You were part of Liverpool Film Night back in 2010 - what did being shortlisted feel like?
I think at that time I was still very new as a filmmaker; I was new in Liverpool, fresh out of uni and so any kind of recognition for your work, or platform that elevates it and allows people to see it and talk about it is a really good thing. So basically, I was really chuffed! Seeing it in front of a cinema audience was a real buzz, and for me as a filmmaker starting out it meant a lot, helped get my name known in Liverpool.
And how did the experience affect your career afterwards?
Being shortlisted got people talking about me, so it was great exposure and definitely helped my career - as does getting your film shown in any festival or competition. We all need exposure in order for our portfolios to expand and flourish, so it had a really positive effect on my career, especially at a time when I was young and needed it.
Sounds like it came at the right time for you. How has your career developed since then?
Woah big question! My career has developed a hell of a lot in the seven years since then. Following LFN I started shooting music videos for local bands, and I think Stealing Sheep was my first ever music video (a track called I am the Rain). Both the experience of working with the band, and the end result I was really pleased with, and we shot it on Formby beach which is an amazing location.
Then I shot another music video for a Norwegian artist who was studying in Liverpool at the time called Mikhael Paskalev, and things really kicked off from there: the video got a Vimeo Staff Pick, got me noticed by people down in London, and got me nominated for a young directors award at the Cannes Lions (the advertising festival in Cannes). A year later, I got signed to a company in London called Rattling Stick, who I’m still with now and although we mainly make commercials, we do a lot of music videos too, which is what I really love.
I’ve worked with brands like Weetabix, Sainsburys, Baileys, Kit Kat, and done various music videos for bands like The Staves (for which I won an award at the UK Music Video Awards for Best Alternative Video in 2015), Spring King, and most recently I did a music video for Elton John – which is obviously the biggest one I’ve done!
The Elton John gig was part of a competition earlier this year run by Youtube. I entered with artist Laura Brownhill (founder and former member of the Kazimier) and we won the opportunity to do the first ever video for Bennie and the Jets – a classic Elton song from the 1970s.
More recently I’ve been shooting a Canon commercial in Romania which was great, and a more DIY project with my friends’ band, All We Are, who are based in Liverpool, to celebrate the release of their second album Sunny Hills which came out in June. This which was a 3-part documentary about who they are, why they love Liverpool and most importantly about how they made their new album.
What advice would you give to up and coming filmmakers in the region?
I went to university in Manchester, and the North West is a really good place to start your career because it’s so much cheaper to live here than in London. Being up north gives you the time and the freedom to make your work, rather than chasing a big wage.
Filmmaking takes so time, so make sure you free yourself up time-wise and that you’re constantly making things, because that’s how you get better. You learn from every experience so keep working; make music videos for your mates bands, get yourself a website, get your stuff online, enter festivals and competitions like Vimeo Staff Pick. If you’re making good work it will get noticed – I was never good at promoting myself but luckily one of my videos was a big success and that got the ball rolling.
It’s okay to be DIY. Get started with a digital SLR and shoot and edit your own stuff - Premiere Pro is brilliant. Learning this stuff takes time and it can be frustrating, but you’ve got to be proactive.
Then, move to London if you want to make some money. You can be based here and do well, but for the first 6 months I was signed to Rattling Stick, I was living in Liverpool and nothing really happened. Now that I’ve got myself known, and a strong portfolio I could move back up North one day.
Finally, what projects are you working on at the moment?
I always like to keep the balance between making commercials and music videos; earning money versus creating something that’s a lot more personal, creative and experimental. You can often approach the crew you’ve just been working with on the commercial, and people will be up for doing you a favour on a smaller project, so beg borrow and steal! If they’re into the idea, they’re almost always up for doing something creative, as it gives them a chance to try out other roles on set too.
I’m looking for a music video to work on at the moment, so I’ve pitched to a Scottish band called Young Fathers who won the Mercury Prize a couple of years ago. Its for two new tracks from a forthcoming album, and they want the videos to be connected in some way. Fingers crossed I’ll hear soon, it would be great to work with them as they’re a really interesting band. In between jobs its all about pitching, which can be a total pain as statistically you won’t win them, and you don’t get paid to do a pitch, but its part of the process and it’s the same for every director.
Get your tickets to see the very best new talent from the North West this Wednesday 22 November, at Liverpool Film Night.