We finally got word yesterday – nearly five months after being told we had been chosen for the scheme – that our DVShorts Plus project ‘Deliver Me’ has been okayed by the UK Film Council, which means that we can finally maybe start to get working on it again. (When I say ‘we’ it’s not some weird affectation – I mean me and my producer Tina Pawlik).
We need to sit down with Em-media – our particular exec being the new Development Executive Paul Welsh – and talk to them about the next stage of development for the project. It’s going to take a while to get my head back into the project again – it’s been so long since it was at the forefront of my working brain that I’m not sure that I’ve got the feel of it at the moment. Maybe the lay-off from thinking about it will do it good – it might give me a chance to look at it a bit more objectively and maybe make some improvements, or get some clearer thinking about how to go about making the thing.
I seem to have been talking a lot about development this week. On Friday I met up with a filmmaker called Sam Hawker, who I met on a course on Directing Drama, which I used to teach, first at Intermedia, then at Broadway. He’d asked me to have a look at a new film which he put together for college, which he’s thinking of remaking, partially because he’d had to make it in a rush to meet a deadline and partially because I think he thinks he can get some more out of it – which I absolutely agree with. It’s a two-hander, with, coincidentally, a similar set-up and theme to a new film that has just come out ‘Hard Candy’ (I haven’t seen it yet, so couldn’t tell him exactly how close the two are.)
Sam’s an enthusiastic and dedicated young filmmaker, with some Higher Education and short course experience. He really wants to learn and to develop as a filmmaker – so far his main experience has come through making his own films and working on a few others. It’s a traditional route in some ways for a Nottingham filmmaker, although Sam maybe has less of a peer group talent pool than some of us who ‘grew up’ as filmmakers together. But I’ve often thought that maybe there should be something more - not necessarily a film school, but at least some kind of set-up whereby up-and-coming filmmakers could get some kind of tuition/mentoring/practical advice on how to develop their techniques.
The Directing Drama course I ran at Intermedia/Broadway for a couple of years was at least partly designed to try and address this. I suggested the idea and wrote the course to attempt to fill a gap which I could see in the development of filmmakers in the region. It had seemed to me that people could make a few films, learn to develop their technique up to a certain point – often without any kind of structured training or advice – and then had the opportunity to apply for the ‘first tier’ schemes that were being run – things like DVShorts and Three Minute Warnings. But in taking those steps forward, often what seemed to be ignored was any notion that their filmmaking technique might benefit from some development. Often on these schemes a lot of focus is put on script development, but the development of storytelling through the filmmaking itself doesn’t seem to be addressed. (I’ve already written a little about this before...)
This isn’t to say that the filmmakers’ own developed technique should be chucked out or changed – in fact, quite the opposite, I think that those techniques should be refined and developed - and one way to do that is to work on creating a strategy for development which looks at concentrating on directing as well as screenwriting. Filmmaking isn’t just a case of hiring an experienced crew in to turn a developed script into a well-produced finished piece– it’s about a filmmaker attempting to communicate a story to an audience, and finding the best way to do that. And the best way is the way that serves the story best, the way that makes an audience want to keep watching and listening. And often that’s nothing to do with production values or highly polished scripts – it’s to do with the filmmaker knowing how to use the tools at his or her disposal. And that knowledge comes from experience, not only of making films, but of studying films, of breaking them down and seeing how they work – not only at script level, but at every level – sound design, production design, editing – not seeing these elements as things that are grafted onto a script, but as growing out from the story itself.
I think there can be real benefit in filmmakers having the opportunity to explore their filmmaking techniques, and to study the techniques of others. It’s always really helped me. I’m not advocating that filmmakers need to have their hands held in order to direct a film – but it often seems in this region, weirdly, that the skill of directing is the one that is least considered when projects are being developed. Maybe I’m wrong; after all, it’s been a few years since I’ve been in that position. And maybe I’ll get the chance to see if things are any different once I get started on ‘Deliver Me’.
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