The anachronistic bits that popped up in the landscape, the family discovered, belonged to Oxford Scientific Films (OSF), which had been founded by Gerald Thompson, an Oxford lecturer and pioneer of cinematic microphotography, and five others, including Peter Parks. Parks, known particularly for his natural history cinematography, later won two technical Academy Awards and the Gordon E. Sawyer Award (an Oscar) for his technical achievements and pioneering work. The group had planted their studio in a quarter acre of Thompson’s garden.
Breakspear’s parents, seeing his excitement, encouraged the young boy to try to find work at OSF, and he did try. “I wrote saying I’d do whatever they wanted,” he says. “But, I always got a letter back saying, ‘You’re completely inexperienced. Thank you, but no.’ They were very polite. Every time I got a letter back, it inspired me to write another. I wrote maybe 50 or 100 letters.”
The letter-writing began when he was 12 and continued until he was 18 and about to leave for University – Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. “I was always into art,” he says, “and always had a good memory for things I see. And even though my parents didn’t understand it, they provided great support. My dad bought me a drawing board for Christmas and a Commodore 64 that I learned to program. They’d say, ‘Let us know what you need.’”
But, seeing his disappointment with the constant rejection from OSF, they suggested that he stop the letter writing and look for something else. “So I tried one more time,” he says. “I wrote and said, ‘This is my final letter. I’m about to go to University to study graphic design. I would love to work with you guys. I know you always say no. But this time, have a cup of tea on me and let me know.’ And, I included a tea bag.”
The next day, Breakspear received a big parcel with a one kilo bag of sugar and another rejection letter, the sugar to sweeten this last rejection. “Well, that’s it,” he thought. On the following day, he got a second letter asking if he had received the joke and inviting him in for an interview.
“They asked me to come on weekends when I wasn’t in school,” he says. “They said they weren’t going to pay me and I said, ‘No problem. I’ve waited six years for this.’”