indie filmmaking


So, yesterday we wrapped on a monstrous action short I wrote, directed and co-produced with the lead actor. Somehow in the middle of the afternoon shit went south without me realising. We were shooting fights and these are brutal, difficult, slow and hard to manage because you’re not just dealing with telling a story you also have to consider exactly how believable your impacts are.

Cue: conflict.

We’re all mates and it was really just a little bit of handbags but I walked off set pissed off. Communication broke down somewhere along the line but that’s because we never set up a chain of command for how instructions and feedback were delivered.

That’s besides the point.

The point is this. When you’re the director of a film, the success of the film rests on your shoulders, squarely, unfairly perhaps, but it’s all on you. If you’ve done your homework then you have all the pieces in your head, in diagrams, on your iPad. Your strategies are flexible enough to deal with the inevitable challenges production always throws at you.

You, and you alone, have done the homework. You, and you alone, squat at the top of an enormous heaving pile of egos and corner-cutters clutching tight to the bigger picture. That’s a fucking lonely place to be. And those beneath you attack relentlessly. ¬†Everyone sees their piece of the puzzle in isolation and they fight, rightly for what they think is right. And they fight hard. But, none of them have the bigger picture. Nor will they ever have the bigger picture, even after the film is finished.

You can tell them everything but they won’t remember and they won’t care enough to keep it all there. This is why directing films is so insanely hard. Everyone is constantly doing their best to support you while what they’re actually doing is inadvertently trying to undermine you.

It requires a lot of bullheadedness. There is only one expert in your film and you’d better fucking make sure it’s you or you’re dead.

Forget about being friends. Who gives a fuck? When you’re sitting in the edit suite tearing your hair out because your lead actor talked you out of that extra take because they were sure they got it and you were good mates. Then. You’ll retreat into a small space of dreadful awful regret. Remember, it’s all on you.

You’re not there to be popular. I don’t give a shit about being friends with people anymore. I enjoy working with the people I work with, but the work is the thing now. We shoot, we challenge ourselves and we suffer a little, we suffer a lot. And we push for the best.

So. You have to be a fucking leader. You have to set the pace. You have to be the expert and you have to repel all those who want to rip that away from you.

So, when my stunt guy tells me what shot I’m actually going to use and that what I’m shooting is going to look shit. Well, he can fuck off. Because he’s not making the film. I am. If it’s shit, then that’s on me. But, after 5 days already shot, hundreds of hours spent in the company of the material and a cut that has been universally applauded, I think I’ve earned the right to dig my heels in.

I know what I’m doing. Do you?

indie filmmaking


There’s a lot of fucking filmmakers around these days. Yeah, I’ve got a DSLR, I’m a filmmaker.


Most people don’t make films at all. They make videos and that’s no slight at all. I shot music videos for a long old time. I never called them films. That makes you sound like a knob. Similarly, commercials. No-one calls them films. That doesn’t mean there’s no craft in them, far from it. It’s just respectful to the genre of actual film.

Now, you might just think this is a question of semantics, but if you throw that at me I’ll turn around and walk away. I won’t even bother to argue.

Why? Because anyone who uses the word ‘semantics’ in an argument about film can fuck off.

Film implies drama. Drama isn’t a genre, it’s the name for the conflict that defines the very heart of storytelling. I’ve heard people say “No, I’m not shooting a drama, I’m shooting an action film.”

Then you have no understanding of story and your film will be shit.

Drama is the premier league of production. It’s where the best talent is to be found. It’s by far the hardest type of production to master and excel at and, for me, it is by far the most rewarding.

Shoot long form drama (could be TV, could be a feature, could be a half hour short) and I will gladly call you a filmmaker, no matter how crap your film is.

Anyone who steps into the breach, puts their balls on the line and shoots long form drama is worthy of respect because it’s fucking hard.

I’ll cover in a future post why it’s so hard. But, I can turn up to most jobs with my eyes closed and do a better job than the majority of DSLR ‘filmmakers’ out there in a fraction of the time because what they’re producing is facile.

You are not a filmmaker because you film shit. You can call yourself that if you want but no-one’s going to take you seriously.

I don’t call myself a filmmaker. I’m a director. That’s enough.

Stop devaluing the craft of real filmmaking. Stop churning out mediocre, piss poor, empty works of digital blandness and look further. A ¬£1k 50mm 1.2 doesn’t give you the right to shoot shit.

PS You may wonder where I stand on documentaries. Feature docs can be absolutely incredible. Compelling beyond most fiction. It’s a different beast and the burden falls much more squarely on the shoulders of the director. Are those guys filmmakers. You bet your ass they are. Have I contradicted myself? Not really.