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.


Posted November 23rd, 2021 by Jim Read

Following the success of our previous New Shoots event where we covered indie horror filmmaking with breakout directors Jennifer Sheridan (Rose: A Love Story) and Prano Bailey-Bond (Censor) back in July. Our latest New Shoots went down a treat as we delved into film festival strategy with two of the industry’s best – Rich Warren (Director of Encounters Short Film Festival) and Wendy Mitchell (Film Festival Consultant and journalist).

If you didn’t manage to watch the full Q+A you can watch the recorded version here – For now though, here are just a few of the golden nuggets of information Rich and Wendy shared at the event.


If anyone knows about the importance of film festivals, it’s Wendy, her entire career has largely been built around advising festivals on how to best approach them. In her own words, for filmmakers, “They are such crucial places of support, they’re launching paths and ecosystems for filmmakers to get their work, seen to meet other filmmakers, to meet the industry, to meet an audience.” 

“Every festival out there wants to find something  in the open submission file which rocks their world, which they can champion…. It’s not just about showing the new Brad Pitt film, it’s about discovering new filmmakers: you haven’t met them at a party, they just love the film. If you’ve made a great film, it will be seen.


It’s essential to research a film festival and the films that they show before submitting. If you have a horror film for instance, there are certain film festivals that solely cater for that. It’s also important to get opinions on your film from others – but not solely your friends. The SP community is a great resource to ask for honest feedback on your film and advice on where to submit to. 

Rich highlights the importance of knowing what you want out of your festival, explaining you want to have “a real clear vision of what opportunity you want to be created. Are you going there looking for a new producer or are you going out looking for the commissioner? Are you going out there to create a reputation? All of that will help dictate what type of festivals you want to go to. It’s looking at those specific things and being very targeted and knowing what you want to get out of the festival run.” 

It’s important to do research early, as the more you learn the more your perspective on the direction of your film will change, similarly, throughout production it’s a natural part of the process to change your vision. Wendy iterates “You will have different goals at different stages…Your goals at the beginning won’t be the same as your goals at the end.”

As previously mentioned, collaboration is key to your success, Wendy emphasises “Try to get some honest opinions, not just from your mates. Check out similar films and see what festivals those films went to… If you’ve got an experimental film, maybe Edinburgh’s not as right as Oberhausen would be. I would get some honest opinions from people who know about these things. Maybe that’s sharing it with sales companies and showing other filmmaker friends.”  

Ultimately, Rich concluded “Do your research on the festivals. The information is pretty much all there online and it’ll save you hour’s worth of research as well.”


When you’re making an independent film, the last thing on your mind is probably your release time – so often it’s about focusing on getting the film MADE. When queried about timing though, Wendy gave some extremely helpful food for thought… “(Consider) When is your film actually going to be ready? If you’ve got a very, very rough cut and you’re going to be half animated and you’ve got no animation… don’t rush to submit to Sundance…Do not rush. You know, if your film isn’t ready for Sundance try Berlinale, If your film isn’t ready for Edinburgh, wait till LFF. There’s always another festival. There are 10s of thousands of  great film festivals.”

Often, film festivals are open for submissions almost all year, with varying deadlines – typically having a lower submission fee the earlier you submit. Wendy pointed out “It’s better to submit the week submissions open rather than submitting the day when they close.” Drawing from her own experience she elaborates “I think we had 300 films submitted to San Sebastian on the day. Those programmers are watching 5 films a day. Yeah, the program is already alittle bit determined. Yes. There are always slots –  it’s better to get your female led horror fantasy to be the first one they see and they invite it, rather than it be the last one. And they say, ‘oh,we’ve already got too many of those.’”

Moreover, both Wendy and Rich agreed that it is extremely important to submit your film at the minimum of a close to finish stage, as Wendy iterates “Programmers are very adept at looking at work that’s unfinished… but DO put your best foot forward.I would never recommend submitting something that’s not picture locked…you do get that one shot to show the programmer at that festival.”

Ultimately, Rich concludes with an important piece of advice – “What is increasingly with festivals is that we are watching submissions, absolutely blind. We don’t even know who the director is because of unconscious bias…we want to just go into the film and see what the storytelling is.”

Even if you’re not a big name yet – it’s important to remember that your talent is what matters – not how much you’ve done before. 


Especially when working on shorts, the budget is often tight and it is extremely tricky to not focus on spending it all on making the production as best as possible. It’s important to think smart and budget for distribution and marketing of the film – including film festivals.

First of all, regarding fees Wendy comments “Don’t be scared. People want to show your films… Have a line in your budget for festival submission fees. How much that is depends on your ambitions. I’d put in at least a few hundred pounds, even for shorts.”

Rich also offered some useful advice on rethinking the mentality towards submission fees – “Rather than looking at it as a submission fee, look at it as a viewing fee.” It’s important to remember that behind the scenes, a huge amount of time (and money) goes into reviewing festival submission. 


If your film has been accepted into a highly regarded film festival, then it might be worth asking for a fee waiver from other festivals that you want to submit to. The worst that they can say is no and you can still pay to submit. As Wendy points out: “There is a snowball effect when you start getting into film festivals, certainly short film festivals. If you get into one or two, then you start getting invited into others. So if you’re really targeted about those first couple of festivals that you want to go to, then those invites will come in.’’ 

Wendy also makes a great point: ‘If anybody ever asks you personally to submit to their festival, they should be waiving the fee.’ 

Always be cautious of fake film festivals who will take your submission fee but don’t actually exist. As Wendy advises: “Google them. Did anyone blog from that festival last year? Did anyone say they had a great time in the audience? Did they get any press? Look at who screened last year and drop them a line.”

Rich went on to say: “My best advice is always to look for photos of the festival… you want to see a busy room with their logos and a banner in the background. Then there’s a good chance it’s a legit festival….Look at the number of awards: f you see they’ve got an award for [every department] the chances are, it’s not a legit short film festival


There are different funds that can assist you with different aspects of your film, from production to distribution. All SP members can access our funding database – it’s an amazing up-to-date resource with the latest funding opportunities all in one convenient hub. 

