Runners-Up of the New Shoots Actors Awards

Posted August 17th, 2023 by Jim Read

The runners-up of this year’s New Shoots Actors Awards are the fantastic performers: Elinor Coleman, Tiggy Bayley, and Jason Hall. They will receive mentorship from Des Hamilton Casting (Jojo Rabbit, This is England, High Life), free Spotlight memberships, a cash prize, and more to support their careers as performers. The overall winner of the New Shoots Actors Awards will be announced later this year. If you’re casting a project this summer, make sure you look into these tremendously talented actors.


What’s one scene from a film you would have loved to have performed in and why?

“The scene in ‘A Woman Under the Influence’ where Mabel (Gena Rowlands, my favourite actress) has the big breakdown- it’s a long scene, a single shot and it is so powerful, no matter how many times I see it I am in complete awe. I love that Cassavetes shot the film in chronological order, so that by the time they reached this scene the actors were deeply immersed in the world. The characters are complex and compelling and you feel that the actors were afforded space and trust by their director to go as deep as they needed to.”

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What advice can you share with your peers in the acting community?

I am a writer, director, and performer … I think in terms of storytelling the best advice I’ve had is to start from a place of truth – what is your unique perspective on the world, what do you have to say that is true about this world and then go from there … The first draft is always s***, but just write it anyway! I think that applies to acting too, don’t waste time thinking about whether or not you’re good, just go for it.

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What key factors do you think should change in the industry to make it more inclusive and accessible?

The industry has made great strides and is always evolving, but there is always room for improvement. For example, there is still a habit for many to put ‘white’ as a default for casting, which can be quite disheartening. This is especially true when the character’s race does not affect the story at all.

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The New Shoots Actors Awards – Shortlist 2023

Posted August 9th, 2023 by Jim Read

The New Shoots Awards is an annual award programme from Shooting People that celebrates, supports and spotlights creatives working in film, both in front of and behind the camera. Every year we see hundreds of brilliant entries to the New Shoots Actors Awards from performers who amaze us. We’re going to be announcing the runners-up of the 2023 awards in the next coming weeks. Before then, make sure you take a look at the fantastic 12 shortlisted performers. If you’re casting a project or are looking for collaborators, reach out to them over Shooting People.

The New Shoots Actors Awards – Shortlist 2023

Anna Tammela
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Bradley Chandler
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Charly Faye
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Elinor Coleman
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Emmeline Hartley
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Jason Hall
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John Gregor
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Keitanloreoluwa Adediji
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Niamh Drumgoole
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Rebecca Norfolk
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Sapphire Hyacinth
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Tiggy Bayley
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On Balancing Creativity with Commercial Success, Winning the Nikon Z9 & Avoiding Burnout: An Interview with Animator and New Shoots: 2022 Winner Simon Ball

Posted July 6th, 2023 by Jim Read

‘Another Presence’, the winning short film of the 2022 New Shoots: Filmmakers Awards, is a captivating animated short documentary that delves into the unique and often curious experiences of individuals living with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), the third most common form of dementia in the UK. Through the testimonies of those directly affected by DLB, the film takes viewers on a profound journey into the surreal world of this multi-sensory condition.

When selecting the overall winner, we welcomed Wendy Mitchell as a judge, in which she commented “Simon’s artistic vision for the film means it’s the opposite of a dry medical film, instead immersing the viewer in the visual hallucinations – both playful and disturbing – of people living with this condition. The narration from DLB patients and their loved ones pairs beautifully with Simon’s dreamlike, fluid animations. ‘Another Presence’ truly takes the audience into another realm.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Simon, who shared insights into his creative process, collaboration with charities and medical research centers, and his excitement about the Nikon Z 9 camera.

Finding Balance: Audience, Income, and Experimentation:

Simon acknowledges the difficulties of balancing the need for an audience and income with the desire to experiment: “It’s almost as if animation isn’t an industry in itself, more a way of producing moving images that plug into other fields.” 

While he has been fortunate to tap into corporate and commercial work in fields like advertising and television, Simon recognizes that freelancing comes with challenges. He explains, “Many jobs happen in a short space of time, then nothing at all for the following months. And more often than not, the commercial work pays significantly more than the independent work.” To overcome these challenges, Simon believes it’s important to find innovative ways to fund creative projects and allow oneself the time to immerse and enjoy them.

Concept First, Then Technique:

For Simon, every project begins with a concept. He shares “Even if I have a story or visual idea that I like, I try to step back and analyze why that idea appeals to me – what concepts are involved that I can expand into a broader film idea.” 

This approach allows him to delve deeper into the underlying themes and ideas that make a project compelling. While working on documentary projects like ‘Another Presence’ Simon remained open-minded during participant interviews, recognizing the importance of incorporating their perspectives. He adds, “It’s obviously really important to let the participants and the institutions I work with have input on the story. But still, at every stage of the project, I’m trying to lean on the conceptual ideas that are present in each project.

The Nikon Z 9, A Game Changer:

As the overall winner of the 2022 New Shoots: Filmmakers Awards, Simon recieved a Nikon Z9. As an animation director, Simon expresses shares his perspective having primarily worked with video and rotoscoping, saying, “Having my own camera is a real game changer.” He adds “The Z9’s ability to take high-quality stills as well as video is perfect for animation production. It means I can be more flexible when experimenting with ideas and takes away some of the stress of planning film shoots. It’s expanded my toolset and I’m really looking forward to having it with me on my next documentary project.

