‘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.

How to Make A Zero Budget Web Series

Posted April 18th, 2018 by Mark Ryan

Two SP members, Rebecca Boey and Joseph Brett, of Jackdaw Films completed their webseries Jade Dragon last year completely out of their own pocket. In this blog post, they explain how they achieved it and offer tips for any aspiring filmmakers looking to do the same. Over to Rebecca and Joseph…

We made our 19-episode comedy Jade Dragon, set in a Chinese takeaway, on zero budget. That’s not to say it didn’t cost us anything. Of course it did. It cost us our time, and time is precious. It also cost us the price of sandwiches and snacks for the actors. We chose to do a screening of the series at Whirled Cinema once it was made, which set us back £240 – we did that because we wanted to give something back to the people who worked with us for free, by throwing them a party and letting them experience their work on the big screen. That was our only real expense.


We wrote Jade Dragon as a single camera mockumentary, so we had written into the very fabric of our show a certain shoddiness – it didn’t have to be cinematic and beautiful, in fact a lo-fi look lent itself better to the story. It also meant that we didn’t have to light it. We were lucky that our director, who was also our DP, had his own camera and zoom so we didn’t need to hire anything. We shot our series on a DSLR (Sony A7S) but we could just as well have shot it on phones. If Steven Soderbergh can make a movie with iPhone footage, you can make a web series that way.

We knew before we started writing that our director/DP also worked as an after effects op, so we decided to go all out with the visual effects in episode 18 and have a huge crazy CGI scene. We loved the idea of this zero budget series having a great big expensive-looking episode. Actually it cost us nothing, just the director’s time. Not every team will have a whizz kid like Joseph on it, but find out what your collaborators can do or what they have access to, and make the most of that. Maybe your mate works at an ice rink and has after-hours access – set it there. Maybe you know someone whose aunt owns a horse and cart – write that in.



If you want amazing actors to work with you, you have to be offering them something.  You want them to work for you for free, and the only way that is going to happen is if they love your project and the role you’re offering them. Write three-dimensional characters with great dialogue and you’ll find actors will leap at the opportunity to play them. You’d be amazed at how much rubbish is out there and how many terrible scripts actors get sent. Don’t patronise them with promises of showreel and exposure. Send them a script they just can’t turn down. If you can cast on showreels and recommendations, that’s a plus – there are few things more off-putting than being invited to audition for an unpaid role. Offer to work around actors’ schedules as much as possible, and honour that. We had to rejig our shooting schedule for Jade Dragon almost every day because our actors had auditions to go to. It’s a headache but it’s not impossible and if you want good actors for no money, the cost is a bit of admin.



The fewer people involved, the cheaper, especially if you’re going to feed the people on set. We had a crew of two – the director, who was also DP and sound recordist, and the writer who quadrupled up as line producer, runner and actor. The two of us were there every day of the two-week shoot. The other actors dipped in and out when they were available. We rarely had more than five people on set at any one time, and we often scheduled it so that we shot one batch of actors in the morning and a second bunch in the afternoon. This had an added bonus – we didn’t have to provide lunch. On the odd occasions when we had a couple of actors for the whole day, we’d splash out and treat them to a proper lunch – burgers or noodles from nearby restaurants – and a year later they still talk about how great the catering was because those treats are all they remember.



We had to build a set for our final episode, so we pinched old doors and bits of wood and broken tiles out of skips and chucked it all together in our front room. It took two of us the whole weekend to do and in daylight the set was far from perfect – but we shot it in low light and only showed parts of it, and we’re really happy with the results.  Costumes were the actors’ own clothes. Props were bought and then returned, pristine and with receipts, to the shops that ‘lent’ them to us. Our costume and art department budget was exactly zero pounds.

If you want to make something for no money, you can. It would be lovely if we could all have funding for everything we do, and everyone could be paid what they’re worth, but that’s not always possible. Making a zero budget web series could be the thing that gets you on radars you would otherwise not show up on, and means you’re more likely to get funded in future.


Get out there and do it. Work with what you have access to, respect your actors, and be inventive. Good luck!



Jackdaw Films is Rebecca Boey and Joseph Brett.

Rebecca is a graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers’ Programme and the BBC Writers Room London Voices group, and is represented by The Agency. Of half-Chinese descent, she is passionate about stories that put British East Asian narratives at their centre.  