If your film is selected for a film festival, there are funding opportunities which could help pay for you to go attend. Wendy suggests the British Council’s short film travel grant which will pay for travel costs related to attending film festivals. 

If you are selected for a film festival, it’s always worth asking whether they can offer accreditation or accommodation. Some festivals will have the budget to fly you in for a Q&A, whilst other festivals may have a more DIY approach, such as connecting filmmakers with couch surfing options. At the very least a festival should provide you with a free ticket to your own screening. 

With a feature film, some festivals may also offer a screening fee. Wendy explains “With features, the economics vary so wildly, a lot of festivals might pay you a screening fee to show your film. That might be 500 quid, but every little bit can help add up. If you have a sales company, they’re going to take that 500 quid because they’re doing that work to submit for you…Funnily enough, the richest festivals, Cannes, Berlin, are so prestigious. They think they don’t have to pay you to screen your film. But, you get the prestige.”


Being brutally honest, not every film festival is going to want your film and it’s important to always have a Plan B, Plan C and then ideas of where to go from there if all else fails.

As Rich explains, film festivals are perpetually viewing the best of the best – “I always consider us to be in a really privileged position because we get to see the wide spectrum of filmmaking, we get to see it as an entirety, everything that’s being made. So we’re in a really present prestigious position and we get to see what’s in the zeitgeists.”

There are such a multitude of reasons why your film may not be selected as Wendy recalls “I have seen some of the best films ever made get rejected for various reasons from various festivals. There was one British film a few years ago that was going to be in Cannes Directors Fortnight and they told us the night before the selection, actually, it didn’t make the final cut. They put one other film ahead of it.”

Furthermore she explains that at San Sebastian “this year, we rejected a very good, feminist story, because they already had about three others in the section. So it didn’t mean the film was bad at all. It just meant it was too similar to things we had already programmed.”

Ultimately, when doing your research, don’t centre your plan around one festival being the make or break, numerous festivals will share similar themes, styles and genres in common, find the ones which correlate and refine what you’re looking for. 


One of the biggest pieces of feedback we’ve heard from our SP community is that film festivals seem too intimidating, there’s no denying it, but as Wendy acknowledged film festivals can be an amazing environment to learn and grow as a filmmaker, “it can be quite a tricky landscape… but I just think it’s crucial: filmmaking can be a lonely business and festivals make that not lonely.

This is especially true for shorts, as Rich chimed in film festivals are all  “about opportunity creation… a short film is often about thinking about where you’re going to go, what you want to do next, where you want to go next. Film festivals are not just about being an avid shop window, but it’s about being around your peers and finding out what the next opportunity is, and where that next opportunity is.”

If you’re uncertain about your direction as a filmmaker, what you’re doing next, where you even want the film you’re screening to go, Rich explains “it’s those opportunities that kind of come from those serendipitous meetings at festivals and, and the chance encounters. That’s really where the wave of festivals come into their own.”

Regarding COVID, it has undeniably been difficult for festivals, as Rich explains “The short film festival sector does feel slightly less vibrant, I think. I think that’s just due to budgets more than anything else. We’re very reliant on venues and I think venues are still very cautious about getting people together.” 

Interestingly, Rich brought up that the rumours surrounding a drop in film submissions proved false. He elaborates “what’s interesting is we were all predicting a drop-off from the actual filmmakers. We all were predicting a drop-off of films from this year, and I’m not actually hearing that from any festival… If anything, the numbers are still continuing to rise.”

Wendy elaborates that the film festival scene “is still flourishing. It’s not as healthy as it was when we could be around the world. If they are running in person, it’s usually a smaller program… but festivals have not died.” 

She goes on to praise the resilience of festivals and commend that there are aspects which are great about hybridisation, “Sundance back in January was online and it was amazing. I haven’t been able to go to Sundance in 15 years and suddenly I could do that from my living room.”

Ultimately she concludes “I think hopefully…by early 2022, the industry is going to be back, going to festivals, hopefully a bit like normal. I think that will change over the next year, you are going to see more (hybrid festivals).”


To conclude, Wendy iterated “There is a snowball effect when you start getting into film festivals, certainly short film festivals. If you get into one or two, then you start getting invited into others. So if you’re really targeted about those first couple of festivals that you want to go to, then those invites will come in…. If anybody ever asks you personally to submit to their festival, they should be waiving the fee.’ 

Never disregard your own successes, the film industry can at points be demoralising, but the most important take to have, is that the community is everything. At SP, we always welcome and encourage you to share your journey, your successes and your downfalls with our community, whether that’s shouting out about your most recent production, or asking for advice, our forums are always open. 


Posted July 28th, 2021 by Marloes Koot

Our NEW SHOOTS live event programme continues online and in July horror Guru’s Prano Bailey-Bond and Jen Sheridan joined us for a truly killer masterclass. Both directors are supportive members of the SP community, and both have made a screamingly bold entrance with two of the best debut indie horrors of the year.

If you’ve missed it, you can catch up with the Q&A here. They shared expert advice on developing a first feature, working on a shoestring budget, capturing tone and, surprisingly, even leech wrangling. Below you’ll find some of our favourite quotes of the night. 

Prano Bailey-Bond’s debut feature film, Censor, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2021, opening the festival’s Midnight section, before having its European premiere at the Berlinale. Described as “one of the best horror films in years” (The Independent), Censor will be hitting UK cinemas on August 20th.

Jennifer Sheridan’s debut horror feature Rose: A Love Story premiered at the BFI London Film Festival and was nominated for the Raindance Discovery Award at the British Independent Film Awards. Jennifer honed her skills as a storyteller through her work as a self-taught editor over the last twelve years (credits include Cuckoo and League of Gentleman). 

SP’s Cath Le Couteur asked the directors what their experience was with shooting horror as a genre.

Jen: ‘My film is a tricky one… I don’t know if there’s enough hardcore horror. It’s a genre hybrid film… it’s made it a bit difficult to sell and place’

Prano: ‘I think of horror as “the return of the repressed”… that thing you don’t want to face that’s gonna come and bite you on the bum. It’s about how we self-censor and also how our brains censor things for us… repressed memory, repressed selves and how that will come out in a very twisted way. […] I love the genre because it’s so imaginative and surreal. I summarise my work and what I want to do as just, “nightmares” – sometimes they’re not full-on horrors…’

As both films are debut features, we were curious to find out what it was like to create them on a budget, and what the filmmakers’ solutions were to working within financial constraints.