Collaboration with Charities and Medical Research Centers:

‘Another Presence’ was part funded by the Alzheimers Research UK Inspire Fund and during our chat, he expressed his gratitude for collaborating with amazing organizations dedicated to developing knowledge and support for people with dementia: “The scientists I’ve collaborated with have a level of expertise in their fields that I couldn’t come close to achieving. So, in that sense, I’m sort of a translator both for the scientists and the participants who live with Dementia.” 

Working with charities and medical research centres “… means that there are certain boundaries as to what I’m able to include in the films, but as I say, I’ve been lucky to work with institutions and people who believed in me.

Challenges and Lessons:

One huge aspect of SP is how willing people are to share lessons learned from challenges they’ve overcome in the filmmaking process – reflecting ever-present discussion about financial hurdles, Simon says “The danger of burnout is ever present, especially for animators. It’s really important to put your physical and mental health first and set boundaries for how much you’re willing to give to projects.” He has more valuable advice: “Listen to what your film tutors probably said over and over again… plan plan plan. Keep planning, plan better, and plan more effectively.

Advice for Aspiring Filmmakers:

Drawing from his own experiences, Simon emphasizes the significance of building and developing projects to allow for enjoyment. Simon explains, “Film projects, and animation in particular, can be all-consuming. And when you’re balancing work and life, it’s easy to forget why you chose to pursue filmmaking in the first place.” 

He encourages filmmakers to identify challenges and either find better approaches to overcome them or view them as enjoyable challenges rather than barriers.

What’s Next?

Looking to the future, Simon reveals he’s working on a third film focusing on people with atypical forms of dementia, specifically dementia aphasia and individuals experiencing language impairment.

The 2023 New Shoots: Filmmakers Awards are open now until 31st of July 2023 – so if you’re interested in submitting your short film, head here.

You can find out more info about ‘Another Presence’ on the official website here.

New Shoots: Actors Awards 2023 – COMING SOON

Posted March 7th, 2023 by Jim Read

Exciting news incoming SP’ers – The New Shoots: Actors Awards is back for 2023 and better than ever.

Since the start of SP back in 1998, actors have been an integral (and under-appreciated by the industry) part of our filmmaking community. Actors already have it tough with having to prepare auditions for every job… So, just like last year, we’ve made it as simple as possible to enter the New Shoots: Actors Awards. To enter, all you have to do is answer 4 quick questions.

Our next round will be opening soon in March. We’ll be announcing it in the bulletins and newsletter – so if you’re not already, do make sure to subscribe to keep in the loop.


– Mentorship from casting director Des Hamilton (Jojo Rabbit, This is England, High Life)

– £300 cash prize

– Zoom H6 Recorder

– Shure AONIC 40 wireless headphones

– 1 year of Spotlight membership

– 1 license for Final Draft 12

– 1 year of MUBI subscription

– Additional 1 year of Shooting People membership

– Spotlighting to Shooting People’s filmmaking community


– Mentorship from Des Hamilton

– £100 cash prize

– Shure AONIC 40 wireless headphones

– 1 year of Spotlight membership

– Additional 1 year of Shooting People membership

– Spotlighting to Shooting People’s filmmaking community


– Additional 1 year of Shooting People membership

– Spotlighting to Shooting People’s filmmaking community

You can check out last year’s New Shoots Awards here.

In the meantime, if you’re an aspiring actor, tune into this SP Masterclass on: ‘The Craft of Acting’ with the acclaimed actor Erin Doherty (The Crown, Chloe) and BAFTA-nominated director Virginia Gilbert (A Long Way from Home).

In this talk, Erin and Virginia discussed rehearsals, working in theatre and film, knowing whether a character is a good fit for you from a script treatment, research processes and more.


Posted September 22nd, 2022 by Jim Read

Last night, we had the pleasure of welcoming the director/producer duo of the groundbreaking documentary ‘All That Breathes’, Shaunak Sen and Teddy Leifer, for our third New Shoots event of 2022 “How To Make An Award-winning Documentary”. ‘All That Breathes’ is set to hit UK cinemas on the 14th of October. Check here to see where you can find a screening.

You can watch the recording of the event below.


Shaunak Sen is a filmmaker and film scholar based in New Delhi, India. Cities of Sleep (2016), his first feature-length documentary, was shown at various major international film festivals (including DOK Leipzig, DMZ Docs and the Taiwan International Documentary Festival, among others) and won 6 international awards. Shaunak received the IDFA Bertha Fund (2019), the Sundance Documentary Grant (2019), the Catapult Film Fund (2020), the Charles Wallace Grant, the Sarai CSDS Digital Media fellowship (2014), and the Films Division of India fellowship (2013). He was also a visiting scholar at Cambridge University (2018) and has published academic articles in Bioscope, Widescreen and other journals.

Teddy Leifer founded Rise Films in 2006. Its award-winning productions include The Invisible War (Oscar® nominee and Emmy® winner), The Interrupters (Emmy® winner), Icarus (Oscar® winner), Knuckle (Sundance world premiere), Dreamcatcher (Sundance winner), We Are Together (Tribeca winner), Rough Aunties (Sundance winner), The Human Factor (Telluride world premiere), Mayor (Peabody winner) and The Art of Political Murder (executive produced by George Clooney).

