The Artist, His Mother And The Run Down Seaside Town…

Posted November 28th, 2018 by Ben

If you are reading on Shooting People the chances are you are currently writing your debut feature film. Let’s face it, everyone is, so no matter if you’re reading this in the front of your cab or on a break before serving more flat whites, you’re still probably writing your debut feature film (or hope you are).

You are not alone. Or to make the same point less comfortingly, you are not unique. So how do you make your first script stand out from the crowd? Well, it helps if you know where the crowd is standing… (or sitting staring at a laptop).

An awful image.

Isn’t it just fucking awful what happens when type “writer” into google image search? When did “writer” become a synonym for “prick”?

I recently had the privilege of voting in the British Independent Film Awards’ Debut Screenwriting category. The BIFAs are committed to diversity and championing new talent; the entrants vary wildly in budget, ambition and quality and so offer a fantastic snap shot of our industry. Between us, my brother and I watched all of the 44 films from first time writers that came out in the last year (and that someone involved thought might be worthy of a prize…) So before you return to your unfinished draft you should be aware of some fascinating trends both on the debut writer’s page and beyond it…

Of those writers whose first full feature scripts became films in the past year, 95% were white, 84% were men and 78% were both. 25% wrote in partnerships (55 writers were credited), 73% were writer directors and perhaps more surprisingly 18% were writer actors. If this year was notable for anything it was the number of name-actors making their writer/director debuts.

With such a homogeneity of author, it’s no surprise that creative trends emerge. Just under a third of the films focussed on a young man, nearly two thirds of those a young man pursuing an artistic ambition. “Write what you know” was surely never meant to be taken quite so literally.

30% were set in London. More surprisingly 14% were set by the seaside, though I suspect that’s a quirk, like last year’s spike of films set on farms.

23% made the lead character question their sanity. 20% featured troubled violent men. 18% involved suicide. 11% involved women who are unexpectedly violent and an almost non-contingent 11% feature child abuse (mainly historic). 9% revolved around some sort of revenge for war crimes.

Lumping films together like this always sounds critical. To be clear, many tackle these themes with subtlety, eloquence and power. If you have to choose between originality and quality, always pick quality. However even truth sounds tired when repeated. The more a theme is worked the harder it becomes to make the material evoke a response and the easier it becomes to slip into cliché. This was especially clear in the 41% of films to feature terrible parenting. For every three-dimensional adult struggling to come good on their responsibilities, there were many more monstrous caricatures only there to justify the lead character’s own failings.

If the preponderance of bad parents felt lazy, what felt shocking was that of those there were two dads, two uncles and then 14 films about some truly awful mothers. This goes alongside 11 films (25%) where a father was shown in a positive light, either solving problems or quietly understanding in a way no one else did. All versus a single film that went out of its way to give us a positive view of a mum.

In the wake of #metoo it is notable that just under a quarter of debuting screenwriters are men writing about the negative influence of a mother (half of those in a run down British costal resort). And before we all throw up our hands and say how broken our system is, it’s worth repeating that the I in BIFA stands for Independent and only 30% of these films were made with any support from the British film industry establishment (broadcasters, state, mini-studios etc).

It is also worth realising that because of the turnaround time for most projects, I expect we have yet to see the impact of #metoo on the screen. These scripts are likely to have been amongst the last green lit before that tide burst. Even so, as you settle down to crack your difficult third act this morning, take a look at your own first screenplay. Does it have to be set by the sea? Is she really to blame?

Everyman announces Crystal Palace cinema will reopen after 50-year absence this November

Posted October 22nd, 2018 by Helen Jack

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Much to the delight of many local residents who have campaigned tirelessly for over nine years, Everyman Cinemas will reopen the fully refurbished venue in South London’s Crystal Palace, fifty years after the previous cinema closed its doors.

After the tireless efforts by the Picture Palace Campaign to have the building returned to its former use, Everyman Cinemas exchanged contracts on the building earlier this year and are soon to complete the restoration and refurbishment of the venue.

“The response from the community in Crystal Palace has been incredible”, says Crispin Lilly from Everyman. “We know it’s something that they’ve campaigned for and it’s such a storied building so we can’t wait to do it justice.”

Annabel Sidney, Chair of Picture Palace Campaign said: “When I organised the first meeting of what became the Picture Palace Campaign back in June 2009, I never dreamt it would take so long to get our cinema back. The first meeting attracted 45 people. A public meeting we held in the Queens hotel, Crystal Palace just a few months later would attract over 1,000.”

“Lots of lasting friendships have been formed. The Campaign would like to thank everyone who supported us – people who signed petitions, put campaign cards through people’s doors, attended Bromley council planning committee meetings etc etc – and, last but not least, a huge thank you to Everyman, who prove that dreams can come true.”

The new Crystal Palace Everyman Cinema will open to the public on 15 November. To find out more about their upcoming programme, click here.

Rich Mix London – Great Upcoming Events

Posted October 13th, 2018 by Helen Jack


As The 62nd BFI London Film Festival enters full swing, our SHORT CUTS venue partner Rich Mix London invites you to enjoy the glitz, glamour and great stories of one of the world’s most wide-reaching film festivals. But the fun won’t stop with the end of LFF, because Rich Mix has a whole season of festivals that will take you right through November.

Next up will be Film Africa 2018, opening on Friday 2 November. With up to 10 days of screenings, Q&As, debate, live music and parties, discover incredible new African new waves like Wanuri Kahiu’s incredible, Kenyan LGBT drama Rafiki.


Then Doc’n Roll Film Festival will be making a two night stop on its UK-wide tour, and giving you the chance to enjoy two incredible music documentaries as they were intended – loud!