Jen: ‘Most of my short films were self-funded while I was editing. I went in doing something I knew I could achieve on a low budget. I knew no-one would give me the money for a first feature and I needed to be realistic: ROSE had hardly any cast, minimal locations, achievable stunts, in-camera effects using pig skin or whatever I can cook up.….When I read the script from Matt I knew it would work… I knew lots of young passionate people to work with… I had a great script that wasn’t super expensive to achieve and a really supportive development team.’

Jennifer Sheridan

To secure the best crew, both directors reached out to their network, as well as on the SP community to find talented collaborators. Rose: A Love Story features a small cast, it was written by Matt Stokoe who also starred in the film, and edited by Jen herself and Andrew Hamer.

 Jen: ‘I actually met my composer Cato Hoeben through SP. He’s done every single one of my films since.’

Prano brought together an incredible crew, including SP member and BIFA award nominated cinematographer Annika Summerson (Mogul Mowgli), and award winning composer Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch (Rocks). As well as production designer Paulina Rzeszowska and editor Mark Towns who both worked previously on Rose Glass’s British indie horror Saint Maud.

To ensure everyone was on the same wavelength, Prano explained how she briefed them before filming: 

Prano: ‘I was referencing specific video nasties and references from the 80s and 70s to tune my crew into that. I talked to my DoP and sound designer in emotional terms and atmospheric terms. Sound is where you’re setting the tone…. I think about sound when I’m writing.’

Interestingly, Prano mentioned she did not rely on storyboarding : 

Prano: ‘I don’t storyboard but I shortlist really tightly. Within the shortlist I pull in images from other films… if there’s a visual image in my head which will help other people see what I’m aiming for… […] I go on set with a very tight shortlist, to know what are the important pieces of info to tell the story, what are the emotional beats I need to make it work’

Jen: ‘I used to storyboard quite a lot. Then I realised it was easier to mark up scripts like a script supervisor… I’ve developed a new way of working… As soon as you step on set, something changes. It’s good to have a base to work from so you can step on set knowing what you need to achieve.’

Prano Bailey-Bond

Cath asked about their working relationship with actors-

Prano: ‘I did rehearse and I would definitely recommend rehearsing. I didn’t get to rehearse everyone, but from the beginning, working with my producer, I knew we’d be on a tight budget and rehearsing would be key… me and Niamh talked lots on Skype… that meant we had a shorthand before going on set. [Actors] know you’re there to catch them, you’re there to help them take risks and do things outside their comfort zone. I would say definitely find out how the actor needs to work, what they need. […] I see the director’s job first and foremost as telling the story, beyond that you’re welcoming people in with their ideas… and you’re the litmus test of “does this work for the story or not”… The more you work with them, the more they take ownership of the role.’

The pair also touched on the importance of knowing how to edit as a director. 

Prano: ‘I had my editor assembling as we were shooting… that was great… I really do think editing is one of the best training grounds as a director. In the edit you learn what you need to tell the story and it gives you confidence on set [about which shots you might need]. It’s really helpful if you can learn about editing.’

And finally, when asked for some last advice to fellow filmmakers, Jen had the following to say: 

Jen: ‘Have a plan but be prepared to throw it out of the window… if you want things to work in an exact way, you’re going to have a frustrating early career!’

So if you’ve become curious and want to watch the full chat and Q&A, it’s not too late – just head to our Facebook page.  Sign up to our newsletter to hear about future events.

NEW SHOOTS 2020 Winner Lanre Malaolu chats about Filmmaking

Posted July 23rd, 2021 by Marloes Koot

SP’s career development short film competition, New Shoots: Filmmakers, is open for submissions four times a year (January, April, July and October.) Guest judges have included the wonderful Sarah Gavron (Director: Rocks, Suffragette), Philip Ilson (Director of London Short Film Festival) and Johnnie Burn (Sound Designer: Ammonite, The Favourite, Under the Skin).

The winner of each round takes home a heap of amazing prizes; including Industry Mentorship from BFI Network, Animate Projects or LONO Studio, state of the art Audio Kit, Final Draft Screenwriting Software, a year’s MUBI Subscription, a DCP of their film from Post Factory and promotion across SP. PLUS, the overall winner of all four rounds wins the incredible Nikon Z 6II Essential Movie kit.

Big congrats to Lanre Malaolu whose dance documentary hybrid, The Circle, won the overall competition in 2020. Watch it here.

The Circle is a bold and lyrical portrayal of two brothers, David and Sanchez, living on a Hackney council estate, in East London. The film gives a compelling insight into their family and friendships, the stigmas they face daily, their mental health, and how they process their emotions – embodied through vivid movement sequences. The Circle looks at what it means to be a young black man growing up in inner-city London.

Here’s what judge Desiree Akhavan (Writer & Director: The Miseducation of Cameron Post) said about the film:

‘THE CIRCLE explores race in a way I’ve never seen on screen before- playing with form, movement and narrative structure. I’m really looking forward to seeing where Lanre Malaolu’s voice takes him next.’

We caught up with Lanre to discuss his filmmaking process and top tips.

Due to his background as a choreographer, we were curious whether Lanre had intended to introduce the physicality of dance from the very beginning:

‘For sure. I remember the first time I met David and Sanchez, they had so much to say, but importantly, I could sense they were vibrating with emotion and I wanted to excavate and understand it through movement. I’m using the word “dance” less these days to describe my work. I’m more interested in the ability all our bodies have to tell stories and using this as a vehicle to uncover our hidden truths and emotions.’

Like many Shooters, Lanre works across multiple disciplines; besides directing and choreographing, he also writes and acts, working across theatre and film. We asked him what he thinks the key benefit of this is, and whether he intends to continue working across all fields:

‘I think the major benefit is simply understanding the full tapestry of the artform I’m working in. It has allowed me to consciously and subconsciously pull on the skills I’ve learned in each discipline. But I’ve taken the time to really commit to each of them. For example, I spent my earlier creative years really focusing on my acting, and putting the hours in training and working professionally. Then, when the choreography started to pull at me, I’d turn down opportunities as an actor to really hone the craft of choreography… and the same when it came to directing and writing.