Teddy’s latest feature, All That Breathes directed by Shaunak Sen is the only film ever to have won both the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival – where the film premiered in 2022. His other recent productions include George Carlin’s American Dream, a two-part documentary for HBO directed by Judd Apatow, which just received five Emmy nominations and Once Upon A Time In Londongrad, a timely political about 14 mysterious UK deaths with alleged Russia links.

Teddy was recently listed in the 100 most innovative and influential people in British creative and media industries; by the Guardian newspaper. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America and BAFTA.


All That Breathes is a beautifully poetic, observational documentary exploring the environmental landscape of a polluted Delhi, through the lens of two muslim brothers working to rescue injured birds in the city. When asked about his ideation process, Shaunak responded “I was only sure that I didn’t want to make a nature doc… or a political film.. I had this vague texture in my head.. We had the triangulation of bird, man and air. Over time what emerged was the relationship of these 2 brothers and the black kite, which served as a lens to think about … the poetry of the apocalyptic nature of Delhi.”


Producer Teddy Leifer and his production company, Rise Films, took a gamble after hearing Shaunak’s pitch as someone who’d only directed one other film prior to ‘All That Breathes’. Talking on what urged Teddy to take on ‘All That Breathes’, Teddy commented “What stood out to me about meeting Shaunak was the extent to which he really had a complete vision for the film… and he was able to talk about it with a high degree of fluency.”


Unlike the classic narrator-led documentarys we see televised daily, All That Breathes takes a step back, with the camera following the brothers and their experience, allowing the story to unfold for itself. Watching the film, it becomes apparent that artistic cinematography was going to integral to Shaunak’s approach. Shaunak explained “I knew I wanted to use the tools of fiction to tell a non-fiction story… I knew I wanted to use cranes, tracks and really slow langorous moments… I really wanted to do something that felt aesthetically gratifying and beautiful.”

Finding a great cinematographer was key, as Shaunak later elaborated “It took long, painful Zoom conversations before I was able to convince (DoP Ben Bernhard) to come to India. Find the DoP who you think is just right, and not the DoP who is a friend”.


Continuining on from Shaunak’s advice on favouring compatibility in production over your personal relationships: “There were no egos in the way. We were all thinking about how can we make this thing as good as it can possibly be. It’s not always that way… If we can just have an honest conversation about the film and how to make it as good as possible, we’re on safe ground.”


‘All That Breathes” approach to sound is minimalistic, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the pitter patter of the animals, the low hum of the city and the candid conversations we get to witness. Shaunak iterated his distaste for composition in some films “I usually hate music that consolidates the emotions of the visual. If the two work together it’s usually not very interesting”. Instead, Shaunak dialed in on the diegetic elements: “The sound of skin and clothes rustling…is really important if you want to feel close to camera. For distance, remove this: (sound design) immediately accentuates what the focal length is doing”.


If you’re reading this as a documentary director, you sure as anything should watch the whole video, hell, if any of you are thinking of making a documentary, there’s so many things I can’t include in a brief write-up of the highlights.

Fundamentally, Shaunak’s nugget of advice was “Be open to the stuff that’s happening outside the frame of the camera and inside you, because everything is entangled.”

Whereas Teddy echoed “Recognise that time is your commodity. Try to spend it on things that are precious to you, and meaningful. Whether things go right or wrong, it’s time well spent. Never forget the element of luck, and if you don’t have it… sometimes it just doesn’t go your way and that’s ok”.

If you’re looking to join a production or start your own, become a member of the SP community.

John Addis: On Shooting with Mirrorless

Posted April 28th, 2022 by Jim Read

LUCKY BREAK, directed by SP member John Addis, was nominated for the BAFTA for best short film, and selected as the overall New Shoots winning film in 2021. We caught up with John to chat about his experience of creating this award-winning film, and what he has been up to since.

‘Lucky Break’ synopsis: Uloaku works the graveyard shift at a remote service station and is bored out of her mind. Fortunately a chance encounter with a suspicious stranger will soon fix that.

John Addis has worked in the film industry for over 10 years, predominantly as an Editor in features and a Writer/Director on micro budget short films, music promos and other commercial work. His interview is a candid take on challenges faced in the writing and shooting process – most of you will relate to how dealing with unexpected glitches might make for a better film.

John speaks about how ‘Lucky Break’ was written to be something self contained and achievable on a low budget. “I’d written a comedy feature which was going nowhere (because it was overblown and not very good) so I knew I needed to write something simpler and shorter,” says John. “By constraining myself to one location and a few characters it actually made the writing process a lot more fun.”  Because the film is so contained it’s all about the performances. The casting definitely made the film, with on-screen talent being Jessye Romeo, Steve Oram and Diana Weston.

“If we hadn’t got the right cast it would have all been for nothing so I’m forever grateful to them for being so willing to work on it,” says John.

On SP, some of the most useful discussions come from people sharing experiences of things that didn’t work out on a film or a big challenge they had to overcome. Interestingly, the biggest challenges on ‘Lucky Break’ came after the film was shot. “We shot the whole thing in two days then I went back to my day job for a week and detached from it for a bit. When I came to start editing I realised the middle section didn’t work and I was devastated.” In the original script Steve Oram’s character disappears and we stay with Jessye as Diana keeps berating her. “In the edit I found it sapped all the energy out of it. It was nothing to do with the performances, it just wasn’t fun anymore,” he explains.