Joseph is an award-winning film-maker and animator, whose work has been featured in Creative Review, Cool Hunting and It’s Nice That. He has shot and directed music videos for artists including Ezra Furman, Efterklang, The Leisure Society and Allo Darlin, as well as an animation for Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

After Jade Dragon, they made Sleep Tight, a series of horror shorts. They are currently in pre-production for a short film, White Wedding, a folk horror about four British Chinese women on a hen-do in the English countryside.

Watch Jade Dragon here

New Shooting People Collaboration with Animators Luke George and Emma Rose-Dade

Posted February 27th, 2018 by Helen Jack

At Shooting People HQ we decided that it would be helpful for people who were new to the site to get a sense of who the community is, and to illustrate visually how the community is made up of so many different creative collaborators, right across the industry. We were also personally transfixed by paper animation at the time and when we came across the work of Emma and Luke, we got in touch to see if they might consider making a short video for us. Not only did they supersede all our expectations (on a very tight budget), but they were incredibly open, remarkably inventive, and also super generous in offering to share their thoughts on their working process.

Below, we’ve shared some more details on how this talented trio (including Adam, their brilliant composer) pull their work and ideas together.

Both of you work individually as well as a team. What benefits and challenges do you get when working on projects together, and how do you split your roles?

A major benefit of our working relationship is that we come from slightly different creative backgrounds – Luke from Graphic Design and Emma from photography. Our combined knowledge and experience compliment each other very well.

We break our roles up to suit the particular job, in this case it made sense that Emma took charge of the organisation, buying and art department whilst Luke focused on designing the shoot, light and edit. We cross over roles wherever useful.

It seems like their are so many multiple disciplines animators develop, or need to develop. What specific animation skills (also software and kit) did you use in creating the Shooting People video?

The multi-discipline nature of stop-motion is what drew us both to it in the first place. It gives us a way to make films whilst incorporating a lot of our skills and interests, like photography, lighting, design, animation, and a healthy dollop of problem solving.

We capture frames using dragonframe, which is the industry standard and packed full of useful features designed to make the process as easy as possible. We used a Canon 5D Mk II with an old 85mm manual lens. We also borrowed a motion control slider from our stop-motion pals, Parabella. We lit it with various combinations of dedos for spots and keys, an Arri 300 for general soft fill and an LED panel for some backdrops.

Paper Animation! We adore it. What it is about paper animation you guys love?

We really love paper animation because it’s quite an accessible material. Once you know its limitations and quirks it’s a quick and versatile way of making models.

Luke George

Often people have very little idea how much time goes into crafting work like this. Can you give us a sense of what’s involved in creating one of the sequences for the video?

We created a storyboard to rough out the design and plan the animation so we only shoot what we need. We then finalised the designs in illustrator to be cut out of paper by our robot slave. We then start setting up the camera, moving into different positions to check the composition and sort out all the rigging for the animatable elements. As the animation was all super simple in this film, it actually ended up being one of the quickest stages of the process, which is very rarely the case! We like to try and do everything in camera, keeping the post work to a minimum.

What was your thinking on how to light the film? And what was the most difficult challenge with the piece?

We wanted to keep the lighting simple. We didn’t have loads of space to shoot in so we couldn’t go too bananas. The very talented DOP Malcolm Hadley kindly gave us his opinions and advice on how to light our sets, he even lent us a bit of kit.

We have members who are live action or documentary filmmakers – or even writers – who are keen to collaborate with animators. From an animators perspective, what’s the best approach and how can this partnership work best for everyone?

It totally depends on the project really. If the collaborator had a specific idea in mind, the more information they can give, the better. Storyboards, design sheets, timings, sound files etc are all super useful. Equally though, if they aren’t sure or aren’t familiar with animation then they should take the animator’s advice on board. Every project’s circumstances are different, but transparency and good communication are always key.

The soundtrack and sound design was such a surprise for us. We adored it. How did you come to collaborate with Adam? And how did that process work?

We were aware of Adam through his collaboration with friends of ours and really liked his work. We got in touch with him and he was keen to get involved.

Working with Adam was great because he understood the project and the vibe we wanted straight away. After a meeting where we talked through the project and showed him the animatic, we emailed back and forth with him sending us drafts. He was very quick and it wasn’t long before we had something we all liked.

Adam, what was your approach to creating the soundtrack for the film? And did it change along the way, or were you always clear from the start?