I didn’t have a scattergun approach. Each choice I made of course took me on a crazy journey, but there was some intention in all of the choices. It was less about the egotistical: “Look at me! I can do it all!” – And more about the intrigue I had for each field, and respecting them enough to know that they each demand their own attention and investment of time. It’s only now after 10 + years of grinding, that I’m able to work fluidly between all of them with confidence.’

As the overall winner of New Shoots 2020, Lanre took home The Nikon Z 6II Essential Movie Kit. This mirrorless camera is designed with freedom in mind: we’re super impressed with the image quality, flexibility and film-friendly features. It can be tailored with additional equipment to suit any movie-making style. The movie kit provides the core essentials to get rolling quickly, with all the important tools to make high-quality films.

Lanre’s thoughts- ‘I love the setup of the kit! It has everything you need. Nikon really did shoot it out of the park with this! I’m gonna take it into the studio with me for my next project. Shoot some rehearsals and tests…’

As SP is a community by and for filmmakers, sharing their experiences for people to learn from their successes but also their mistakes, we asked Lanre if anything came to mind that might be of help to other Shooters:

‘If it’s your own film, firstly giving yourself space away from it is so important. As much as the word “perspective” is overused, it’s still so undervalued. To be fair, I’m shit at this sometimes, as it’s so easy to be all consumed by your work. But I think this is where talking things through with other filmmakers/collaborators comes into play and is so vital.’

And for those looking to get their first projects off the ground, Lanre had the following to say:

‘Get a group of people who understand your creative quirks (your crazy) and are down for the ride. Then just start the bloody thing. The only way you can develop a creative voice/artistic instinct is by starting a whole load of projects and finishing a whole load of projects. And along the ride, you’ll hopefully end up with a group of creative collaborators you trust implicitly, which I personally find is one of the most beautiful parts of filmmaking.’

Excellent advice from an excellent filmmaker & artist. Once again, a massive congratulations to Lanre on his beautiful work and on taking home the Nikon Z 6II Essential Movie Kit – we can’t wait to see what he does with it.

Remember that SP members can browse through all the New Shoots submissions, provide feedback, connect and collaborate.

Paul Greengrass Masterclass: Finding your Creative Voice and Working with Actors

Posted May 13th, 2021 by Marloes Koot

Our NEW SHOOTS live event programme continues online and in April, triple-BAFTA winning and Oscar nominated writer-director Paul Greengrass joined us for a truly inspirational Masterclass. In just one hour he shared so much wisdom and advice on everything from running a set, working with actors, pacing, editing, the ethics of working with true stories, and finding your creative voice.

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

Paul Greengrass is a deeply political filmmaker and long-time supporter of SP, known for fighting for directors’ rights, as well as for championing emerging talent. In 2017, Greengrass was honoured with a British Film Institute Fellowship, for recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture.

After starting his career on the hard-hitting TV documentary series, World in Action, Greengrass went on to use this journalistic quality in his own filmmaking. Some of his outstanding films include Bloody Sunday, about the infamous 1972 shootings in Northern Ireland, which won him the main award at Berlin Film Festival. United 93, set around the 9/11 hijacking of the United Airlines plane, which gained him a BAFTA for Best Director and an Oscar nomination. Captain Phillips, based on the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. container ship, and 22 July, a dramatisation of Norway’s worst terrorist attack, were both widely and critically acclaimed.

Greengrass also directed three films in the Jason Bourne action thriller series, The Bourne Supremacy ,The Bourne Ultimatum, and Jason Bourne which demonstrated his desire to develop character, as much as his signature use of hand-held cameras. Both major critical successes, they further cemented Greengrass’s reputation and enabled him to get smaller, more personal films made.

His latest film, the critically acclaimed western News of the World with Tom Hanks, is now available to view on Netflix.

Here are some of our fave quotes from the evening-

Paul on team work- “If you’re directing a film, you’re surrounded by people, you’re in such a blessed place in life. They’re all literally there working ceaselessly to try and solve your problems… You’re a jack of all trades but they are masters of their crafts.”

Paul on the industry- “There’s lots of things to be very hopeful about in our industry, most of all the sustaining comradeship you feel whatever set, cutting room, theatre or show you’re part of- it’s a business where we come together and operate as a team. For all our neuroses, our sense of being separate and alone and fearful, we can all just help each other to tell stories.”

Paul on working with Actors- “The relationship with your leading actor is the most important relationship you’ll have. Together you have to describe the arc of the whole film… you’re effectively roped together in a forest in the dark and you’ve got to climb a mountain holding a flashlight…. If you’re making a film you’ve got to listen intently to all of your actors, especially your leading actor: their sense of what feels truthful is the best guide you’re going to have.”

Paul on editing- “It’s important to be unsentimental when you cut…That which you most love may be the thing that’s holding back your film, that thing you hate may be the most important part of it.”

Paul on writing- “It’s so important that the script describes exactly what you want to see and not just a generalised description of an action sequence. By the time you get to shooting, I’ve worked that draft to within an inch of its life.”

Paul on SP- “It’s brilliant, you should definitely join… Organisations like Shooting People are very, very important, and they enable us to talk to each other.”

Huge thanks to Paul 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.

Sound, Silence and the Working Class in the Film Industry

Posted February 11th, 2021 by dorothy

Our NEW SHOOTS live event programme continues online and in January, we sat down with Bafta nominated writer/director Francis Lee (‘God’s Own Country’, ‘Ammonite’) and award winning sound designer Johnnie Burn (‘The Favourite’, ‘Under the Skin’, ‘Ammonite’) to discuss breaking into the industry from a working class background, directing actors, visual storytelling, sound design and sound immersion and the relationship between the Director and Sound Designer.

Interviewed by SP’s Cath Le Couteur, self-taught writer and director Francis Lee revealed his experience of transitioning from short films to features with ‘God’s Own Country.’ Having received multiple rejections for feature funding, Franics finally received backing from the BFI.