They made it work with a swift reshoot in the toilets at the company John worked for at the time. This goes to show how being adaptable is a key part of the creative process, and it really doesn’t finish once you’ve shot the film (although it’s certainly a big ‘phew’ moment).

John’s background is actually in editing, and he did admit that he is no stranger to imposter syndrome when it comes to directing. His way around this is extensive prep. “By storyboarding then shooting little tests on phones I try to work out ahead of time what works and what doesn’t so we can go into the shoot with a clear idea of exactly what we need,” he says.

However, John’s experience in post-production and his editing skills are proving to be a real asset to his directing. “When it comes to editing, I’ve always edited the films I directed so I actually think I’d struggle more if I didn’t.” Whilst the ‘we’ll fix it in post’ attitude can just be a way of delaying your problems and adding more work in the future, editing is also your chance to salvage all those things you got wrong on the shoot. “I know people say it’s a bad idea to edit films you’ve directed because you can’t detach from the logistics of the shoot and I think they are right,” John explains. “I guess I just fell into it because of my background but I’d love to try working with an editor.”

Ultimately, ‘Lucky Break’ was made as a result of rejection (and John’s strategic approach to writing the screenplay with the budget in mind). “My first draft of ‘Lucky Break’ got included in the BFI Network short film fund but ultimately wasn’t selected for funding. This was a massive blow to my confidence but by that stage I’d already worked on it for a while,” he says. In the end John was able to fund the film himself because he’d intentionally designed it to be achievable on a low budget.

“It was obviously a gamble but at the time I just really needed to go out and film something! Knockbacks are inevitable. I know it’s easy to say, but if you really want to make something you have to keep going.”

A little bonus from John about what’s coming up for him: “I’m really excited to use the Nikon Z 6II movie kit. The thing I like most about it is how portable it is. I’m currently prepping for another directing job which will require lots of shooting on city streets at night so the camera and accessories [that John won as the overall 2021 winner of NS: Filmmakers] are perfect for this. If we were using a bulkier setup we’d really struggle to get through it but the Nikon Z 6II was made for this kind of location shooting and the thing I like most about it is how portable it is.”

John won the Z 6II Essential Movie Kit. This year’s overall winner will win the all new Z 9 camera body plus memory card, valued at over £5000.



Posted April 21st, 2022 by Jim Read

For our second New Shoots event of 2022 – SP’s Cath Le Couteur welcomed two incredible cinematographers, Tom Townend and Annika Summerson, for an online Q&A focusing on all things cinematography. While very different in experience, the two collectively shared some incredible insight, including how they go about their relationships with directors, the importance of storyboards, what it’s like working with actors and so much more.

If you missed the Q&A or you simply want to hear all their top tips again, then you can re-watch it here.


Tom (pictured left) / Annika (pictured right)

Both Tom and Annika have shot iconic features, but bring two very different perspectives to the world of cinematography.

Tom has a long-standing creative partnership with director Lynne Ramsay and was nominated for the BIFA for Best Cinematography for You Were Never Really Here (starring Joaquin Phoenix). His layered visual approach has been featured in British Cinematographer, including stunning work on Attack the Block (starring John Boyega) and We Need to Talk About Kevin (starring Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller).

Swedish-born Annika recently received the Sue Gibson Cinematography Award for her work on Mogul Mowgli (starring Riz Ahmed). An NFTS graduate, Annika also gained invaluable experience working for cinematography legend Christopher Doyle. She has picked up multiple awards for her work, including her latest feature Censor (BFI/ Film4/ Film Wales), which was shot on 35mm and premiered at Sundance in January 2021 to great acclaim.


Annika commented “You have directors that only care about the actors, then you have directors that want to direct the film to every millimetre. It’s important to know where they’re going to sit… You want to be on the same team.”

Moreover, she delved into how this unfolded on her work with Mogul Mowgli – “I had never met Bassan [Tariq] before. He came over and I had 4 weeks prep, twenty days shoot and that was it. We had to find a language very quickly. When you have that little prep, you have to see locations, do equipment lists, get a crew who you have to convince to be on the shoot yourself.”


Anyone who’s worked in film will know – things rarely ever go quite as planned. Tom explained “There is a gulf of understanding between what I like and being able to achieve that myself… A really successful day’s shooting is when I feel like what I shot matched what I wanted it to look like in my imagination before it started”.


Annika shared some of her process: “I do have a built-in preference: lenses that are not so clean, things that are imperfect. I like old lenses. But I tend to also swap… on each project.”

She also talked about changing up camera and lighting lists: “Someone said you should take a job either because you get to try something new, or to meet someone brilliant, or to make money…I think it’s very important to keep trying something new, even if its a new head or a new light. And who better to ask than your gaffer or grip: what are the cool things that can make my life easier?”

Likewise, Annika highlighted “There’s a lot of things that have made things easier for shooting. Even if you can’t afford something now,, in a few years time you probably can, or you can convince production that you can.


Turning to the relationship between the DP and actors, Annika described this as “…it’s a little bit of a hostage situation – they’ve got their looks in your hands… There are lots of actors that want to help you and they really want to make a good product. I like the chemistry you can get from certain actors you get along with, especially when you’re operating handheld… it’s an amazing feeling. Then, there are actors that have no idea of cameras – then you just have to be patient.”