As part of Rich Mix’s growing commitment to female filmmakers, they’ll also be welcoming in Underwire Film Festival, the UK’s largest film festival celebrating women working across the film crafts, from Saturday 17 November. Particularly exciting will be standout events co-hosted by Bechdel Test Fest and Short of the Week…

Plus, if you’re involved in the film education in Tower Hamlets, Rich Mix is also hosting Into Film Festival, which is running lots of free screenings to help with the education and personal development of people under the age of 19.


So whether you’re looking to see the latest life-changing blockbuster months before it’s out, share formative film experiences, or discover and support world perspectives you wouldn’t normally see, Rich Mix has got everything you could possibly want to see this autumn.

How Can Zipcar Help Filmmakers? In Lots of Ways. We Find out How.

Posted October 10th, 2018 by Helen Jack

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“Having a strict budget and short notice period is something many filmmakers face, so our account managers are prepared to find the best solutions within budget and time restraints.” 

A really valuable sponsor to us for this year’s inaugural SHORT CUTS Film Competition has been Zipcar. They were a company we were really keen to work with because their focus of using technology to solve a problem (decrease congestion in big cities by increasing car sharing) really spoke to us and the values of Shooting People. We’re big believers in connecting people, facilitating collaboration and keeping things affordable for creatives, and Zipcar encapsulates all of this for us. SHORT CUTS is about helping filmmakers develop their career, and we feel that offering affordable and flexible transport solutions is invaluable.

Some of you will already be Zipcar users. Some just have a sense of what the service offers. Some will be complete newbies and want to know more. So, we sat down and talked with Zipcar Partnership Executive, Norbert Toth, and asked him to give our members more insight into why Zipcar offers great opportunities for filmmakers, and in particular, how it can make your shoots more sustainable.

SP: We have a lot of jobs posted to Shooting People that require those applying to have access to a car – and as we know, a lot of people living in cities don’t own a car because of the expense. How do you think Zipcar’s short-term vehicle rental could change the landscape for indie film productions?

NT: London is exploding with opportunities for emerging filmmakers. Communities like Shooting People are a great place to find these in increasing numbers. But as opportunities have grown, so has competition. This means that having access to a vehicle has become essential to get a competitive edge when applying for these roles. But for someone just starting out in this field, owning a car – let alone a van – is simply not an option. We found that filmmakers love to use solutions like car sharing because they get the flexibility of car ownership (booking last minute, proximity, taking and returning it at any time) and the benefit of not having to worry about overhead costs. Having business insurance built into the rates has also had an overwhelmingly positive response from filmmakers in particular.

SP: Why should filmmakers and actors use Zipcar to get to their shoot or casting session rather than using a rival service such as Uber?

NT: Zipcar is working with thousands of filmmakers in London alone. This gives us a great insight into how this segment uses transport. In most cases, Zipcar simply fits their needs better then alternative solutions. Like when they are returning a van in the middle of the night after a long shoot or need a van for only 2 hours to get some equipment to a site. Sometimes, hopping into an Uber or doing a classic van hire for a whole week is the best option, but for filmmakers, often these solutions don’t tick all the boxes.

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SP: Often filmmakers need equipment at short notice but within a very specific budget. How can Zipcar best facilitate these needs?

NT: The good thing about having a business account – which all Shooting People members have access to – is that it also comes with an industry specialist account manager, who themselves have worked with hundreds of filmmakers. Having a strict budget and short notice period is something many filmmakers face, so our account managers are prepared to find the best solutions within budget and time restraints. This is something we probably don’t talk enough about, but when our service is so flexible, having a helping hand in planning transportation budget for a project is super important.

SP: You have an ever-growing base of production companies signed up for a Zipcar business account. What do you think the value is for a production company? Do you have any examples you can share?

NT: Other than having a ton of freelancers and solo filmmakers, we also support some of the biggest production companies in London. Endemol have used Zipcar for years for their Big Brother productions where having drivers added on in a moments notice has been critical. Having access to a dedicated account manager who enables this smooth sailing, while drivers are seamlessly added to the account and granted easy access to the vans through their mobile app, has been a key part of why they have stayed with us for years.

SP: And do you have a sense of how many individual creative freelancers are signed up? Some of our members aren’t part of a larger production company, so what would be the advantage to them?

NT: Interestingly a lot of drivers who get a job at the big production companies, like Endemol, have their account with us as a freelancer already. It’s a great way to be mobile in terms of moving from one production to another. There is also the benefit of being able to get added on to the production company’s account without any fuss or delay and bill the company for those reservations while still be able to use the service for anything else that comes up.

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SP: We know a priority for Zipcar is to move towards a greener transport system. How would filmmakers be increasing their “green credentials” for shoots by using Zipcar?

NT: Zipcar’s overall goal is to positively impact congestion and emissions in big cities like London. We do this by reducing the number of cars on the roads by allowing members to share our vehicles. Imagine you use a van for a shoot in the evening, but in the morning a brewery delivered their beer to the restaurants and in the afternoon someone moved to a new house. All with the same van and within the space of less than 24 hours. That’s the magic of a sharing economy. This allows filmmakers to help us reduce the number of cars on London’s busy roads, while they can also chose from hybrid and full electric cars to make their production even more environmentally friendly.

As part of our collaboration with Zipcar, they’re offering all SP members the chance to join for free, get £60 in driving credit and get 29% off ongoing rates. You can sign up for a business account as an individual freelancer or as a production company. It’s something our team have used and found super useful. You can claim this offer, here


SP Member Charlotte Regan on Her New Short, Drug Runner

Posted August 22nd, 2018 by Helen Jack


Drug Runner is an exciting, unorthodox new short from SP member Charlotte Regan. A melancholy reflection of a childhood gone wrong, Drug Runner explores the world of “The Kid”, a 15-year-old living in a housing estate in East London that eventually falls into the drug world by becoming a dealer.