“That was an important lesson: a no only means a no today, it doesn’t mean a no forever.”

Coming from a working class background, Francis Lee experienced first hand the many limitations and hardships when entering a middle class-led film industry which frequently overlooks how its structures continue to restrict working class voices. But as Francis noted, his background is also what drove him in his career:

“I want to give voices to these working class characters. It feels important that they should be heard… when all the ‘nos’ come in, what keeps me going is – these characters deserve a life and I’m going to keep pushing till I get there”

Working class people continue to be underrepresented in the film industry. The 2020 report from The Policy and Evidence Centre revealed the strong class disparity, with only 16% of workers were working-class in 2019 (in ‘Film, TV, video, radio, and photography’) compared to 51% categorised as privileged. It’s especially disconcerting that this figure decreased compared to 20% of working class people in 2017. Much of the ‘development’ landscape for filmmakers becomes impossible for people who do not have the material means to work or develop their practice without sustainable funding.

Francis also stressed the importance of making film more accessible to working class people to enable them to tell stories that shed light on a huge range of diverse experiences.

Despite being a small Independent film, ‘God’s Own Country’ was the most successful British debut film, both critically and commercially that year. It screened at numerous festivals and gained theatrical distribution worldwide, winning countless awards at Sundance, The British Independent Film Awards and a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding British Film.

After working on a micro budget for God’s Own Country, jumping to a major star-studded feature was daunting. However, the challenges can be different to what one might expect. Working with Kate Winslet on ‘Ammonite’, Francis experienced the weight of her fame whilst on location:

“Very quickly you realise you’re working with someone who’s very good at their job, and wants to be pushed… but then on location, there’s crowds of people coming out to see the Titanic Lady, crowds of paparazzi… I found that very very uncomfortable”

Working with actors was also informed by Francis’ acting background, and working with Mike Leigh, that gave him insights into how to better communicate his ideas. 

“Acting taught me what it feels like to stand in front of a camera and how vulnerable you are, how difficult that process is. It means as a director, I can help them be their very best. As an actor I found that the majority of directors didn’t know how to communicate with actors, how to give notes….”

“With Kate we started to develop Mary from the moment she was born to when we first meet her in the film, every moment – from all her relationships, to a day in her life, to what she liked to wear and eat. Absolutely every single detail of her life. I don’t like hand doubles or stunt doubles so for Kate that meant going out onto the beaches and fossiling for 3 or 4 wks, using the tools Mary used, wearing her boots… I wanted her out there all day, getting that cold into her bones, working in that rain, working in that wind. All this work really played into the physicality of that character”.

Designing sound for ‘Ammonite’ brought challenges but also unique opportunities of its own. 

“The film offered the possibility to create an immersive world from a long time ago, to develop this world from isolation to a love story, without relying on music and dialogue.”

Focusing on sound and dialogue and avoiding the extensive use of music increased the importance of sound recording on set. Johnnie Burn disclosed how around filming he’d go to the location to study the natural sounds, work with and build on them later in the process. 

“The sound in ‘Ammonite’ was steeped in realism… the stronger we made that immersion, the deeper and more credible the experience would be for the viewer.” – Johnnie Burn

“This period was just before the days of photography, so you’re putting yourself in that historical position and asking yourself questions about what you see and hear, and building the world through that” – Francis Lee

The pair described the processes they developed during production and their working relationship. Johhnie’s outstanding work on ‘Under the Skin’, ‘The Favorite’ has made him a go-to sound designer for auteur directors. For Johnnie, the best relationships he has are with Directors who understand the creative potential of working with sound – as early as the script stage. He stresses that silence can be just as impacting as layered sounds to enhance any scene. 

“Silence is so powerful. You can never play the sound that someone can imagine in their own head. (…) It can be an incredibly powerful focusing thing. But actual silence is not the same thing as perceived silence. Actual silence is suffocating and really makes you lean in. Because you’re innately aware that something’s wrong.”

Johnnie also shared advice on working with directors who might not be as sound-literate. Make sure to watch the full recording of the Q&A below:

‘This has been an invaluable session. It’s inspiring to hear that being from a working class background shouldn’t be an obstacle in this industry. Sadly, there is a ceiling but when you see Francis’ passion, belief and not taking no for an answer this offers hope. Thank you.’ – Martin Johnston

Our enormous thanks to both Francis and Johnnie for their generosity, insight and for continuing to inspire all of us in the power of cinema.

2020 wrapped up

Posted December 21st, 2020 by dorothy

Dear all,

2021 is truly peeking around the corner. 

To help you start it off a bit earlier, we’ve compiled a list of shooter’s films you can catch up on, that have busted through this year and will make you laugh, cry, but most of all feel utterly inspired – all linked below.

But first, a couple of things about our community.

The vast majority of the SP community is made up of freelancers trying to make ends meet while also pursuing the stories, film projects and passion projects that they care about deeply. Many have been severely impacted by the pandemic. impacted severely. There are also dozens and dozens of smaller creative film orgs, film festivals, indie cinemas, activists and educators who belong to SP, some of whom have been forced to close their activities for good. 

The arts – cinema and beyond – continues to be discarded by this utter failure of a government who are unable to recognise the value of the arts to our cultural and social survival. The advice to ‘retrain’ and find a new job was laughable in every direction (as if as artists and freelancers, we don’t already try and hold down multiple gigs…) The ‘Cultural Recovery Fund’ made available and referred to as necessary ‘to protect the crown jewels’… may as well have been called a mothball fund for the people. Pre-Covid, the situation was already dire, there has been a 35% fall in Conservative government support for the arts over the last decade. 

And still, every day, across the SP community, people take the time to support each other, exchange ideas, share information, join each other’s productions, watch & comment on each other’s films, and build collaborations that persist in getting bold, independent work made and seen. 

On our own home turf, we may have lost our beloved office, but we remain fiercely of the belief that stories matter. That your stories matter. That culture matters. That helping to facilitate ways in which independent stories and films can bloom and will bloom again, matters. We could not provide any of the services we do without your support. Thank you for belonging to SP.