Tom then added “There is a huge range of technical understanding and people can be anywhere on the spectrum and it’s not necessarily commensurate with experience. Some people can be really intuitive, some are really ‘easy’, they always look great.”

He went on to share about his experience working on You Were Never Really Here: “Joaquin Phoenix was someone that for the first time ever I came on with an element of reverence… he was very good at expunging cliche at a script level…. And then when we came to shoot he was given incredibly free reign to the point where it felt like we were shooting a documentary. I went with it… ultimately his were the right decisions”


There’s so many departments involved when choosing locations – primarily directors and art departments, but inherently different locations can prove more difficult for cinematographers.

Annika explained how she supports location choice as a DP: “if the location is too small – in London flats for example,  as long as you explain your reasons, it can be ok. You have to go in and explain why you can’t get a wide shot, or it’s too high up. You have to put your reasoning behind why and then people will understand.”

Tom elaborated “You have to pick your battles and weigh up whether it’s worth making the case for or against a location… it can be heartbreaking… you have to couch your argument [as], this will take away money, this will take away time.”


Annika suprised us all when she shed light on the fact she rarely uses storyboards: “Now I tend to only storyboard action and VFX scenes so all of the department knows what’s going to happen. All the other scenes we work out either the night before or on the day. Specialist shots, I have to have a shortlist for so I can plan my equipment, but I very rarely shotlist a whole film beforehand.”

Tom on the other hand is strongly committed to storyboards and shortlists: “[Having a storyboard] – it’s really good, not only creatively but also for everyone to understand that it is being achieved, that you are moving at the correct pace.” He went on to explain “I like to have a shortlist tucked in my back pocket. Something I will have gone through the night before with the director… when I worked with Lynne [Ramsay] we would shortlist the night before and have a giggle about what would be a cool approach…”


Tom and Annika share a preference for single-camera shoots, Tom went on to say “I tend to think editorially – what is going to be the sequence of shots? I don’t like the idea you’re going to hose everything down… with two-hundred cameras. But when you shotlist, you think there will be an opportunity for a B camera. I hate shooting cross coverage – I think there’s more creative ways to use a B or C camera. In terms of using lighting, things look best if you can shoot from one angle”

Annika chimed in to say “it takes a while to get used to… you can’t do a wide then a tight [because of sound]… all these things I had to learn on the spot. It was quite stressful but in TV, unless you’re doing a very specific style that you fight for, then they would want you to have two cameras so you can shoot dialogue quickly”

Ultimately, Tom explained “you can utilise two or maybe three cams all at same time if you’ve committed to “meat and potato” coverage. But if you want to create more elegant blocking where camera movement is telling the story along with people in the space, more often than not, that neuters the need for a second camera. I like single cameras”


We know that many of you come to New Shoots for solid career advice, and our cinematography event did not disappoint. Tom said: “Your allies as a cinematographer, the people who will be instrumental in stuff that looks great, are people like the 1st AD or the line producer. When you meet people who are real pros, then you can have a frank discussion with them about the schedule and what’s essential’


Our thanks to Annika and Tom for sharing their perspectives and experiences on camerawork and lighting – the experience you both shared was invaluable and the support is truly appreciated from the community.

If you’re looking to get involved with a production why not become a SP member or subscribe to the newsletter to keep up to date about future NEW SHOOTS events.

Bryan M. Ferguson: On Making It As an Indie Music Video Director and Surrealism in Horror

Posted March 14th, 2022 by Jim Read

Hey shooters,

Some of you may have seen we’ve been running our SP Spotlight on Facebook and Instagram for SP members to share their successes and celebrate our community’s wins.

If you’ve ever wondered how to break into music video from a career founded on making films about self-amputation and belly-button fetishists, how to project on to a fog screen all using practical effects or how to approach big bands, read on about how Bryan approaches his brilliant work in surrealist horror and music.

This month, we’re focusing in on Bryan M. Ferguson, honing in on his work in surrealist horror and music video, ahead of his retrospective at LSFF on the 19th.

Going through your music videography, you’ve managed to maintain a really strong voice that makes this a distinctly “Bryan M Ferguson” video – to start, how did you get into directing music videos, did you already have the contacts in the music industry or did you hunt down the ones you wanted?

I had no contacts in the music industry whatsoever. I was working a 9-5 in a depressing office while making my weirdo short films in between and on weekends, then one day I get a random e-mail from Helen Marnie of Ladytron asking if I’d make a music video for their comeback album. It was just total luck after years of plugging away and hoping for someone to give a shit. It was one of the scariest things to do because I had no experience of making a music video at that time, so I went big on a really low budget because I didn’t know if I’d get another chance to do it.

Since then I’ve worked on many music videos, some through contacts that I’ve developed over the course of my career so far but I’ve also hunted down bands/artists either through their management or directly via social media and you’d be surprised how chancing your arm and forcing your work into the eyes of other people through twitter or instagram can really help get your foot further in the door. I’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of bands I really love.

You mentioned Ladytron scouted you? Any idea on how they found your work?

From what I know, someone who followed my work on instagram who was friends with the band and recommended me. I’m not sure what they saw in my early films (self-amputation, belly button fetishists and chlorine ingestion cults) that made them go, “yup, that’s the guy!”, but I really owe them so much for giving me that break and allowing me to start a career and make the work I’ve always thrived to make and experiment.

