Archive for April, 2012


Plug, plug, plug!

April 18, 2012

It’s shameless plug-time!

In less than a week, you’ll be able to see my most recent directorial effort. For free, I might add. If you have an iPhone, iPad or android… er… thing. If you don’t, then you can’t. So head down to your local phone shop, buy a smartphone, download the “Persona” app and join the 21st century, luddite!

So… I don’t know if I mentioned this… but about a month ago, I directed a story for the app-based soap “Persona.” A story that was a tad more topical than I’ve previously directed. A story written by the miracle writer Martyn Deakin. A story with an actual cinematographer (the talented Phil Moreton) and three amazing actors (Meghann Marty, Conor Kennedy and Jake Ferretti). A drama that I enjoyed shooting, even enjoyed editing and that I’m well proud of.

Anyway, self-fellating aside, here’s the trailer:

Want to see what all that’s about? Head to the Apple app store or the Andoid market, download the FREE app and get watching! My story starts next week, but until then you can watch all the previous appisodes including the most recent season 3! It costs feck all and you get three minutes of drama a day. Watch it on the bus, while drinking a coffee or sitting on the khazi. And tell all your friends.

About “Persona,” not that you watch it on the throne…


The Almost-Working Director’s Lament

April 15, 2012

Probably the toughest bit about being an aspiring “working director” is the fact that you might not be “working” all that much. Or for much money. Or any money.

You find yourself working for free a lot- either on your own projects where it’s your own money (so there’s no point in paying yourself) or on the sort of projects that aren’t willing/able to pay an untested director. There’s a whole lot of industry discussion and debate over paid and unpaid projects and how taking unpaid work is ultimately setting a destructive precedent for the industry… and I agree. If you work for free, you’re undermining your own skills and worth and contributing to the idea that everyone can work for free. Which is obviously bad for the industry you’re trying to ultimately get paid work in.

For most skilled crew roles, there’s a simple way to deal with this. When you start out, you do a few free/expenses only jobs to build up your contacts, CV and develop your skills. Once you’re confident in your abilities and have the work to prove it you can start pitching for paid jobs, adjusting your rates depending on the job and how much you want it. As your credentials and skills improve, so can your rates and the only time you dip to unpaid gigs is when you feel it’s better to do unpaid work than not to work at all. My cinematographer friend has a set of criteria for doing freebies based on the quality of the project, the script, the crew, the kit on the table and the potential career growth it offers, for instance.

An Almost-Working Director almost directing.

It’s not quite the same for directors, however…

While directing is still a skilled profession- requiring the same levels of ability and experience and talent as pretty much any other technical role- you’re in a role that is often “above the line.” Meaning you are less an employee and more an employer. Unlike other roles where you are hired to do your job on a project- in exchange for money, sweets or sexual favours- the director, in the early stages of his career at least, is usually the one behind the project. Providing the money, sweets and reciprocal lovin’ to everyone else. The only time he becomes an employee on the recieving end of all that is when a producer hires him to direct something. And if a producer is hiring you, that’s one step closer to the holy grail of getting paid to direct.

So the way it normally goes is this… You want to direct so you start producing/directing your own projects- getting your crew on board for as cheap/free as you can without sacrificing too much in quality. You build your CV, network, get a showreel together. Then you start pitching for producers, writers and clients to hire you (even if it’s for expenses, cake and an IMDB credit to prove how cool you are). Do enough good quality work in both these arenas and your resume and reel should be looking pretty healthy, not to mention the recommendations and reviews you might have got. Which means you can move on to stage three…

…Whatever that is!

To be honest, I’m of the impression it involves getting an agent and pitching for jobs slightly out of your league. It’s where to find these mythological things that gets me. Agents seem to hide like ninjas, only coming out of the shadows to quickly grab a talented director when they spot one and the pro level jobs seem to be posted on some magical pro level jobs board on a secret website that’s like Talent Circle but with a special handshake and whispered password. Until the hallowed time you’re let into the inner circle, you have to work where you can, make work when you can’t and hold a day job when all else fails to put numbers in the bank account.

Such is the almost-working director’s lament…


Of Captains and Ships

April 6, 2012

What would Captain Picard be without his crew? Would he still be able to achieve what he does, make a difference, fight the bad guys etc? Okay, bad example. Picard would still be the baddest baldy in the universe if he was captaining a tugboat on the Thames on his lonesome.

So… what would Captain Kirk be without Spock or McCoy? Captain Pugwash without his equally dodgy-named crew? Aside from being riddled with space-aids and put on some sort of register, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful without their co-stars. The ones who hoist the main sail and make the phasers go psheeeooow…

And that’s what it’s like for the director. In the past, I’ve been something of a multi-skiller, edging towards the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-some-but-only-passable-at-others kind of deal. I’ve also always advocated an approach that puts store in a director knowing something of all the filmmaking trades. And I still do- I think knowing a bit about cinematography and lighting and editing and sound design and acting and scheduling and making tea is something every director should strive for. But if you want your film to be in any way good, you need to see it benefits from the skills of people who are a damn sight better at these things than you!

A couple of weeks ago, we shot and I directed a story for “Persona.” If you don’t know what “Persona” is, have a scroll back through my posts- I mention it quite a bit! It’s the world’s first soap/drama broadcast on a smartphone and muggins here has directed a story for it. A somewhat more dramatic and topical story than the sort of scifi/sentimentality I usually put my name to- which was partly why I handed over the DoP duties to someone who actually knows what he’s doing- cinematographer Phil Moreton. I hadn’t worked with Phil and his AC, Murat Akyildiz, since uni and was so glad I got them on board. They made my storyboards come to life with nicely lit and beautifully shot images like these:

I also had a very capable AD in the form of the wonderful Emily Turton. I don’t normally have an AD but realised I needed one for this shoot- and just like with the DoP and AC, I feel like I can’t quite go back to the old DIY way of doing things without all these skilful people around me to make shit look good and keep me organised.

But with this in mind, I had a bit of a momentary epiphany on the shoot- that I don’t know everything. Obvious one, I know, but over the last few years I’ve gotten somewhat used to being the most knowledgeable person on set and between Phil, Murat and Emily, I got a sense of perspective on where I sit in the grand scheme of things. For a while I felt out of place, like I was a rank amateur director surrounded by professional crew members- people who get paid frequently for this stuff and make a living from it. I felt that any suggestions these guys gave were obviously much more worthy than any idea I had because of their skills and experience. It started to bum me out a bit.

And then I realised, I was the director. I was the one with the audience’s perspective in my head. I was the one the actors were listening to. I was the one leading this shoot.

While Phil had shot and lit more films than me and Murat has been on more pro sets than me and Emily has worked on more shoots than me, I had directed more films than they had. Just as they have skills and experience in their areas, I have skill and experience in mine. And it took this shoot to make me realise that.

There comes a point when you start to develop a specialty as a filmmaker. An area where you have experience and ability and others start to respect that. You realise that you can’t do their jobs and they need you to do yours. It’s how a good film gets made.

Captain Kirk can’t patch injured crew up like McCoy, Pugwash can’t form plans like Tom the Cabin Boy. They need their crew and their crew need them to put the ship on course.

Picard can fly that shit on his own, however, but he’s the exception.