"I also knew the environment. I was familiar with Venice. I had its architecture, images and visual vocabulary in my mind. 'Wings' may be perceived as a bigger film, but to me it felt like a comfortable process."
This sounds confident and assured for a man widely assumed to be relatively new to movies. In fact, Softley has been making films of one kind or another for the last 15 years. He was born and grew up in western London, and became interested in music and painting. He took a year out of academic work at 18 and went to France where, he said, "I painted a lot, traveled around, and first saw cinema in a different way. I got my film education in little independent cinemas in Paris."
At Cambridge University he studied English, and directed and designed theater productions: "I realized quite soon I was overloading them with visual trickery and had a yearning for that dimension offered by film." While still at Cambridge, he made a couple of small films.
He spent a year as an assistant designer, then began work with a local documentary unit at Britain's Granada TV, a breeding ground for filmmakers. In later years he joined the BBC in Southampton, on Britain's south coast, and made 30 "auteur documentaries" for TV, usually short subjects about some aspect of pop culture, over a two-year period.