It was back in February 1998 that I decided that I wanted to get into film industry. I was working night security at vehicle depot in Willesden, London. I would watch a lot of late night TV. One night a short film came on and while I watched it I thought "I could do that!" I have been a film fan all my life, but I never considered working in the industry. To me the film industry was Hollywood, and that was a whole other country away. But as soon as they thought entered my brain, I know it's all I ever wanted to do!
So I searched through the papers for a filmmaking course I could attend. I didn't want to attend Film School, as that would be at least one year back in education, and I wanted to get started straight away. I was able to find a charity called Panico, that did a crash course in filmmaking. My application was accepted, I paid my fees and I quit my job.
Panico was set up and runned by Bob and Julian Doyle, brothers who had worked on the films of Monty Python. The course is a crash course in filmmaking that runs over 6 weekends. As well as Bob and Julian, we had teachers who work in the film industry. Screenwriters, Directors Of Photography, Documentary Filmmakers all passed on their knowledge to us. The class was filled with all types of people. We even had 2 doctors. All eager to learn. All looking to make films or work in the industry.
As well as learning the theory, we also got to have hands on experience. We had two assignments. The first was to shoot a scene with no dialogue. The example we were shown was the last scene from The Long Good Friday. (If you don't know it, well worth checking out) We were paired up into teams and given a Super8 camera and a roll of film to shoot on. I was paired up with Reg Cameron, who went on to record the sound on my first short Fire Power, and we shot a fun little piece. An Oner (one shot) where Reg gets mugged. I asked my friend Kevin Masterson to play the mugger and we shot it near my house. I remember we practiced the scene and the camera moves several times, and of course as we were rolling someone came out and told us to stop filming. Thankfully it was at the end of the scene. Shame we didn't get it on camera. We could of had our own Monty Python and the Holy Grail ending.
The second assignment was to come up with a scene that had an actor and a teddy bear. We could do whatever we wanted, just as long as the scene was about a page long. The idea was that we would have a day where we would shoot all our scenes together. We would shoot the scenes with the rest of the class filling the other roles on the crew. We had a DOP to take care of the camera and lighting, and the rest of us would do the other roles. I feel it was more an exercise in crew etiquette, than filming a scene with a teddy bear. Reg and me came up with a scene where the actor kept trying to destroy the bear, but if kept coming back. Our scene was in the middle of the day and the pair, whose scene shot before us, did a parody of The Exorcist. I had to talk to the actor about our scene while he was cleaning washing up liquid out of his eyes. Why they thought that washing up liquid would work as holy water, I have no idea. Because of this we didn't have much time to shoot our scene. We had to do less than we had planned. Something that happens a lot of film sets. Never enough hours in the day to get everything you want to shoot.
The other great thing about Panico was that there was a club night every Thursday evening. You would go there to look at the job board and meet up with other members. It was the kind of place where somebody could come in and announce that they were looking for a runner. (It's how I got a lot of my first jobs) My first job was as a boom operator on a shoot called Hypnotised. It was a boxing film. (Funny name for a boxing film, right?) Why I decided to go for that role was that Bob liked the booming I did on the second assignment for the course. When we watched back our rushes, Bob pointed out my booming to the rest of the class. The boom dipped in and out of the frame. Everybody laughed. But Bob was serious. He said it was a good example of boom operating.
I remember I was so nervious calling the producer of that short film. I quickly explained that I wasn't experienced in booming, but I was willing to learn. They told me I had to speak to the sound recordist and it would be up to him if they would use me. So I spoke to the sound recordist and explained my situation to him. He was willing to let me do it. All I will say that I struggled. Film sets are tough place to learn. I lasted 2 days before I was replaced. It was a badly organised shoot, where there wasn't time to make mistakes, and I was making a lot of mistakes. I stayed until the end, but it was a horrible experience.
When it came to working on the next short, I decided to go as a runner and a much better decision it was too. I met Chris Flye, a 1st AD (Assistant Director), who would bring me onboard many shoots. I got to learn a lot. I got to watch many filmmakers work. I got to work in different departments, like the camera, art and lighting. I even went back and did some boom operating, but I didn't have the pressure of that first shoot.
I went on to work on films for the next year, learning everything I could before setting out to make my own short film. I had been able to save up some money from working on a couple of features. So in 1999 I set up my production company, Independent Runnings, and made Fire Power. (See the Fire Power page for more of the making of that short).
Fire Power was a test for me. I wanted to see if I could make a film. And if not, then I would be very happy working as crew for the rest of my life. Thankfully, I am good at making films (IMHO). But the result was that I couldn't go back to being a runner. I worked on a short, immediately after making Fire Power, and had a terrible time. I couldn't stop thinking about how I would do things on that set as a director. I didn't step over the line and tell the director how to do things, but it doesn't make for an enthusiastic runner. This doesn't mean I gave up on working on film sets, it just that I had to be part of the creative team, like editor, cameraman or stills photographer.
Over the years I have made many shorts, the odd music video and a feature film. (All of which you can read about on this site) I've seen technology change a lot. I've seen it go from film to tape to digital. I'm continuing to learn more about my craft. I have worked with a lot talented people and made a lot of fans. I have been to a lot of festivals and screenings. And I get to talk about film on my own Podcast. My hope is to continue to work and create in this great industry. And I look forward to the challenges ahead of me.