Thank you too, for the kindness of language and spirit of collaboration that continues to exist right across SP. 

Here are a few highlights of the year below. If you have some time, do check out some of the brilliant films from these writers, directors, actors, producers, crew and more… 

We hope it will act as inspiration for your 2021. 

Best of luck and strength to all.


molly, dorothy, adem, sally, colm, stu and cath



Incredibly, over 650 films were sent in for SP’s film competition this year.

Congrats to ALL who made a film. The competition is open each season (4x a year) and supports filmmakers by providing one-to-one industry mentorship + a bunch of fantastic camera and sound kit and other cool prizes.

Please remember too, that you can watch any film submitted this year, and find out what people are wanting to do next, and what collaborators they’re looking for here. An overall winner (announced 2021) will also walk away with a Nikon Z6 Essential Movie Kit, worth over £2500. Thanks Nikon!

Here are the four winning films for 2020-


Never Actually Lost by Rowan Ings 

* selected by Ed Sayers, Founder Straight 8

‘Never Actually Lost’ by Rowan Ings

An experimental archive film, documenting the filmmaker’s Grandmother, Audrey Anderson’s last year of life. ‘Never Actually Lost’ asks how we remember our own selves and how we attempt to remember someone else.Ed Sayers

Born Again by Candice Onyeama 

* selected by Sarah Gavron (Rocks, Suffragette)

‘Born Again’ by Candice Onyeama

‘It is a beautifully directed film about a painful and sadly rarely explored subject. The central performance is raw, real and affecting. The use of imagery is incredibly powerful and the sound design gives the film an immersive quality. I was both moved and impressed by this film.’ – Sarah Gavron 

Shooting People has been a big support through my career… yours is a platform that truly champions indie filmmakers.’- Candice Onyeama 

The Circle by Lanre Malaolu 

* selected by Desiree Akhavan (The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Appropriate Behaviour) 

‘The Circle’ by Lanre Malaolu

The Circle explores race in a way I’ve never seen on screen before – playing with form, movement and narrative structure. I’m really looking forward to seeing where Lanre Malaolu’s voice takes him next.’  – Desiree Akhavan

Listen to Me Sing by Isabel Garrett 

* selected by Philip Ilson (Artistic Director and Founder, London Short Film Festival)

‘Listen to Me Sing’ by Isabel Garrett

This surreal and spectacular animation goes to places unexpected and thrilling, involving a singing walrus! The craziness of the story keeps us watching, but the quality of the models and lighting show a stunning dedication the animation craft to create new surprising worlds.’-  Philip Ilson 


Amazonia by Dominic Hicks is a triptych of dark comedy shorts based on real product reviews. 

‘Amazonia’ by Dominic Hicks

My Boy by Charlotte Regan is a devastating drama about a father desperately looking for his  son. 

‘My Boy’ by Charlotte Regan

Those Who Wait by Steph Beeston. A poignant documentary looking at a family living in the largest cemetery in Metro Manila, home to 8000 living residents. 

‘Those Who Wait’ by Steph Beeston

Bubble by Eleanor Mortimer. Against a backdrop of gentrification in London’s East End, a family-run tropical fish shop keeps open against the odds.

‘Bubble’ by Eleanor Mortimer

Tin Luck by Beatrix Jacot. Told in one unbroken nine-minute shot, on technocrane, on 35mm film and Tin Luck was 80% cast by the community at Maiden Lane. 

‘Tin Luck’ by Beatrix Jacot

Material Bodies by Dorothy Allen- Pickard. Through interweaving dance and dialogue, Material Bodies is a sensual and cinematic look at the relationship between amputees and their limbs.

‘Material Bodies’ by Dorothy Allen-Pickard

Olve by Andy Twyman. A romantic drama utilising a made-up nonsense language to depict the difficulties of everyday life experienced by non-english speakers, here HIM, a young Nigerian kid who’s just moved to London,

‘Olve’ by Andy Twyman

Pampas by Jessica Bishopp. A hybrid documentary exploring the truth in the botanical myth; what went on behind closed curtains? A look at sexual signalling, subcultures, female desire and suburban legend.

‘Pampas’ by Jessica Bishopp


We continue to run our New Shoots competition for actors twice a year. Huge congrats to all the actors shortlisted this year. You can check out all of their profiles here or search the members directory directly, for actors you’d like to work with. Winners get access to a cash actors grant (to use for training, travel, or however you like), a bespoke showreel scene from the brilliant Actors Apparel and a bunch of cool sound recording kit and screenwriting software. Keep an eye out in the Casting bulletin for 2021!


Radhika Aggarwal  ‘So fun to be a part of this process aimed at showcasing me and my acting. It feels very indulgent- thank you! So excited for the Showreel Scene prize, to start using the zoom and to start writing decently formatted scripts! I love Mubi too, so all in all an amazing collection of prizes.’

William Nash:Thank you Shooting People. I have learnt tonnes about filmmaking through your platform and I’ve been introduced and worked with some fantastic people. Excited about creating more with the shooting people community.’ 


Morgan Archer, Tiggy Bayley, Clara Emanuel, Marilyn Ann Bird, Laura Hanna, Miranda Harrison, Leyla Margareta Jafarian, Samantha Morrish, Jean-Philippe Boriau, Raneem Daoud. Delilah Gyves-Smart, Ainy Jaffri Rahman, Olivia Negrean, Kal Sabir, Anthony Travis, James Watterson


Each season we run a New Shoots Live Event as a way for innovative feature filmmakers, producers and actors to reveal their experiences and critical insights, and to answer your questions directly. A defining characteristic of each Q/A we’ve run, is how candid all our speakers were. Not just on the sweat and tears that went into their remarkable projects and how they got them made, but also the creative missteps, things they’d have done differently, and the beautiful, serendipitous things that making a film also opened out.

Our enormous thanks to:

BAFTA nominated documentary producer Elhum Shakerifar (‘A Syrian Love Story,’ ‘A Northern Soul’) and Fiction producer Camilla Bray (‘Beats,’Lynn + Lucy,’) who revealed their top tips for producing independent films, including how to get your film funded and into cinemas. This event was not recorded, but future New Shoots events will be.