Obviously every shoot is going to be different, but what I noticed is that consistetly every music video you direct has an off-kilter unsettling feel to it. Do you typically get pitched the idea or get complete creative control?

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been given creative control – I’ve never really been given a brief. The majority of times I’ve been allowed the freedom to pitch my idea after listening to the track over and over.

Once the band like the pitch, you go shoot it then it becomes a bit more of a collaboration when you start to shape the video in the edit.

You recently dropped your music video for LOVE IS VIOLENCE with Alice Glass, to me, it really seemed to tap into the whole moral panic surrounding goth/punk subcultural scenes and their followers, was this just my reading of this or was it a conscious choice?

It wasn’t something I was consciously doing – with LOVE IS VIOLENCE I wanted to channel something that was a mix of a modern music video with the aesthetics of one from the early 00s (the mood setting introduction, the clip of Alice’s last single playing on the television) which is when the video is supposed to be set. The same era where I was a 15 year old goth, sitting bored, disaffected and flicking through music channels.

However now that you mention the moral panic, that was quite rife during that time because rock/nu metal/punk was kinda blowing up and dominating radios, so maybe it was something that was gestating subconsciously. That said however, I just wanted to make a really sick video were kids rip out their own guts.

In a lot of your music videos, I’ve noticed you use a lot of VCR shots which creates a great dissonance of including the icons behind the music and also outputting an independent narrative within them – I expect this is pretty challenging to do – what kind of equipment/setup do you use for this?

I love old tech – it just looks so much better. I have a disdain for modern technology in films, it just looks so boring. To capture a lot of the VCR imagery I try to avoid composites of TVs that are done in post and have the images on the televisions on the day of shooting.

I actually sometimes use an old CCTV camera that’s hooked up to it’s own monitor that I bought from eBay, it gives a really great texture to the images. For principal photography we usually shoot with a Blackmagic Ursa mini pro G2 to capture the CRT screens without flicker.

I’ve got to ask, the Fair Game video – how on earth did you get that smoke projection to look like that? I assumed it was VFX until I watched it back.

Yeah, a lot of people initially think it was VFX but I’m kinda old fashioned and push to do everything practically (mainly because I have no knowledge of VFX or how they work). We got in touch with a guy who owned a fog screen, which is sort of like a wall of fog made with water vapour then we’d project Alice’s face from behind. For her face to appear in mid-air, we’d use this huge industrial fog machine pipe that when you fogged up the projection beam Alice’s face would materialise in thin air like a ghost, it was insane to see in person.

You seem to have made a real name for yourself within darkwave music, was this intentional or have you found yourself just naturally gravitating towards this?

Darkwave is the music I tend to listen to the most, so it’s just a natural gravitation, it also helps that my visual style melds well with that sort of sound, it’s also those tends to be the bands that I hunt down to work with. There’s something really cinematic about the sound too.

As a big horror fan, a lot of your work really impressed me and was distinguishably different in how it leaves the viewers with brainworms about the reality of these narratives being possible – where do you find inspiration for these sorts of things?

I honestly don’t know, my brain is just wired a certain way. Like everyone else, I find inspiration comes from every possible source imaginable and my brain tends to sort of distort whatever mundane thought or interaction I’ve had into something that’s a little bit fucked up. I love perverting the perception of something that’s completely normal. I have a million ideas that twist the ideas of everything from hand dryers to cotton buds. Unfortunately these are the ideas that no one really wants to commission and you get asked if you’re nuts a lot.

Film festival fainting – have you ever found the backlash from being directorially known for being so gory loses you opportunities? How did you go about finding platforms like Short Acts which would be
willing to take the gamble with their audience?

Absolutely – you get pigeonholed fairly quickly which is crazy because people have this idea that my work is “gory” but the only time in my 10+ year career that I’ve explicitly shown any gore was literally this year with Alice Glass’ LOVE IS VIOLENCE. I come from a place where the less you show the better. The fainting at the screening of FLAMINGO was purely gaps being filled in by the viewer’s imagination. In the film there’s literally a red censor bar obscuring anything nasty from view because nothing I can show the viewer will be half as awful as what their own mind will conjure up.

But alas I still miss out on opportunities purely because I make work that can sometimes make people feel uncomfortable. On the plus side, I get work a lot of work for that very reason and it means a client, production company or band know what they’re in for and I can have my bloody fingerprints all over what I make without any real interference.

Getting SATANIC PANIC ’87 made through Channel 4’s Random Acts was a 3 year process, pitching, convincing, meeting with and change of commissioning heads were all factors but I eventually wore them
down and they took a chance on me to make something pretty manic and were completely hands off and encouraging. It was great to see a platform that big allow me to explore granny murder and possessed arm chairs that become portals to hell.

Red Room – as far as I’m aware this was your first time adapting a book (Bitterhall) – how did this differ from your other shorts where you were also the writer behind your work?

When I was asked to adapt Bitterhall I jumped at the chance because it’s important to me as a filmmaker to constantly challenge myself and experiment as much as I can. I had never adapted anything before, the idea in the past was quite daunting but I found it really exciting to take someone’s ideas and sculpt them into something that was partially mine and creating a sort of mutant child from the minds of two people that work in different fields.