Charlotte began shooting music videos at the young age of 14. She made over 200 of these before she made her first narrative short. She has won multiple awards, including the BFI Future Film Award, the BFI New Talent Award, a Cannes Lions YDA Award, and now her second Vimeo Staff Pick with Drug Runner.

We were really interested to hear that the origins for Drug Runner came about after production company Bold Content reached out to Charlotte through SP after watching some of her work. After discovering their shared creative interests they teamed up to make the short film. We love to chat with members about their work and get more insight into their creative process, so below, you can hear what Charlotte had to say about about her new film, what inspired it, and how the collaboration worked.

How did you come up with the idea for Drug Runner?

I love watching documentaries, but I wanted to make something that merged doc and fiction. Drug Runner was a story that came naturally over time. The person it’s based on is a friend, and I always felt like it was a story that was never told, but needed to be told. I wanted to explore the reasons behind people getting involved with things like dealing drugs without making the protagonist a villain.

We see in the supers that the voice-over was performed by an actor. Did you record the real-life “Kid” and then play that to the actor?

I didn’t let my voice-over actor, Alfie Stewart, listen to the recordings at all. I never wanted him to re-create my friend’s speech pattern.

I interviewed my friend a few times, and as he knew we weren’t going to use his voice, he was happy to openly discuss his story. From there, I had to make the decision of what segments to use. Whilst it is a documentary, we didn’t quite have the budget for a 6+ hour film!


Does that blur the line between documentary and fiction? Re-creating the narration rather than using the original interviews?

Of course. I’m not putting this piece out there saying it’s 100% literal. My friend and I are close enough for him to be honest, but who knows what he was and wasn’t exaggerating. Even in our own minds, stories grow and change over time, so my intention was more to show his world as accurately as possible.

How did the actor take the original testimony and make it his own?

Alfie and the visual actor, Mitchell Brown, were both sent the transcribed script/interview responses beforehand. They are both incredibly natural actors who put their own spin on things. They were both perfect for this, as they know how to be subtle yet impactful.

Mitchell was great. You’ve worked with him before, but where did you find him, and how did you know he could act?

Mitchell was cast in a short I directed previously. We found him through ET Casting. He came in and just had a great way about him, he wasn’t trying too hard to act. He was naturally reading lines and running through scenarios. He is also great at trying things another way; he’s always interested in learning more, so he really tries to understand and take onboard notes.

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The lighting and colour was amazing. What was your process planning the lighting? How much of it was done during the colour grade?

We lit the sets in production exactly how we wanted it to look in the final version. We used an Alexa Mini for primary filming, and a Black Magic for B-cam, so we knew there would be colour grading needed in post.

The intention was always to make it a very colourful piece. My friend always spoke about his housing estate as if it was a big community, and that’s something I wanted to replicate. Lots of people who come from and grow up in those backgrounds feel that way, I think. If you have lived in one from a young age they are filled with fun and your mates and people you know. Now that I live somewhere different, I massively miss it, and this is something me and him always agreed on.

There are some beautiful cutaway shots around the estate. Did you have a second unit, or did you direct every last shot?

No second unit. Me, Arran, and the camera team shot those a day before primary production. We were a super small crew and used as little kit as we could afford to have.

It seems you used a steadicam – how did you manage to do it on such a small budget?

It was something me and Arran always knew we needed, so from the start we got in touch with a great steadicam operator, Charlie Rizek. Arran had worked with him before.


You did your own editing, which is usually a big no-no, to both conduct the filming and do post. What was your process? Did you have a clear vision beforehand, or did you play with different techniques before you found what you liked? How do you maintain a fresh perspective?

Usually I would say no, that post-production completely changes the film. But with Drug Runner, because it was very literal and based around the voice-over script, it was cut almost exactly as it was storyboarded. I had always wanted this to blend documentary and fiction, so the film was very visual-essay in style.

Who knows how to keep it fresh! I’ve yet to figure this out. I like to watch the edit with other people and see how the audience reacts to it. Even if it’s just your mate or nan, if more than one person has a note on a section, it’s clearly an obvious enough thing that it needs to be re-visited. You have to not be precious about things. My DOP, Arran Green, helped out massively with the edit, as with Adam from Bold.

Was there anything in your original concept that didn’t make it to the final edit?

There were one or two things left out that I wish we had achieved in a different way during production. There always is. This is why shooting as much as you can is crucial, because it helps you learn from your experiences and avoid that same mess-up in the future.

Sound Design plays a big part in the film. How did you achieve the balance between enhancing viewer experience vs. pulling the viewer out of the narrative?

My sound designer, Michael Ling, is amazing. We have worked on every single narrative project together. We have gotten to know each other’s style, and we know how to recognize what we want to achieve with an edit. We chat a lot about different film references, so that helps with communication. Michael takes care to understand the story and only add things that assist the narrative.

So sound isn’t something I have necessarily done at all – just like with every element of a film, it’s about finding a great team, as they’ll be able to give you a better opinion than you ever could give yourself.

Drug Runner is such a well-written, concise short film. Would you ever consider expanding it into a feature? If so, how do you think that would change the film?

I don’t think so. I think some things play well with short content, but might not hold for a longer length of time. If it was a different story or a different world, maybe that could work, who knows!

Producer Cecilia Frugiuele Discusses the Making of Sundance-winner The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Her Collaboration with Desiree Akhavan

Posted August 14th, 2018 by Helen Jack


Cecilia Frugiuele (left) and Desiree Akhavan (right) Photo: Jeong Park

As a networking organisation for indie filmmakers, we’re always fascinated by how creative collaborations are formed and how these relationships work. One partnership in particular that’s intrigued us is the one between producer/writer Cecilia Frugiuele and director/writer Desiree Akhavan, the powerhouse team behind indie hit Appropriate Behaviour (2014) and the soon to be released The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018), which won the much-lauded Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance.

