You made your directing debut at just 26, with short film Dirty Diamonds. Had you worked on films before that?
Yes, I studied film and television at college, so I made a few student movies. I kept trying to break into the film industry one way or another, and I’d been out of college for a year or two before the opportunity to make Dirty Diamonds came along. I’d been a runner before then on a short film in Paris, but Dirty Diamonds was the first thing that had a production and that got screened.
How important do you think it is for aspiring directors to study film? Can film making be learned just through watching movies and experimenting with a camera?
By studying film, you meet people, you debate things. I was very fortunate at college, because I had a job working for a big cinema chain, so I was able to get free tickets to all the cinemas in London. That was almost as important for my education as the teaching itself, being able to see all those movies. Being surrounded by wannabe film makers means you’re talking about film all the time, developing passions, defending your arguments. So yes, you can learn on the job, but there’s something great about being surrounded by other people who share your passion.
Your lead actors in You Instead, Natalia Tena (Harry Potter) and Luke Treadaway (Clash of the Titans), both starred in short films before getting their big breaks. Do you think shorts are a good calling card in the industry?
I made nine short films before I made my first feature. I was itching to get onto the longer format, because you put almost as much energy into a short as you do into a feature, and in the end you haven’t got as much to show for it. I don’t know how else you’d break into the industry, other than with shorts. In the old days, people had to start out making TV commercials, and that’s another way in, but quite often people who direct ads find it quite hard to get into drama later on. Somebody once said to me ‘if you want to do drama, just do drama’ and I sort of followed that – one of my shorts was an arty documentary, but all of the others have been dramas.
So yes, I think it definitely is a calling card but it’s not just that. It’s about learning how to do the job. You have to get good at making films and learning to juggle all the things you have to juggle when you’re a director.
random: on Elvis, wonder if that was the performance (while great, he always is) made him hate playing in England?
Elvis Costello website (he was great on Treme, an hbo series I highly recommend about life in Nola)