‘’Great night at @ShootingPeople event hearing from producers @lalalooms and Camilla Bray about everything from funding to the creative process’’- @whickerawards

Director Sarah Gavron (‘Suffragette’, ‘Brick Lane’) and her creative team, who were behind one of the most anticipated films of the year, the Toronto International Film Festival prize winning film ‘ROCKS’. Sarah spoke with SP’s Cath Le Couteur and they were joined by Maya Maffioli (‘Beast’) + Casting Assistant Jessica Straker. The team gave direct insights into working with non-actors, workshopping the story and the impact of shooting chronologically. Sarah and team have since been nominated for 15 awards at the 2020 British Independent Film Awards, including Best Independent Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Casting and Best Actress. Watch Rocks on Netflix

Really brilliant Q&A with some of the team behind ‘Rocks’ courtesy of @ShootingPeople  So great to have access to events like these right now #ThankYou #KeepingUsSane@ARPUfilm

WATCH Q/A here

Cult writer and director Ben Wheatley, (‘Free Fire’, ‘High Rise’, ‘Kill List’) who was gloriously down to earth and gave an exceptionally vast and candid amount of info about what it is to shoot on miniscule micro budgets, through to studio blockbusters. Ben also gave insights on a range of things connected to directing including storyboarding, sound design and when (not) to use a handheld camera. Ben has just completed ‘Rebecca’ with Kristin Scott Thomas and Arnie Hammer.

Live Q&A with legendary British director Ben Wheatley. Invaluable advice for independent filmmaking.”@BareArmsFilm

WATCH Q/A here

Actress and indie favorite Imogen Poots (‘Vivarium’, ‘The Father’, ‘I Know This Much is True’), who spoke about honing her craft alongside some of the industry’s biggest names including Terrence Malick, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cate Blanchett. Having acted in over 40 productions, Imogen spoke directly about  the actor/ director relationship, rehearsals, troubleshooting emotional scenes and the liberation of genre as an actress. Imogen’s latest film ‘The Father’ (with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman) has just been nominated for 6 British Independent Film Awards.

What great advice, thank you @ShootingPeople and Imogen Poots !”- @_Anna__Clara

WATCH Q/A here

A big thank you to our New Shoots Principal Partners. To Nikon who also provided free mirrorless camera training to members this year. And to Zipcar who offered all members the cheapest access to vehicle hire, with no sign up fees and a generous £60 driving credit.


Congrats to every single shooter who has progressed a project this year, completed a script, collaborated with others, or started the difficult process of trying to source funding. Despite the torrid year of 2020, there’s been a hell of a lot to celebrate as well. Whilst we can’t include every person who has posted in, here is a brief summary that we hope you will find inspiring for 2021.

Huge Congrats to:

  • 2020 Bafta Nominees: Including Harry Wootliff for Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut for ‘Only You’, Asif Kapadia (‘Diego Maradona‘) and Julia Reichert (‘American Factory’) for Best Documentary. Richard Phelan for Best Animated Film (‘A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon’), and Stuart Wilson (sound), Greg Butler (special visual effects) and Thomas Newman (composer) for ‘1917’.

‘Only You’ Harry Wootliff
  • ‘For Sama’ co-director Edward Watts, who won the BAFTA for Best Documentary and the International Emmy for Best Documentary. Watch it here.

‘For Sama’ dir. Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts
  • Maryam Mohajer who won Best British Short Animation at the 2020 BAFTA’s for ‘Grandad Was A Romantic’, watch her acceptance speech.

‘Grandad Was A Romantic’ by Maryam Mohajer

  • Anna Griffin, Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor, Manon Ardisson and Sarah Brocklehurst who were selected for the prestigious producer BFI Vision Awards.

  • Arthur Cauty who beat off entries from 114 countries to win Best Documentary in the My RØDE Reel competition, taking home $75K for his brilliant film ‘The Last Video Store’. It follows 20th Century Flicks- the longest running video shop in the world, which has been open for 37 years in Bristol. Watch it here.

‘The Last Video Store’ dir. Arthur Cauty
  • Lawrence Pumfrey who was one of 3 winners of the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Competition for his 18th Century British-Western ‘Peakland’.
  • Jennifer Sheridan who was nominated for the Raindance Discovery Award at the 2020 BIFAs for ‘Rose: A Love Story’.

‘Rose: A Love Story’ dir. Jennifer Sheridan
  • Annika Summerson who has been nominated for best Cinematography at the 2020 BIFAs for her work onMogul Mowgli’. Due for UK release in 2021.

‘Mogul Mowgli’ dir. Bassam Tariq
  • 3 Producer members who have been nominated for Best British Short at the 2020 BIFAs – Emily Everdee for ‘Mandem,’ Tom Wood for ‘Sudden Light’ and Jessi Gutch for ‘The Forgotten C.’

‘Mandem’ dir. John Ogunmuyiwa
  • Ellen Evans whose brilliant short doc ‘Country Girl’ , a portrait of the rural underbelly of Britain won the Best Documentary Short at the Grierson Awards, previously shortlisted for New Shoots: Filmmakers. Watch it here. 

‘Country Girl’ dir. Ellen Evans
  • Ghada Eldemellawy & Gareth Pugh who won Best Student Documentary at the Grierson Awards for their unconventional and joyful film ‘Miss Curvy’.

‘Miss Curvy’ dir. Ghada Eldemellawy
  • Andrea Vinciguerra, whose hilarious stop motion animation ‘No, I Don’t Want to Dance!,’ which was previously shortlisted for our New Shoots: Filmmakers competition, went on to screen at Sundance. You can watch it here.

‘No, I Don’t Want to Dance!’ dir. Andrea Vinciguerra
  • Dan Faber and Vivek Daschaudhary who were two of the five finalists nominated for the The Whickers Film & TV Funding Award, for the chance of winning £80,000 to produce their first feature length documentary film.
  • ‘Grandad Was A Romantic’ directed by Maryam Mohajer and ‘No More Wings’ produced by Abiola Rufai who were both selected for the Tribeca Film Festival.