Frugiuele and Akhavan’s new feature is set in the early nineties and centres around American adolescent Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) who, one night, is caught in the backseat of a car kissing the high school prom queen and is immediately outed. Cameron’s aunt responds to the news by sending her off to God’s Promise, a remote gay conversion treatment centre run by the formidable Dr. Lydia March, where she befriends fellow outsiders Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forest Goodluck). We recommend you watch the trailer below to get a little taste.

Based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth, Frugiuele and Akhavan have adapted the story for screen with a a maturity which avoids a clear delineation of ‘good and ‘bad’, instead offering a sensitivity towards all of their characters in this complex human drama. We thought it was an absolutely brilliant piece of filmmaking and so so pleased it’ll reach a wider audience when it hits UK screens on 7 September.

We sat down and talked with Cecilia about the making of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, her creative partnership with Desiree and what the future holds.

You set up your production company, Parkville Pictures, with Olivier Kaempfer in 2009. I heard you guys met through Shooting People? What’s the story?

Every summer since I had started uni I had been finding jobs on features and shorts through Shooting People.

It was an incredible way to network, but most importantly to discover what filmmaking really was. Growing up I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but that to me meant being a director, it was the only role I was really aware of. I was itching to be on set, watching Truffaut’s Day for Night over and over again and it wasn’t until I stepped on my first proper set that I fully understood what kind of machine is behind the making of a movie and started to zero in on the idea of being a producer. In 2007, I was finishing uni and Olivier had just finished London Film School and had set up Parkville Pictures. He was producing a short called Ralph (which was then BAFTA Nominated) and was looking for someone to help on another project. We met up and clicked immediately. We shared the same taste, didn’t fear getting our hands dirty when it came to producing and most importantly we both believed you should only work with people you like. It’s been great building Parkville together, finding a partner you trust and shares the same goals and ethics with is crucial, especially when starting out and in desperate need of an ally and a sounding board. Throughout the years we have pushed each other to be more daring as well as listening to each other’s many neuroses!

You’re best known for your creative collaboration with Desiree, making your two features, Appropriate Behaviour and The Miseducation of Cameron Post (which we LOVE). How did you first meet and start working together?

I met Desiree in 2005 at Queen Mary University where she was doing a year abroad. I was much more shy and unsure about my English and found myself in awe of how outspoken and loud she was. We became fast friends, bonding over TV, eating noodles and being late bloomers. We shared a sense of humour and would get such a kick out of making each other laugh. When she went back to New York and eventually started Grad School at NYU we kept flying back and forth every few months to see each other. I joined Parkville and started producing shorts and eventually she started making her web-series The Slope. I loved watching The Slope the way I loved hanging out with Desiree and soon it became obvious that I wasn’t the only one. I knew she had started writing a feature and at Parkville we were thinking of putting together a small fund through an EIS – it was the perfect fit. Desiree and I developed the script together and a year later we were filming in New York. I don’t even remember the first time we met up to “work”, there wasn’t a gear shift from being friends to working together we just naturally fell into it.

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What’s your process of writing collaboratively?

First of all we love getting inspiration from real life so knowing each other and each other’s world so well is a great tool – we breakdown story together, outline scenes etc. I tend to write the very first draft, then Desiree goes through it and makes it her own. She’s an absolute genius when it comes to dialogue so by the time I get the script back it’s 100 times better. Then I might do another pass and we go back and forth.

Is there much cross-over in your roles as producer and director?

If I do my job well there should be minimal crossover for her so that she can concentrate on the creative aspects of her job. For me, working with her is incredibly rewarding as she loves being collaborative. We do seem to be pretty much always on the same page and with Desiree being 100% confident in her own vision, I can give her my opinion freely without ever feeling like I’m overstepping or steering her in a direction she doesn’t want to be steered towards.

Are there other collaborators you’ve worked with across all your projects?

Sara Shaw the amazing editor of Appropriate Behaviour and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. We re-shaped both films massively in post and she’s an integral part of the process. She has impeccable taste, plus she’s on record for saying “positivity is a waste of time” which is a genius line and often true during the editing process. Miren Marañon was our production designer on Appropriate Behaviour and now on The Bisexual – the only way to describe her is that she’s an absolute artist.

Your new feature, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, won the U.S Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year which is an incredible achievement. Can you tell us what some of your biggest lessons were from the process of making the film from start to finish?

As filmmakers our rule of thumb is pleasing ourselves, trusting our taste to make the film that WE want to make as ultimately that’s the only thing we are in control of. That carries us through the different stages – development, writing, production, pre and post, and it’s about finding collaborators that share that vision and enable you to make the best possible version of that film.

Once the film premieres though, you’re reminded of the incredible responsibility you have towards the people who invest in your movie, you want the audience to love it, to be praised by the critics but ultimately all you want is to do well by your investors and make a decent sale. Despite the prize it took us a while to sell in the U.S, but in the end we found the right distributors who were as passionate as we were about the film. We went from opening on two screens to 110 and will hopefully grow further. The film is finding its audience and it’s a very proactive audience that understands the nature of the business more than I thought, and wants to do well by it.

I think my key lesson stays the same. I’ll continue to use my own taste as a benchmark, not out of megalomania but because it’s really my only weapon. Dare I say I wish U.S. distributors would learn a lesson, and that’s to trust your audiences more.

What’s been the knock-on effect of having won at Sundance? Any surprising outcomes?

Not yet, maybe I’m just oblivious to it.

What’s next for you and Desiree? Do you have other projects in development?

The TV show we co-wrote together The Bisexual starring Desiree, Maxine Peake and Brian Gleeson will be on Channel 4 this autumn. On the film front we are still processing Cameron Post but hopefully we’ll start working on the next one soon.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is in UK cinemas from 7 September.

