life on the Costa Blanca, the series will move past the sun, sea and sangria and deal with all the practicalities of buying a holiday home or relocating. And people are approaching Siesta Productions with ideas for other projects.

Getting ‘The Cucaracha Club’ in the can against the odds has given this very new production company credibility in the industry. In fact Siesta succeeded where Eon – the company behind the James Bond franchise – failed spectacularly. They managed to get permission to film in the marina at Torrevieja. Siesta produced the first co-crowdfunded film in Torrevieja, using local locations and local actors, and although other companies have since copied what they did, they were and always will be the first to take such a leap into the unknown.

It’s all a learning curve, but Clive has a ‘can do’ attitude to everything he tackles. He says the main lesson the production team took from the making of ‘The Cucaracha Club’ was that they knew absolutely nothing about making a movie, but they certainly learned quickly. Morphing from the man in a suit from Sheffield to Our Man in Torrevieja in just a few short years, Clive Gray is certainly No Ordinary Expat.

Photo credits: Siesta Productions Ltd.



Published February 1st by Sandra Piddock
Posted to Expat Blog

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