Often a client knows the exact track they wish they could use but can’t afford. In these instances I work best off references. Luckily, Luke and Emma had already made a great playlist featuring artists like Lemon Jelly and Cinematic Orchestra, tracks that captured the mood they wanted to convey for the film.

The edit was already locked with each scene cutting every 4 seconds which meant the tempo would fit 120 BPM very neatly. I tried to make the music shift with each cut; sweeping strings in the romantic scene, triumphant brass in the arctic explorer scene and so on. I’ve been listening to a lot of Henry Mancini so these motifs were very small nods to his amazing classic film scores.

I managed to get the essence of the track in my first attempt and we ending up only doing seven drafts which is very few compared to most jobs I have worked on.

From a composer and sound designer’s point of view, sound is so key to elevating a film. What’s the best approach for directors to get the best out of this partnership?

For me, communication and using appropriate vernacular are the two essential tools for quickly conveying an idea and getting the desired result.

Is the sound high or low pitched? Is the timbre too harsh or too soft? Give an approximation of what it sounds like. At one point Luke told me to “get rid of the organ sound” in the track, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t actually an organ he was hearing, I could navigate the myriad of sounds and isolate his criticism easily.

Most people actually have a far better musical vocabulary than they let themselves believe. Be specific where possible and time stamp your criticisms. These things should always be a collaboration where you both are learning all the time.

I once had a job where the feedback came back as a solid essay of changes that kept referring to one specific sound as “the bong bong bong”. This phrase was repeated about five times and I literally had no idea what they were talking about.

Thankfully Luke and Emma were a dream to work with, giving clear and direct instructions while giving me the freedom to use my creative judgement where necessary.

Luke, you recently did animation work for Wes Anderson’s latest feature Isle of Dogs. We KNOW your clouds made it into the trailer (Woop!). Are working on features like this a key part of your future plans or are these challenging decisions because of the huge time commitments? And, most importantly, did you meet Wes?!

Yes, that eight second explosion took over a week to shoot and got to about 4 ft high! Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to meet Wes as he only seemed to turn up when I was off doing something else!

I like to keep my options open and my ear close to the ground. I’m looking to develop my character animation skills, but I consider myself a bit of a generalist, I just like to get stuck in. I’m currently working in Manchester making armatures for a new kids TV series.

Emma, you have a background in fine art and photography and you’ve also worked as an Art Director on films. Is this also something your keen to pursue more of, or is animation and model-making where your heart is?

Stop motion animation is where my heart is, as a medium it allows me to photograph, paint, model make, etc. I get to do all the creative things I enjoy doing. Art Directing is just a natural progression from model making on stop-motion projects and I very much look forward to doing it more in the future.

Emma-Rose Dade

Adam, what’s coming up for you? And do you prefer to spend more of your time composing or sound designing, or are the two often melded for you?

As always I’m trying to write an album I am satisfied with (I release music under the name Adam Halogen). So far I have written and scrapped about five, which I guess is progress! I’ve just released a remix of Hard To Find by Strong Asian Mothers which I’m really happy with.

I’m always looking for opportunities to score for films wherever possible, so indie filmmakers please get in touch! No matter the budget.

Most of the music I make is for advertising which doesn’t boast a lot of creative freedom or originality. There are rare projects that truly meld sound design and music into one inseparable beast. My proudest example of this would be my collaboration with That Jam and Moon Man Studios on our film The Sleeping Field which we were lucky enough to win Gold Prize for music at the Berlin Fashion Film Festival.

Thank you all for taking the time to share with us.

Check out more of the work from this brilliant trio at:


God’s Own Country Producer, Manon Ardisson, Answers Shooter Questions

Posted February 21st, 2018 by Helen Jack

At our SHORT CUTS Launch Party last month, we were lucky enough to be joined by Producer and SP member Manon Ardisson who has seen huge success with the break-out hit of last year, God’s Own Country.

The feature, directed by Francis Lee, premiered at Sundance 2017, winning the Special Jury Award for Directing in the World Dramatic competition. The film went on to win awards at international festivals, notably Best British Film in Edinburgh, Best International First Feature in Galway, and the Audience Award for Best Feature at Frameline. It won 4 British Independent Film Awards, including Best Film, and was nominated for a 2018 BAFTA.

Manon also co-produced La Soledad (2016) by Jorge Thielen Armand, the first feature about the current Venezuelan crisis. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and went on to screen at festival around the world, notably winning the Audience Award in Miami.