Win the Chance to Make a Fully Funded Short for Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire and The Ritz-Carlton

Posted July 5th, 2018 by Helen Jack

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Picture this: a couple enters a bustling hotel lobby, check in, and are escorted to their suite. They enter the room, closing the door behind them.

What happens next? That’s up to you to decide.

Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire are have teamed ing up with The Ritz-Carlton to launch a global short-film competition that aims to discover and support the best emerging talent in the world of film.

They’re looking for writer/directors (individuals or teams) to submit a finished script, of no more than 10 mins, featuring only two characters, with a focus on ‘what happens next’ inside that hotel suite. Five winners will get the opportunity to develop, direct and shoot their short film, bringing their vision to life.

Filmmaking Guidelines

In terms of tone, they are looking for something that feels smart and sophisticated as well as unique and intriguing. The focus is all in the storytelling and it can be whatever genre you choose.

All scripts must feature only two characters, however, the nature of their relationship is up to you (e.g. romantic partners; parent/child or other family member; business partners; friends, etc.). All scenes must take place entirely inside a Ritz-Carlton suite with no elaborate props or special effects.

Entries are welcome from individual writer/directors and teams of two (one director and one writer). As a writer, you cannot apply alone if you have not had experience as a director. You can also enter up to three scripts.

Shooting People is a perfect place to find a collaborator, so do post into the Filmmaker and Screenwriter bulletins with a call out to say you’re looking to work with someone in order to submit. We also recommend checking out the Script Pitch directory ( for writers who you think you’d like to work with. Don’t be shy – connect with each other for this great opportunity!

Entry Details & Competition Guidelines

Entrants must submit a treatment of their concept (max 500 words), AND a fully completed script that runs to no longer than 10 minutes on-screen. They should also include a bio (max 500 words) outlining any experience and/or creative credentials relevant to the project.

Winners must be available for four weeks pre-production, a one-week shoot (including international travel) and availability for post-production of up to four weeks post-shoot. We will confirm Exact dates will be confirmed with the winners, but the process will run for approximately 3–4 months and will start no earlier than 13 3 August 2018. Please note that in the event of any international travel, only the director will travel to location shoots.

Submissions should be emailed to, no later than midnight (BST) on July 29.

For more details, click here.

Should You Get Insurance for Your Low-Budget Indie Film? We Chat to Performance Film & Media Insurance to Find Out More

Posted July 5th, 2018 by Helen Jack


One of our sponsors for this year’s SHORT CUTS Film Competition is Performance Film & Media Insurance. We were keen to partner with them for our inaugural career-development scheme because they work a lot with filmmakers. From putting together bespoke insurance packages, to providing their simple online system, they’ve made it easy for filmmakers working on a tight budget to get the cover they need, when they need it.

We thought it would be nice idea (and useful for Shooters) for us to have a chat with Michael Wood at Performance and ask him some questions about how they work with filmmakers. Over to Michael…

Hi shooters!

I hope you are all having a good 2018 so far as we enter the hot summer months! Some of you may have used us for insurance in the past, got a quote from us or seen our name at an event of two!

I’m Michael Wood from Performance Film & Media Insurance – one of the leading film & media insurance brokers in the UK. Our main purpose is to provide cost effective insurance solutions for the film and media industry, whether it’s for a short or a feature, or you’re a freelancer on a production, we provide insurance that protects you. As well as this, we also help connect our clients with other businesses within the industry, which is key, particularly when you looking for a favour or two! As well as playing our part in connecting people within the industry, we have just launched our own Short Film Competition with some good prizes. The top prize is £1,500 cash, post production time, kit hire worth £1,000 (cost of the hire) and a title clearance / script review from a leading film law firm. Not a bad way to start financing a project! More information on our competition can be found here.

Anyway, enough about us, but hopefully that has given you a flavour of what we do. I’ve been asked to answer some questions that are applicable to SP members, who are most often working on passion projects and low-budget films.

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Q. When advertising production roles on our site, we ask members to state whether they have insurance, and if not, why not. What would you say are the biggest risks of not having insurance for a shoot?

A. There are so many potential risks and a lot of the risks will depend on the type of shoot you are doing. We are seeing that more and more productions are having to consider insurance for at least one aspect of their shoot – whether it’s equipment hire cover, or public liability insurance in order to get a film permit. Let’s take equipment insurance as an example – if you get equipment from a hire company, usually they will insist on the production having insurance in place before they release the kit to you. Naturally, at this stage insurance has to be purchased (or another route taken).

A bigger issue we’ve begun to come across is for productions that don’t have the right cover in place – this gives insurance brokers generally a bad name but also puts a production in a position whereby they have insurance that isn’t fit for purpose!

Q. A lot of Shooters are working on passion projects with very small budgets. When you’re making something so lo-fi and indie, do you really need insurance? The cost might be more than the whole budget!

Insurance in it’s simplest form is the transfer of a potential risk from an individual / company to an insurance company. In order to transfer that risk, the individual / company has to pay an insurance premium. Unless it’s a statutory cover, like employers liability or motor insurance, there is no obligation to buy insurance, unless of course a third party insists on it (i.e, a hire company). It’s about understanding the potential risks involved in your production and the potential financial impact to you. Can you afford the financial impact if the worst happens? It’s always worth speaking to a specialist insurance broker and getting a quote.

Q. Are you able to share a few examples of when insurance has been invaluable on a shoot? Any horror stories of when a shoots gone awry and insurance has been so essential?

As I am sure you’ll understand, I cannot give names or provide too much information, but I can provide some examples of when insurance would be essential.

We had a young aspiring filmmaker who bought a new £4,000 camera kit late on a Thursday evening, and although he had got a quote, was undecided on whether to buy insurance. Naturally he wanted to try out his new camera kit and had a recce on the Friday and took his kit along to “play with it on location”. Luckily, he called us on the way to the location, and after taking advice, he took out the insurance. Nothing happened that day on location but later on, when he parked up at a friend’s, his car was stolen and the new camera was taken with it. £4,000 spent the day before, gone the day after. Without insurance.