It was tough because the book is quite dense with a roshomonesque three point perspective narrative, so to condense that into a short that was initially commissioned as a 5 minute film was nearly impossible, it really had to be 15 minutes to get some semblance of what the book is conveying. So I basically dogeared the book and highlighted everything that excited me and then started to construct my own companion narrative into a more condensed story that leaned heavily on atmosphere.

Also on Red Room, it felt distinctly less visceral/manical than your previous work, really playing up on psychological/paranormal horror opposed to your other short work which has really played into the
fears that this could, quite literally, be real – is this something you see yourself tapping into more?

Definitely something I want to explore more, I’m very much two filmmakers trapped inside one suit of flesh. One is this complete live wire who wants to rip through set and make the most crazy fucking thing I can and the other side is more contemplative, psychologically fucked up. This can be seen in Flamingo, albeit a more visceral film but still taps into a subculture that exists with fears that are real.

With Red Room, I really wanted to test myself and show restraint. It was a challenge to hold back and explore different avenues. To show a side of me that can really play with stripped back paranoid camera set ups with atmosphere and performances over manic energy. I think a lot of people will be surprised by my first feature which I’m currently developing with Screen Scotland/BFI.

What’s really stuck out to me with a lot of your work, is that you’ve managed to evade the typical pitfall of horror where people use scores to build tension, when really it just makes it guesswork to when the climax actually will be – do you work on your own sound design? Is sound design something you pre-empt or mostly complete within the edit process?

I’ve always edited my own stuff which means over the years doing my own sound design has become part of the process. Editing is my favourite part of the entire process and I love ripping out all of the sound and creating it all from scratch, building the soundscape of the world you’re building. Some sound cues are scripted or ideas I have when writing and other times it’s something that organically happens when cutting. I always want to transgress the filmmaking formula.

If you’re interested in being spotlighted, why not submit your short?

Similarly, if you’re interested in hearing more from Bryan – grab your tickets for his retrospective at LSFF ‘Irregular Atrocities’ on the 19th of March.

To connect with shooters like Bryan and other great filmmakers – join the SP community today!


Posted January 20th, 2022 by Jim Read

For our first NEW SHOOTS event of the year SP’s Cath Le Couteur was joined for a special online Q&A with the team behind BAFTA longlisted feature THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN- writer and director Will Sharpe, and production designer Suzie Davies. The pair shared amazing insights into the relationship between the Director and Production Designer, as well as great advice on how to develop the look of your film, visual storytelling (including the use of VFX vs in camera), locations, and working with actors. 

If you missed the Q&A or you simply want to hear all their top tips again, then you can re-watch it here.


Will Sharpe made a name for himself with his BAFTA nominated debut feature BLACK POND and for writing, directing, and starring in the BAFTA nominated comedy-drama series FLOWERS, opposite Olivia Colman and Julian Barratt. Will most recently wrote and directed the critically acclaimed four-part drama, LANDSCAPERS, starring Olivia Colman and David Thewlis, and you might also recognise him for his BAFTA winning role as Rodney in the brilliant series GIRI/HAJI. 

Suzie Davies got her first job on a feature film through SP back in 2008, and has since had an illustrious career across film and TV, and is perhaps best known for her BAFTA and OSCAR nominated production design on Mike Leigh’s award winning films MR TURNER and PETERLOO.


Co-written and directed by Will Sharpe, the film is based on the extraordinary true story of eccentric British artist Louis Wain (Cumberbatch), whose playful, sometimes even psychedelic pictures helped to transform the public’s perception of cats forever. It has an all star cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Toby Jones, Richard Ayoade, Nick Cave and the Oscar winning director Taika Waititi. The film had its World Premiere at The Telluride Film Festival before screening at TIFF and it has just been longlisted for a grand total of 5 BAFTA awards, including Outstanding British Film, Production Design, Costume Design, Original Score and Hair & Make up. The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain is in cinemas now, and we can’t recommend it enough.

Right off the bat, we found out that Suzie began her career as an SP member:

“I did my first feature film via Shooting People: I found the ad wanting a production designer in 2008. It was quite a young team…you didn’t have the heavy responsibility of a Disney or a Netflix behind you at that stage” 

Speaking on getting hired for The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, Will explained:

“I did feel it was a step up for me. I had to really pitch and pitch and pitch my heart out. I really had to prove that I wanted to do it,  that I had a plan for it and that I knew what I was doing. I guess why it worked out was, I cared so much about Louis Wain. I guess to them it felt like I had the keys to his head, or his heart.”

Moreover, when asked about sticking to his vision as a director, Will continued:

“I think you can be really quite bullish about it… People will respect that if you’re not doing it in a defensive way, and if you’re right.”

Suzie talked about the key challenges for production designers:

“The challenges are nearly always the same. It’s the schedule, the script and the money. Before you even start the job you realise you’ll never have enough money, the schedule will always change…and the script gets rewritten… but if you’ve prepped well enough then you can catch those three things.”

Suzie also explained what it’s like working with a limited budget and a tight schedule as a Production Designer:

“[they] Become boundaries that help you inform your design. I looked for the cheaper way because I had to – I couldn’t afford the expensive way.. and actually I really embrace the boundaries that I’m given as otherwise I have too many ideas.”