Manon has been selected for a number of talent schemes, such as Creative England’s iFeatures, Film London’s Microwave, and Venice’s Biennale College Cinema, among others. Manon comes from a production background, and also worked as Creative Assistant at Paul Webster’s Shoebox Films.

We know not everyone was able to attend the launch party, so we wanted to give the whole SP community the chance to ask Manon some questions.

Below are our crowdsourced questions from Shooters.

Would you mind sharing details of how funding for God’s Own Country was made up? What percentage was from iFeatures, what percentage did you have to find from other investors?

God’s Own Country was developed through iFeatures, but it was actually funded outside of the programme by the BFI and Creative England. The majority of the funding came from these two institutions, and we also had 10% of the budget coming from a post deal with Met Post, and just under 20% from the UK tax credit.

What should a producer on a feature film be taking fee-wise? Often producers are so far down the pecking order when it comes to payment, despite our role in finding the money in the first place! Do you have a hierarchy of needs in terms of who gets paid first?

I believe the rule of thumb is that producers should get 10% of the budget between their fees and production overhead. However, that amount doesn’t increase if there are more producers, so in that case you will have to split your fee. You should aim to pay yourself a producer’s fee during production, and a production overhead fee after delivery, in case you need to use that amount to complete the film (which is not fair, but common practice). Producers are often asked to defer their fees, but that hasn’t happened to me, and you should try to avoid it.

What would you say are some essentials in an independent Producer’s toolkit? Things such as contract templates, tax calculators, software etc. Any kind of resources that you would recommend for someone starting out?

When you get started, there is a lot you can achieve with Excel in terms of budgets and finance plans, before having to invest in industry standard software. But what you’ll eventually need is Movie Magic Scheduling and Budgeting. For contracts, call sheets and so forth, you can generally find templates online (just searching through google). I adapted mine from past jobs, but I believe the No Film School website is a good resource.

As a successful feature film producer what do you look for in a project to want to attach your name to it?

The most important question is whether I like it! I want to work on films that I believe will have a positive impact on the audience, so I’m quite theme / message driven. I also need to fall in love with the writing: the world, the characters, the dialogue etc. I also need to get a sense that there is a route to production (i.e. that financiers will be interested in this) as well as to audiences (i.e. that other people would want to watch it).

Do you wait for projects to be offered to you or do you search for projects?

I do both. If I have an idea that I think would be interesting to develop then I look for the right writer to commission a treatment or script. But I also meet with writers or writer-directors who have their own scripts, and if I love the project then I take it on and we develop it further together. I would not be interested in taking on a project that is ‘ready for financing’ and in which I would not have any creative input.

What is the key element; the single most important element to successfully produce a feature, in your opinion?

As a producer you’re asked to deliver a film on budget, on schedule and on vision. I think the key element is delivering on vision i.e. understanding what your director is trying to achieve and making sure that every step of the development and production processes support that, from script notes, to financing applications, crewing up, casting and so on.

We’ve shot a feature that’s currently in post production and we would like to enter it into festivals and sell it. My question is, what is the right order to progress? Should we try and get it into festivals first and see if someone might want to buy it, or should we try and get someone to take it off our hands and let them distribute? 

In reality you need to do both at the same time. Having a sales agent onboard will be the best for the film’s visibility, so put together a list of sales agents who have sold similar films in the past and offer to send them a screener. But of course if you get selected for a big festival for your world premiere, then sales agents are a lot more likely to be interested in your film. So draft a strategy for the festival launch of the film. It’s important to start with the most established and prestigious festivals and work you way down to the smaller ones. Once you have a festival launch, you can chase the sales agents you had contacted before. I highly recommend applying to Film London’s Build Your Audience programme, which supports participants in developing distribution strategies for their films. Good luck!

I’m curious about the casting process for God’s Own Country. Did Francis Lee’s background in acting alter how he managed the castings/working with the actors? How did you find the lead actors Johnny Saxby and Gheorghe Ionesco?

Yes I believe that Francis’ background as an actor informed his process with the actors and participated in making the performances the strongest they could be. To cast the part of Johnny Saxby, we worked with casting directors Shaheen Baig and Layla Merrick Wolf who know who the most talented emerging actors are. We auditioned the part and were blown away by Josh. Similarly, we worked with casting director Domnica Circiumaru in Romania to cast Gheorghe. She sent us self tapes first, and we auditioned a dozen very talented Romanian actors in Bucharest. Three of them then came to London to do chemistry tests with Josh, and there was an immediate connection between Josh and Alec. They’re still great friends!

