Moviescope spoke with two up and coming film-makers about the challenge of moving from short films to feature films.
James Sharpe (director) and James Boyle (producer) describe the difficulties of finding funding and standing out from the crowd.
Tell us about your latest work.
James Sharpe: My most recent personal project was a short film called FIBS starring Samantha White (below). We’ve had some immensely positive feedback about the film, and it plays really, really well to a cinema audience.
James Boyle: With FIBS having finished its festival run, James (Sharpe) asked me to come on board as Producer of Marketing & Distribution to help organise the online release, re-brand the film (with the help of the creative studio I run) and organise subsequent marketing opportunities for it, post launch. We’re now developing a feature script together called ‘Horse Meat’.
I’ve also been working on ‘Towers’, a sci-fi drama written by Ewen Glass and directed by Azhur Saleem. It’s just been delivered and is starting its festival run.
Does your location effect funding and networking opportunities?
JS: I’ve spent most of my life living in the East Midlands in Derby and Nottingham, where I struggled to find opportunities to gain funding to make shorts. I made a lot of shorts with no money, or out of my own pocket, but found it difficult to grow as a director making one short a year. Being a big music lover, I decided to become a music video director, which allowed me to make a lot more work, move away from personal stories, and try out loads of different styles and ideas.
I now live in London, and it does feel like there are more opportunities here; this is where the whole industry is. There are definitely a lot more doors to knock on, but the competition here is fierce, and there are a lot of people vying for attention and jobs. One thing London does have going for it is the networking opportunities.
JB: I’m based in London which is great for networking. Funding is an interesting one; when I first moved to London about 10 years ago, funding was less specific for short projects, it was hard to know what funders were looking for and shorts then also had more caché as a medium, which meant larger budgets on offer. What I’ve noticed since then is that short funding opportunities have become more explicit – which makes sense post the crowdfunding/internet/smartphone explosion. Recent examples of this are the ‘Shakespeare Sister’ scheme launched by Film London who are looking for female filmmakers, and their ‘London Calling Plus’ scheme which is aimed at BAME filmmakers; both of these are fantastic schemes. There are also a lot of programs aimed at filmmakers outside of London and in specific UK regions – Creative England’s iShorts is one that comes to mind.
Now that short funding has become more location and/or demographic specific, it is somewhat easier to know what backers are looking for, however, on the flip side, if for whatever reason your project doesn’t fit into those parameters, it can be hard not to feel very definitely excluded.
What do you do as a day job while looking for film financing?
JS: I work as a freelance director, writer, editor and creative. Directing music videos led me to directing comedy sketches for BBC3 for Russell Howard’s Good News, and to my first commercials for the likes of Paramount Pictures; directing an interactive narrative short based in the world of Paranormal Activity for the film The Marked Ones. This year I’ve spent my day job working as an in-house director and creative for ad agencies directing (as well as often writing and editing) for clients such as Currys PC / World, Disney, Microsoft, and Playstation. I strongly believe in working as much as you can as a director, on a variety of different projects, as you learn at least one thing about directing, and about yourself on every project.
Do short film schemes lead you directly to features?
JS: They can help. At the very least they should help you develop as a filmmaker. People move into features from all sorts of avenues. I used to believe short film schemes were the only way into feature film making, as the general consensus was you should move up through the schemes gaining bigger budgets as you went to help move you into features. I now know this isn’t the case, and would say to people not to feel disheartened at not being accepted on to schemes; there are other ways, whether it’s through music videos, commercials, or simply making films out of your own pocket.
JB: Yes and no…the scheme can only act as an enabler or conduit. In essence it all comes down to the idea and story.
NEXT: Finding Funding and long-term strategies