Once we got on to the topic of acting, Will surprised us about how his experience as an actor informs his casting process:

“I don’t think it makes much difference that I also act…Every actor is different and that’s what rehearsal is really good for… to get a sense of each other and what peoples’ language is”

Furthermore, we also discussed Will’s approach to screenwriting…

“There are … different kinds of films I think, if you want to write a commercial film, you’ll probably best to beat it out beforehand so that you’ve got very clean, structure… whereas if it’s more of a sort of character study or something more arthouse that maybe isn’t really about plot, and it’s more experimental… I tend to do at least some planning, but then often I’ll get stuck on the planning. And so I’ll start writing to try and solve the planning, and then I’ll get stuck on the writing so I’ll go back to the planning and vice versa.”

Finally, Suzie shared her best advice for how to get into the film industry:

“The beauty of our industry is that anything goes. Whatever ignites you to make something, follow it… you’ll learn something new on every job. It’s about understanding the filming etiquette, you’ll only learn that by doing it.”

And Will also shared his top tip for working in film:

“If you wanna be a filmmaker, just make films…people will watch them.”

These quotes are just the tip of the iceberg, re-watch the whole Q&A to hear more about the impact of VFX on the art department, how they achieved that hyper-psychedelic look in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, Will’s work on Landscapers and Flowers, and so much more.

Huge thanks to Will and Suzie for continuing to champion independent filmmaking and for generously sharing his wisdom with the community. Become a SP member or subscribe to the newsletter to keep up to date about future NEW SHOOTS events.

Making Films with Mirrorless Cameras: Behind the Scenes on ‘A to B’

Posted December 9th, 2021 by molly

Earlier this year, we joined SP member, Sundance director and New Shoots alumni Eleanor Mortimer on location at Victoria Park, London, as she filmed her new documentary.  

Eleanor took a break from shooting to tell us how, using Nikon’s Z 6II mirrorless camera, she created a unique study of the relationship between humans, nature and public space. 

Filmmaker Eleanor Mortimer

What film are you working on? 

I’m making a short documentary, which at the moment is called ‘A to B’. It’s a film about going backwards.

How did you come up with the idea?

It’s inspired by a brilliant person called Akira, who I met one winter morning as he was casually walking backwards through the park. After learning about his reasons for doing it I wanted to make a film with him and other backwards-movers, about the nature of how we move through public spaces. Going backwards feels to me like a small but powerfully rebellious act in a society which values forward momentum & progress, because it challenges perceived ideas of how we move from ‘A to B’. I wanted to explore this through observing Akira and others moving through the shared space of the park and speaking to them about why they do it and how they’re feeling.

Eleanor Mortimer shooting “A to B” feat. Akira
Taken from “A to B” dir. Eleanor Mortimer

What kind of techniques are you using to tell the story and why?

I have chosen to tell this story in a really simple way, embracing the spirit of ‘encounter’ in a public place as well as the sensation of movement. I will observe Akira and others while they move backwards, following them with the camera, moving at their pace (but forwards!). During this time, I might ask them to talk to me, in an informal non-structured way. I read somewhere (I think it was Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Field Guide to Getting Lost’) that walking pace matches our thinking pace, so I liked the idea of filming people walking backwards while voicing their thoughts.

From “A to B” dir. Eleanor Mortimer

What camera are you shooting on today and with what kind of lens? 

I’m shooting on the Nikon Z 6II and 24-70mm f/4 lens courtesy of Nikon. As someone used to lugging around bigger cameras I am so grateful to have this camera for this project, as it allows me to be more mobile.

Eleanor using the Nikon Z 6II

What’s it like working with a mirrorless camera? 

This camera is ideal for this project. It’s small, light and unobtrusive, allowing me to film in a public space without drawing too much attention. It’s much easier to work collaboratively with someone without the barrier of a huge camera and lens. The camera has a good stabilising function and a lovely image as well.

Eleanor’s documentary was filmed using the Nikon Z 6II Essential Movie Kit

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve got in front of you to shoot your film? 

The challenge of making an unfunded project is finding enough time to devote to it around paid work. This is the main challenge I have as a filmmaker. When you embark on a film, you get obsessed with it and you want to dedicate yourself to it completely. But more often than not creative short films are low-budget or no-budget, which means you have to take breaks to make money elsewhere, through teaching and other commissions. Getting this balance right is really hard, and you can definitely end up being burnt out trying to do too much!

What are your filmmaking plans for the future?

I’m developing my first feature which is about deep-sea taxonomists (people who discover new animals), so I will be working on that for the next year or so, thanks to a development grant from the Sundance / Sandbox fund. I’ve got a few other science-related ideas and I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into more films which explore the way we relate to each other and to the natural world. We’re living through very uncertain times and we’re all looking for new ways to understand the world that are outside of the logic of capitalism. I’m drawn to tell stories which offer hope and a different way of imagining our future.

How has being involved in SP helped you?  

Shooting People is a valuable community hub which provides a much-needed support network for independent filmmakers. The film world is not an easy one to navigate, and being able to reach out and find crew members or learn of others’ experiences is so important.The daily bulletins are also a really good roundup of opportunities out there for filmmakers.

From “A to B” dir. Eleanor Mortimer

Big thanks to Nikon for supporting indie filmmakers and helping to launch innovative projects like A to B. You can find out more about the Z 6II movie kit used by Eleanor here. Don’t forget to also enter your own film into New Shoots: Filmmakers, where winning filmmakers will receive their own Z Series camera from Nikon.