Another example is a production which has a budget of £30,000. Unfortunately, on day 2 of a 5 day shoot, the main actor was attacked on his way home sustaining injuries that meant he was unable to film for three weeks. The production team had spent a huge amount of their budget already but needed to spend an additional £18,000 in order to complete the production. Without insurance, the production team would have had to seek further investment, make huge cuts on the plans for the project or maybe even abandon the project altogether.

Q. People may think that getting a quote for insurance is a long hefty process that they’d rather not bother with. How can Shooters get a quick quote from you?

For a one off project it’s really, really simple. All you need to do is head over to and enter the information for your production and you’ll get an estimate as you go along. To get a confirmed quote will take you 4-5 minutes. You can have your policy documents in 6-7 minutes. Although the quotes and documents are produced online for ease and speed, we also have a team in the office ready to hear about your production and help you through the insurance process.

For those of you who undertake multiple projects during the course of a year, an annual policy which is flexible to cater for all of your productions could be a better option – give us a call on 020 8256 4929 and we’ll be happy to give you a quote.

If any of you have any other questions please do get in contact with me and the team.

Michael Wood, Associate Director – Head of Film & Media
Tel: 020 8256 4931

Shooter Daniel Jerome Gill Discusses His Debut Feature ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’

Posted May 8th, 2018 by Helen Jack


Modern Life is Rubbish is the debut feature from Shooter Daniel Jerome Gill. The film follows couple Liam and Natalie, who, after being brought together by their shared love of music ten years earlier, have finally reached a breaking point in their relationship. Liam, a struggling musician, cannot let go of his vinyl collection and refuses to adapt to a world of smartphones and instant downloads. Natalie has let go of her dream of designing album covers and has become a rising star at her advertising firm. As they make the difficult decision to separate, they start by splitting their prized music library, but the soundtrack that defined their relationship keeps pulling them back together.

Daniel’s new feature evolved from the success of his short film of the same name, which premiered at the 2009 BFI London Film Festival. The film went on to screen at over 35 film festivals across the world, and picked up a number of nominations. Off the back of this, Daniel met producer Dominic Norris who saw an early draft of the feature script and took it to the BFI for development. They went on to receive financing from Universal Pictures, Piccadilly Pictures and Lip-synch.

As we all know, making that first feature is a real feat of hard work, determination and talent and so we wanted to chat with Daniel and hear about his process. Below, he shares with us how he came to the story, how he collaborated with writer Philip Gawthorne and what it was he was trying to share with his audience.

“The idea to make the movie came about after the short, as it did very well on the festival circuit. People loved it and asked whether we’d thought about extending the story. So the success at the festivals and the fact people kept asking questions about what happens next, having invested a lot in these characters, made us think, hang on a second, we should write a feature, so that’s what we did.


Modern Life Is Rubbish was originally a short play written by Philip Gawthorne. The idea of a couple separating their prized music collection at the end of their relationship immediately struck a chord with me. This was a story that 99% of the population could relate to. After directing and producing the short film, and chiefly due to its success on the festival circuit, Philip and I set out to develop the feature.

The concept was simple: every time the couple pick up a CD, record, ticket stub or talk about music, we flash back to the past and see how they got together, fell in love and eventually tear apart. The key themes in the film are love, music and modernity.

I was attracted to the idea of making an imperfect love story, which is non-linear. Thus, juxtaposing those euphoric moments (falling in love in the past) with the hard process of parting with your music collection (present). I never wanted to make a film that follows the classical rom-com genre, but one that instead explores an indie, gritty, imperfect nature…bitter and sweet simultaneously.

The story is conveyed through the prism of music. Music plays a large role in the film. Almost like another character. It’s music that brings the couple together, moves us back and forth, and plays a key role at the end.

This film sits within the romantic drama genre, with a strong stroke of comedy, but I don’t see it as a classic rom-com as such. It fits within the genre though, which has its own rules, you know a boy meets girl and nine times out of ten they’re gonna get together. But what I tried to do, which is similar to 500 Days of Summer, is to create a non-conventional rom-com, a slightly anti-rom-com, as we’re dealing with an imperfect love story. I also wanted to do something different with the structure of the genre, but it is hard because you have to obey a little by the rules. It was difficult to switch things up within an already working genre.


I wanted to set the protagonists down a path which is very common in society today. Certainly a lot of my friends who are artists or filmmakers, the other person in their relationship has a ‘normal’ job, a permanent job. This is something young professionals in London, and across the world, are going through, this is a story to be told.

So many people can relate to it. Most people have had dreams of wanting to be somebody but have had to nip it in the bud because they have to pay the bills, and there is always that friction in relationships, and they can get fractured, and eventually people split up with each other because of those sort of pressures, where one person is the breadwinner and the other is trying to be creative, a lot of people can relate to it.

The question I’ve tried to pose within the film, is whether modern life is rubbish? On one hand we all know how much we rely on our mobile phone devices and our computers and how it has revolutionised the world, but it’s also hindered the world because you sit in a coffee shop, or on the tube, and you don’t look at anybody, or talk to anybody anymore. Modernity has affected all of our lives for the better and worse, so I’ve tried to use the title and the themes that run through the film and offer a balanced argument on what modern life is, and whether it’s rubbish. The title is of course tied in with Blur and the album, but it’s very much connected to one of the main themes of the film too. Love, music and modernity are the three themes I wanted to focus on.


I was born in London and have lived here for most of my life, and we talked about where to make this film, and I wanted it to be London because it’s a very important part of my life. But I tried to make London be on the periphery, I didn’t want to have them meeting outside Big Ben. For me, London is in the background. At one point we see London Bridge in the distance, like a Turner painting, and then we see the London Eye, but in the reflection of a tube station. I tried to make it a bit like how Londoners see London, which is just having it in the background, in the distance, and not necessarily how a tourist sees the city, which is by going sightseeing.

