So Why Don't You Make One?
My Life as a Would Be Filmmaker and Scribe
As a bit of a film and television critic, one could rightfully, some might think, ask if I could do any better. After all, making a film is not easy. As the saying goes, if it was, everyone would do it. Maybe that's true. But as technology has advanced and many professions that were the preserve of the few, become accessible to all, increasing numbers of people are doing exactly that; making films.
Only a few years ago, a filmmaker, Sean Baker, made an entire feature film, Tangerine, shot entirely with mobile phones. The days of having to find reels of celluloid film and a camera are long gone. Anyone can make a film if they really want to.
The fastest growing social media platform, Instagram, proves that. On any given day, you can check out millions of mini films. Admittedly, most are just self-promotional clips, not story led masterpieces. Still, they are moving pictures.
YouTube is still the king of content when it comes to wannabe movie moguls. Obviously, being such a massive platform, it is easy for content to get lost on YouTube. With an estimated upward of 100 million uploads, one has to have the promotional muscle of a Disney behind you to not get lost in the sea of content.
To date, I have made four short films. All are on YouTube, buried in the mass of fitness, cats, pranks, comedy, and makeup tutorials, not to mention the many, many other short films on there, they have not exactly set the world alight. Nor have they propelled me to Tinsel Town.
That being said, I have not been exactly prolific. My first film, And So It Ends, I made back in 2012, my first foray into the filmmaking process proper. It is not a masterpiece, but it was a big deal for me. I was emotionally wrecked after making the film. I had never directed anyone before, knew very little about camera rules and it was my words, my script and story being made.
It is quite a difficult thing to explain the emotion of making a film you have written, especially in an era of ever-present media, with creators churning out content weekly if not daily. It was still a great personal achievement for me.
A year later, I made my next film, WebSights. Much less of an emotional rollercoaster the second time around, there were still things that challenged. When directing a film, everybody on the set expects you to know the answers. You are the director, after all, the one in charge. The fact that I had also written the film was just another added pressure. Still, it felt different.
Looking back, though the acting was fine, my casting was bad. I am a passionate advocate for actors. It is not an easy job. Even though there are loads of unemployed actors, good unemployed actors, casting matters and my second film showed me that.
Making sure you have every shot you need is also very important, as I found out when trying to edit the film and finding that shots I thought I had were not filmed, oops.
On short films, for the most part, nobody gets paid. You feed and treat everybody well and hope they have an enjoyable experience, but money— and I was the money—is thin on the ground.
With this in mind, I had to call up the whole cast and crew and ask them to return the next weekend so as we could shoot the missing scenes. I also struggled with the colour balance, something that was quite new to me at the time.
My next film, about a year and a half later, was Five Seconds. Making Five Seconds was a brilliant experience, even with the challenge of filming outside, the first time I had ever done an exterior shoot. Besides the great on set atmosphere, the actors not only did a brilliant job, but they also executed my script word perfectly.
That might seem like an unusual thing to say, after all, I did write the thing. But, as a director, I tend to allow actors a certain amount of latitude. If they are not word perfect, but still manage to convey the story I was aiming for, I have no problem. The story is more important to me than my script being remembered word-perfect. It just happened that the Five Seconds script flowed really well for the actors, no improvisation needed.
It would be a few years until my next and fourth film, The Good, The Bad and The Tennis. Because I had not made a film for a few years, I planned this film meticulously. I wrote a list of the shots I wanted and what type of shots they would be. On this film, because of the script's inspiration, I did not use any professional actors, so my directing had to be much more specific, bringing out the playfulness in the performers.
Unusually, the one thing that one would think would not be an issue in England—rain—proved to be the biggest obstacle to finishing the film. It just would not rain! That’s a lie, it rained at night, but that was of no use to me. I ended up having to put the rain in digitally.
Except for that little drawback, the whole experience was, again, brilliant. Making films is what I should be doing. Obviously, I realise I am not alone in thinking this, but every time I’ve made a film, the experience has been so fulfilling. It also feels pretty natural to me, which is odd when I think about it. Maybe it is because I have only ever directed something I have written.
There are always going to be reasons not to do something—in filmmaking, they are normally financial—but as I get older I realise that if I’m ever going to be a filmmaker and not just another person who talks about films, I am going have to get back in the game.
I will continue to write reviews on others work, I do enjoy writing and I enjoy films, so they are natural bedfellows. But it is getting time for me to maybe throw myself to the wolves of critics as well. Time to unleash the filmmaker again.