I struggle with sticking with a project sometimes, particularly after some knockbacks. Any advice on picking yourself up again after a rejection?

I think in this industry it’s important not to take rejection personally. It’s hard to do because you feel you are your work, but that’s not how people reading / watching assess it. There are a million reasons why people will pass on your project, and all you can do is take the feedback that speaks to you and use it to improve your work. It’s a tough business! But if it helps, the more rejections you get, the better at dealing with it you’ll become.

What would you say is the best way of finding a good producer? I’ve now written and directed 3 shorts and am currently finishing a feature script but I’ve yet to find a producer I’d want to collaborate with and move on to the next stage. Any advice? 

Online communities like Shooting People are a great way to find people to collaborate with! You can also go to networking events, notably during festivals, and apply to new talent programme that Creative England, the BFI or Film London among others are launching. I think you need to meet as many people as you can and find the person with whom you click – who shares your taste and understands your vision. Often it’s easier to find that person through working together, so maybe think about the people you did your shorts with?

Festival Focus: London Short Film Festival 2018 Preview

Posted December 8th, 2017 by Matt Turner

The 2018 London Short Film Festival bill has been announced and we’ve gone through and picked out our top 5 special events to attend. Once you’ve made time for all the new shorts you’ll need to be seeing, make sure you don’t end up missing these.

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Events: Short Cuts Launch Party

Posted December 6th, 2017 by Matt Turner

In January we’re celebrating Shooting People’s 20th anniversary by launching SHORT CUTS, our new career development focused film competition.

We’ll also be in conversation with writer/director Hope Dickson Leach (The Levelling) and producer Manon Ardisson (God’s Own Country). We’ll be discussing their breakout feature projects this year and all the work that led into them, and hearing their insights on navigating the industry as an independent filmmaker. After the talk there’ll be time to meet other filmmakers over some complimentary drinks.

The launch party will be from 7pm on the 11th January at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. The event is FREE and open to all, but please RSVP to let us know you’re coming.

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Events: #Soundtracks

Posted November 27th, 2017 by Tara Hille


Tristan C Anderson, a Shooting People member and BAFTA winner, is releasing #SOUNDTRACKS, his new solo album, and accompanying documentary project, something new and exciting sounding in format and approach. Tristan, is the co-founder of Doc Heads, the UK’s leading documentary screening, networking and membership organisation.  He is a London based, director, producer and musician.  His music blends folk, electronic, trip-hop and orchestral strings.

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Festival Focus: LIAF 2017 Programme Preview

Posted November 2nd, 2017 by Tara Hille

The London International Animation Festival (LIAF), an annual celebration of contemporary, international animation, have release their programme for this year’s edition. The festival is a 10 day comprehensive, up-to-date overview of the international indie animation scene: every style; every genre; every technique.

Taking place from December 1st through December 10th, LIAF 2017 will include: International Programmes; Abstract Animation Showcase; Animated Features; British Animation Showcase; Retrospectives; Music Videos Session; Late Night Bizarre; Masterclasses; Workshops; Special Guests; Animation Industry Events; Best of the Festival and much more. Screening will be held at the Barbican, with additional programmes at The Horse Hospital and Close Up Centre.

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Events: BAFTA Screenwriters Series

Posted November 2nd, 2017 by Matt Turner




Screenwriters, BAFTA’s lecture series will this year feature screenwriters Mark Boal, Sean Baker, Edgar Wright, Dee Rees and Anthony McCarten.

The 8th edition of BAFTA’s Screenwriters’ Lecture Series, the programme exists to “celebrate screenwriters’ authorial contribution to film, and gives esteemed writers a platform to share highlights and insights from their careers.”

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Festival Focus: London Film Festival Dispatch #2

Posted October 27th, 2017 by Matt Turner

Go to any film festival around the world, and you’ll encounter the same hierarchy of condescension. More interesting than the films in the main competition are those in the experimental sidebar, you’ll be told; and more interesting still, are the films found in the classic cinema retrospective. This considered, it is interesting to look at the London Film Festival, a spectacle that is very much about new cinema, as a site for the presentation and discovery of old movies. Smuggled inside the thematic strands are those new restorations of oft forgotten classics, the festival’s self-proclaimed ‘Treasures’. In this year’s festival, three punchy, political feature debuts released over three consecutive years at the tail end of the 1960s, stood apart from the pack.

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