The toughest scene to shot was such a small one, but we had to get a shot of us walking over the Abbey Road crossing. It was very difficult, for a shot that is maybe three seconds of the film. We arrived at about seven o’clock in the morning and there were queues of people really, really wanting to take a selfie on the crossing.

We were dying because we really didn’t want to walk across and have our picture taken, and yet we had a whole film crew, we were doing it the best we could and we had to do it over and over again, it was so cringeworthy. But it was funny at the same time. I just felt bad for taking this moment away from little children and tourists. Cars were stacking up and they were beeping, they don’t care that you’re making a film.”

Modern Life Is Rubbish is in cinemas now and can also be watched on VOD. For more information go to

‘Beast’ Director, Michael Pearce, Answers Your Questions

Posted May 1st, 2018 by Helen Jack

Gathering critical acclaim across the board, new feature Beast (in UK cinemas now) is the debut film from writer-director Michael Pearce, who has been described as part of “an exciting wave of new British directors”, alongside other recent break-out filmmakers such as William Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth), Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not a Witch), Francis Lee (God’s Own Country) and Hope Dickson Leach (The Levelling).

Born in Jersey in 1981, Michael studied Film Directing at the Arts Institute in Bournemouth. His graduation film Isaac and Ellen won Best Screenplay at Cherbourg Film Festival and Top Prize at the Sehsüchte International Film Festival. Michael then attended the National Film & Television School to study Fiction Direction. His graduation film Madrugada won the Top Prize at Branchage Film Festival and The Royal Television Society Award for Best Short Film.

His next short Rite was nominated at the 2011 BAFTA’s and BIFA’s, travelled to over 40 festivals and won Best Short at Rushes Soho, Message to Man and Almeria Film Festival. Michael was selected to be one of Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow and part of Channel 4’s Coming Up Scheme where he made Henry. His next short Keeping Up with the Joneses was made through the BFI Shorts Scheme and was nominated for a 2014 BAFTA, alongside premiering at Clermont-Ferrand.

We were lucky enough to have Michael as our judge for our most recent SHORT CUTS competition, and to have him join us in person at our SHORT CUTS event last month, where he shared stories about making his debut feature and his creative journey along the way. We invited Shooters to post in their questions for Michael, and we share his response below.


My passion lies in directing, but I struggle to find screenplays out there that really spark with me. This means I end up writing stuff for myself, but it’s not a creative process I particularly enjoy. Did you set out to be a writer / director, or did you do it out of necessity? As someone who really just wants to direct, do you think I should just be less picky and start directing other people’s scripts even if I’m not in love with them?

If it’s any consolation I don’t enjoy it either, and neither do many writer-directors, but it I do think writing your own material makes you a better director and will make you stronger at development when you work with other writers. Finding a writer is probably the most difficult creative partnerships for a director to make. My advice: keep looking (but don’t expect to find one) and keep writing because every script you write will strengthen your story muscles, which you’ll need because no script is perfect, and a director needs to have the development skills to shepherd a script across the finish line.

I initially set out to be a writer-director because you have full control of what you’re making. Since moving toward features, I wanted to work with other writers because I find it takes me a lot of time, but I couldn’t find someone I was creatively in-synch with so I kept on writing. However, having now made a feature, I get access to many more scripts. I’m really glad I wrote a lot of my shorts and my first feature as I know the experience fortified my story intuition.

I did direct a couple of shorts from other people’s scripts and that was through schemes such as BFI Shorts and Coming Up (I’m not sure either of those exist anymore). With regard to the last part of this question, it would depend on what type of director you want to be. If you want to develop a strong authorial voice then I would suggest you only work on projects that you’re deeply connected to (whether you write them or not). If you want to become more of a director for hire/TV director then it doesn’t always have to be a passion project, you can learn a lot from working on all sorts of material. But I think you have to love something about it, it’s very hard (impossible?) to make a good piece of work if the filmmaker is indifferent to the material. If you don’t like it, how will you inspire your cast, crew and audience? To some degree I think the quality of a film is correlated to the director’s passion for the project.

From your initial idea to make Beast, to getting it into the cinema, how long was that process and what were the key stages of development?

Something like seven years. I wrote a treatment over one year at the Torino Film Lab. It took a year because I went from blank page to a very developed treatment (it was about 35 pages). I then got some producers onboard and started working on the first draft, which took about another year. Then there were nearly two more years of development as I got more producers on the project and started getting the funders onboard. As I went through all of these stages I was making some shorts and ads so there was quite a bit of starting and stopping. There was 6 months of development as we were beginning early prep (budgeting the film, starting the casting process). Then the film took about a year to make from pre-production (5 weeks) shoot (5 weeks) edit (6 months) sound, music, vfx, color grading (3 months). Then there’s a gap as you’re submitting to festivals (the most terrifying moment). Once we premiered there was about 6 months of festival touring, doing press, working with the distributors on the marketing of the film, which you’re doing as you’re trying to drum up opportunities for you next project.

I’ve had an idea for a feature for a few years now, but am too scared to start writing it for fear that it will take me ages to finish or that it won’t get realised. How did you approach writing a feature length script for the first time? What advice would you have for someone in my current position?

To be honest I’m not sure how best to answer your question – you don’t want to start writing your script because it might take too long? I would ask yourself whether you really want to be a writer/director. It’s a very work intensive, competitive and often bruising profession and if you’re reticent to even begin the journey because it might be long or difficult it might be a signifier to look at other creative roles. If you definitely do want to be a writer/director, but are just a bit hesitant, then I would first assess whether you’re ready for a feature – do you have proven track record of writing/directing successful shorts?