‘No More Wings’ dir. Abraham Adeyemi

  • Ella Jones and Georgina French who were selected for the BFI Network x BAFTA Crew 2020
  • Lanre Malaolu who’s New Shoots winning film ‘The Circle’ was released on The Guardian. The dance-documentary hybrid explores the lives of two black brothers growing up in east London. Watch it here.

  • The 11 shooters who had films screening at Leeds International Film Festival, and to director Rosie Westhoff’s poignant drama ‘Our Sister’ which won the BAFTA qualifying British Short Film Competition. 

‘Our Sister’ dir. Rosie Westhoff
  • ‘Thrive’ by Jamie Di Spirito and ‘Passing’ by Nichola Wong who were both nominated for the Iris Prize, the biggest LGBT+ short film prize in the world with a stonking £30,000 attached.

  • ‘Better’ written by Shooter Lucy Heath who won the Iris Prize Best British Short. 6 shooters were also nominated – Rosanagh Griffiths (‘Cindy’), Abel Rubinstein (‘Dungarees’), Matt Mahmood-Ogston (‘My God, I’m Queer’), Marco Alessi (‘Pompeii’) and Nisha Oza (‘The Scene’).

‘Better’ dir. Michael J. Ferns
  • Asif Kapadia (‘Maradona’, ‘Senna’, ‘Amy’), alumni member and huge supporter of SP, who was given the prestigious BBC Grierson Trustees’ Award at the 2020 British Documentary Awards. Celebrated for reinventing the documentary form as well as achieving Britain’s biggest box-office documentary hits. 

Asif Kapadia
  • 7 members who had short films screening at Encounters Short Film Festival– Tia Salisbury (‘A Noble Truth’), Dorothy Allen-Pickard (‘A Sonic Pulse’, ‘Material Bodies’), Marco Augelli (‘Backwards’), Will Anderson (‘Betty’), Stefanie Kolk (‘Eyes on the Road’), Paul Holbrook (‘Hungry Joe’), James Skinner (‘Fabulous’).

‘Material Bodies’ dir. Dorothy Allen-Pickard
  • James Skinner whose brilliant short film ‘Fabulous’ won the Depict Competition at Encounters Short Film Festival. Watch it here.

‘Fabulous’ dir. James Skinner
  • Four films by shooters, selected for BFI London Film Festival – ‘Summer Shade’ (Shira Haimovici), ‘Shuttlecock’ (Tommy Gillard), ‘Wood Child and Hidden Forest’ (Tommy Gillard) and ‘Dafa Metti’ (Tal Amiran) 

‘Summer Shade’ by Shira Haimovici

‘Born Again’ by Candice Onyeama
  • Director William Webb, writer Lucy Dwyer and editor Tatjana Rhodes who teamed up through SP to make ‘The Art of Noise’ which was selected as BFI Network’s Shortitout Pick of the Week. Watch it here.

‘The Art of Noise’ dir. William Webb

‘Ganef’ by Mark Rosenblatt

Congrats to all. There’s a ton of amazing stuff to watch and be inspired by.

We will continue to run every day throughout the holiday period. So if you are making stuff over the holidays, or looking for others to collaborate with, do post in. 

And thank you all again. SP would not exist without the incredible community support that members give to each other. 

Take care. Good Luck with everything.

See you in 2021.

5 times films used off-screen sound to tell the story by Soundsnap

Posted December 17th, 2020 by dorothy

There’s a classic quote that is often attributed to George Lucas that ‘Sound is 50% of the film experience’. We’re inclined to agree. There is no easier tool to help with world-building than sound. Humans can only view one image at a time, but we’re capable of processing multiple sounds at once. 

Off-screen elements are often used within film & television to help fill out the on-screen story. Here’s a look at five films that have used off-screen sound to help build the world and tell the story of the scene. 

BIG (1988 – Jerry Ross, Supervising Sound Editor)

In this scene we see Josh “settling” into his first night as a grownup in New York City. Without much more on the screen than Tom Hanks, the scene shows the sort of neighbourhood he has moved into. The sound of the street below (gunshot included), and the angry telephone conversation happening in the hallway outside his room help drive home the fear that a young boy would have in that situation away from his parents.

SIGNS (2002 – Richard King, Supervising Sound Editor)

In Signs, we join the Hess family as they are standing in the hallway as the aliens make their way around the outside of the house trying to find a way in. You can really feel the reality of the situation in the way the sound moves around as they eventually make their way to the roof. The sound department does such an efficient job, we hardly need Joaquin Phoenix announcing their position to know what’s going on.

BARTON FINK (1991 – Skip Lievsay, Supervising Sound Editor)

When the titular character of this Coen Brothers movie suffers with a bout of writer’s block, we hear the faint sound of the only other person in the hotel bellowing with laughter. Barton Fink calls down to reception, then we hear the phone ring in the next room. The neighbour takes the call, and then we hear the moving footsteps as the characters come towards their first meeting, all while focussing on the reaction of the main character. There are so many more reasons why this film is a sound design masterpiece, but this breakdown says much more than we could about it’s brilliance.

MUNICH (2005 – Ben Burtt, Supervising Sound Editor)

There aren’t many film scenes that could be watched with your eyes closed that could evoke as much tension as this scene portrays. We enter the film as a team of assassins are about to take out one of their targets with a bomb built into an apartment telephone. The mission is clearly well-planned, but the audience can see (and hear) several ways that everything nearly goes wrong. Pay attention to how we learn of the mother and daughter leaving the apartment just by hearing them get closer to the street, or how the whole sound of the scene changes right before the near-explosion. 

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998 – Richard Hymns, Supervising Sound Editor)

This scene is right at the climax of the film – the troops have just found Private James Ryan and are now preparing to hold off an attacking tank platoon. The ensuing battle scene is one of the most immersive in film history as the drone sound of the tanks remains a constant even when we don’t see them, and as the mixture of ammunition, clanging debris, and shouts fill the sound fields. 

About The Author

We are the biggest subscription based source for sound effects, and we love to hear our sounds in your work. We’ve just celebrated adding over 80,000 new effects to our library, taking our total (at the time of writing this) to 368,490! With our annual subscription you can get access to the whole sound effects library for just $199, or pay as you go for as little as $3 per sound.