Guest Blog: Alex Winckler

Posted February 9th, 2017 by Matt Turner

Now in it’s 10th year, Film London’s Microwave scheme commissions two £100k budgeted features each year. We spoke with two SP members with projects selected for the scheme. The first was with director Ryan Vernava, and below is our second, with writer and director Alex Winckler.

Alex is involved in Microwave with two producers, Maria Forsstrom and Jude Goldstrei. Their film, Smalltown Boy is “a rite of passage story about a different type of skinhead.”

Alex’s path to Microwave has been relatively smooth, a credit to his talent and work ethic. “I graduated from film school in 2007 and have been working in TV as a director since about 2009, working in TV comedy and on shows like My Mad Fat Diary for E4. I met Jude on my short film Ralph back in 2008 through the the UK Film Council’s Short Film Completion Fund. We then met again about two years ago on a scheme called Vipers Nest run by Samantha Horley and teamed up to work on a feature written by Nick Payne, which we are developing with Creative England. Jude and Maria worked together on several shorts and Maria came on board because she really responded to the subject matter. Maria is developing features both here and in Finland.”

Alex and co’s project is exactly the sort of film Microwave benefits, something that might struggle to attract investor attention usually, but deserves making. “The story is about is a very macho angry young trans guy from a small town and his friendship with a bullied teenage boy. It’s sort of Moonlight meets This Is England. It’s been heavily researched over many years but the world has changed quite a lot while I’ve been writing it. It has also changed as different collaborators came on board but, however lengthy the development process has been, I think it has improved through it.

This development has continued through Microwave, opening new doors that previous work on it had not revealed. “I think the opportunity to spend time with the team has been valuable and the mentors were very helpful. The highlight was probably the directing actors workshop. The actors Microwave brought in through Shaheen Baig were all gifted improvisers, so we got to pull the scenes apart and try them different ways. It was a really playful way of developing a script and revealed things I hadn’t really anticipated.”

Having worked across shorts and TV, and now moving into feature development, Alex has a perspective on the differences between the forms. Shorts and features are “both very different from TV, which works over a much broader canvas and where the director has a slightly different role. Shorts and features are both much more director driven and more distilled in story terms. A big difference between shorts and features is that features have to compete in a commercial environment so you are subject to a slightly different set of pressures, namely: how is the film going to stand out and where does it fit in to a saturated landscape? I’m not sure that I find the pressure very helpful as a writer but it is a reality. Shorts just have to be good whereas features, if the director is an unknown, have to be good and have something that captures the imagination in the premise, even with smaller microbudget or art house films. ”

Alex identifies a great change in the landscape of independent film at the moment, one that’s difficult to pin down whilst sitting in the midst of it “In commercial terms it’s probably harder than it has ever been but at least the technology to make films has never been more accessible. Also, hopefully, the streaming services that have shattered the traditional financing and distribution structures will also provide opportunities for Independent filmmakers to reach audiences on smaller screens more easily. I think Microwave is great for recognition because it gives your film a certain amount of industry profile as well as providing an introduction to the public funders.”

“The world is changing in quite a remarkable way at the moment so it does follow that there will be an appetite for new stories that will reflect this. I think my optimism lies in the fact that people will have an appetite to see the uncertainty around them reflected on their screens and it feels like independent cinema will always be better equipped to do this than the more imitative industrial models of studio filmmaking.”

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