From a purely practical point of view it will be much easier (thought still difficult) to get funding for your feature if you have demonstrated your ability in several shorts. And how badly do you want to make your film? Werner Herzog says “I would travel down to Hell and wrestle a film away from the devil if it was necessary.” How far would you go? It needs to be an all consuming, quasi-fanatical obsession. You need to want to make it really really really bad. That doesn’t mean there won’t be hesitations and moments of doubt along the way, but you do need to a have lot of energy, commitment, passion and focus to keep the furnace going so you can plough through the many roadblocks you will inevitably face and inspire the many people you need to help make it.

In terms of process, I would break it down into more manageable chunks; write a 5-page treatment first and a few pages on why you want to tell that story. Get friends to read it and provide feedback and if you’re encouraged by the response (some of which might be critical but helpful) then flesh it out, write a 10-page treatment. Repeat the process of getting thoughts and developing the material until you feel confident you have the story mapped out. The first draft will be a lot easier if you know the direction you’re going in.


What was your casting process? What did you take into consideration when meeting talent e.g. did you only audition actors who already had a certain amount of experience or who had attended drama school? Did you rehearse any of the work with the actors before shooting? Have you got any advice for directing actors on set?

I worked with a very good casting director, Julie Harkin, who has wide-ranging knowledge of what actors are out there. For Beast I felt it was important that they were trained actors (as opposed to street casting) and I wanted to see people perform in the audition room (as opposed to making offers to actors who were too ‘big’ to audition for a first time director). I rehearsed for four days with the actors, which isn’t much, but it’s hard to do more than week on a low budget feature. What was just as helpful was meeting my actors and speaking about the film and their roles and supplying them with material: research, character biographies, films, books etc. We had several months between casting them and pre production and it really helped us tune into each other and meant we had discussed the script and character in lots of detail, and from different angles, before the shoot.

Advice for working with actors is a very big question, but if I had to offer some short tidbits I would say prepare as much as you can before the shoot, meaning analyse and examine the text, you should have a unique and exciting idea for practically every line (you won’t use 80% of these ideas but it will help you create the most interesting version of each scene). Try and be clear and succinct in your direction (directors can tend to waffle a lot) whilst providing the actors with thoughtful and stimulating ideas. Give the actors clear parameters for what you’re aiming for and briefly talk them through the nuts and bolts of the scene (how you’re going to shoot it), but leave room for discovery and collaboration, don’t make them feel constricted or discouraged from exploring new ideas.

Adjust your working method for the actor, try to accommodate to their process, as opposed to making them work to yours (each actor is different and might need different type of direction). Never give result direction, don’t tell actors what to feel, emotions are the by-products of behaviour, communicate the subtext, the most interesting interpretation of the line is often buried deep underneath. And as P.T Anderson says “take the work seriously but don’t take yourself seriously”.

I find it can be really hard to just get noticed in the film industry. I’ve made a few shorts, but haven’t yet got my film into festivals. Any advice on how I can take the next step and progress with my career?

Generally I find the filmmakers who progress are the ones who are most honest with themselves about their mistakes. When you’re able to identify and improve upon your weaknesses then your development really accelerates. And it goes without saying, but every day you should be deepening and expanding your knowledge of the craft. I used to hunt down all the shorts that were selected for the major festivals and try to learn from them. Watch the best shorts out there, ask yourself why did they get selected/win the prize and yours didn’t? Of course taste and subjectivity plays a big part in this, but often there are lessons to be extrapolated by watching work that is stronger than your own. I wouldn’t think about progressing you career until your shorts are being recognised by the industry. Focus on the work and the other stuff begins to happen.

I saw that you studied film at Bournemouth University and then also at the NFTS. Do you think that film school is a necessity for new filmmakers? Or do you think that it’s possible to learn just as much through other routes?

Film school is definitely not the only route but I found it very helpful. My basic philosophy was that I wanted to make lots of shorts, make lots of mistakes, improve upon the mistakes, set new challenges each time and be increasingly more ambitious and more thoughtful with each one. Film schools are a great way to do that and a great way to find your collaborators.


I loved your film Rite and really responded to both of the characters’ emotional journeys, they are both really well drawn. There are also some strong themes there that have been really delicately handled. I’d be interested to know how you develop your ideas and if it’s character that comes to you first or if it’s story or maybe it varies depending on the project?

Thank you, glad you enjoyed the film. Usually I have a theme I want to explore which either comes from an observation I’ve made in my own life or an aspect of human behaviour that confuses me, either way, I have to be deeply fascinated by something and making a film is usually an attempt to understand the subject. I then generate a story to explore this theme and the characters remain quite archetypal during this initial stage. Once I have a rough story I’m happy with I then go through a process of excavating the characters, revealing their layers and making them three-dimensional. Once they’re alive and kicking I then have to adjust the story as they often (frustratingly) want to go in a different direction than the road I’ve mapped out. That’s okay though as I generally will subordinate everything, including the initial theme, to honour the character’s journey. Often you end up in a place that’s more interesting, nuanced and specific because it’s humanised through your characters, as opposed to having your characters be one-dimensional ciphers used to communicate your ‘thesis’.

Congratulations on making your debut feature – that’s a real accomplishment! It’s often said that the real difficulty comes in making your second feature. How much does funding for your next project depend on the critical and financial success of Beast?

Thank you! And you’re right, I keep hearing it’s the second which is the hardest. The critical/industry success matters a lot, financial not so much, but if that happens too it certainly helps. I feel like with your first feature you’re being judged on your potential and I think the opportunities that emerge afterwards will correlate to the qualities people can see in your work – the performances, aesthetic approach, thematic depth, originality of storytelling, and just on a very immediate level, did it move, provoke, entertain etc, whatever the desired effect was. However, if you’re looking to make explicitly commercial films then I imagine you will be judged more on the financial success of the film.

Beast is in UK cinemas now.