When did your interest in filmmaking start and what were you doing before you became a filmmaker?
As an actor I have always been interested in what happened after you finishing shooting. When I was at drama school I set up a short film company with a few of my pals in order to try different roles in the industry. We would work on a script and film it over a weekend. The films were terrible as none of us had a clue how to step into roles on the other side of the camera but the experience was life changing and made me want to create more of my own work. The cross over of skill sets can only be a good thing as all experiences influence each other and therefor helps develop your craft from all sides.
What made you want to apply for Sharp Shorts?
I am super passionate about writing for screen and performing in my own work. However I had only written for theatre and really needed the guidance and lessons in order for me to develop skills for screenwriting. Short sharps offers that support in bucket loads. The amount I have learned from the team and workshops they provide though the program have been crucial in my development as an artist.
Tell us a bit about your Sharp Shorts-supported film.
Soul is a coming of age story rooted in the electric sub culture of Northern Soul. We had the most amazing time shooting the film. Community and opportunity was the beating heart of the story but also the way we wanted to shoot therefor we had members of our crew step into their first ever roles on set. I know how important it is to give people their first experience working on a job and wanted to create a supportive environment for others to learn and flourish. We shot in the town I grew up in which created an amazing buzz for the local community and had Northern Soul dancers from all around the country join us. Between takes we were spinning records and dancing. One of the dancers expressed, “this has been the best day of my life” which was so moving for me to hear. It was important to involve the community and people who gave me my identity through the soul scene and let them be apart of the film. I am so excited to share it with them.
What did you learn through taking part in Sharp Shorts? How was your experience working with the Short Circuit team?
The team are truly incredible. They made me feel so supported at every step of the development journey. The workshops have really been incredible and I have learnt a lot not only about being a filmmaker but also it has influenced the way I work as an actor.
What was your creative process? How did you get ready to make your film?
I had 3 different creative processes for Soul as I had 3 different roles on the film. Writing, acting and then directing. It was a huge amount of responsibility but I was ready for it due to the preparation and hard work I had dedicated to making sure the shoot would run smooth. Flipping between being in a scene on camera and then jumping off camera to re direct it was an amazing experience but it would not have been successful without a patient and supportive cast and crew. Picking the right team is essential to the shoot being a success, especially if you are juggling multiple roles.
Why do you feel stories like this are important?
Community, identity, sub culture and representing working class stories are all things I feel hugely passionate about putting on screen. The experience I had with my debut play Moorcroft was a majority working class audience who had never been to the theatre before, seeing themselves represented onstage and therefore feeling a sense of pride and importance. Everyone should be able to see their stories in the spotlight or on the big screen and feel that same sense of importance. Where I grew up feels like it is far from a film set but I wanted to turn it into one. The character and stories these places hold are unmatched. As I grow and work through my career, I really plan on continuing to champion the stories, people and places I grew up and make them feel they are worth being the main part. Northern soul has been there for me my whole life. Through the highs and lows. That dance floor has seen tears of happiness, sadness, grief, heartbreak, falling in love. You name it, those floorboards have felt it. The community in the soul scene is just incredible. People from all different life experiences coming together and letting loose on the floor. The fashion, music, scooters, tattoos and more are a total way of life for so many people. I have met some of the most interesting, kind, funny people at soul dances. Capturing the feeling this community creates and showcasing that on screen has been a dream come true. This is my love letter to the people and scene that has given me so much.
What are you hoping for audiences to get out of your film?
To want to get up and dance. To hug your family and friends that wee bit tighter and to remember how important your sense of self is. No matter what life throws at you or where you go in this world, you never forget where you come from and the people who helped you along the way.
What was the greatest hurdle you encountered whilst shooting, can you tell us how you overcame that?
Music! We have been on a wild journey to find the final dance track for our film. Northern Soul records are rare and in order to use them in a film we were looking at a huge amount of money which on a small budget was totally unachievable. We found really creative ways around this by looking at up and coming artists and bands within the scene and through this created amazing relationships with musicians who were excited about the idea of having their track feature in the film.
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to apply for Sharp Shorts?
Give your heart and soul to your application. Your passion for the story you want to tell is essential in making your application stand out. The first draft of my script was miles and miles of a shooting draft but the whole point of the program is to learn and develop so don’t think you have to have everything totally worked out and perfect. Your ideas will change and grow as you learn and that is a magical thing. Embrace others ideas and also hold your vision as an artists. Those tow things work hand in hand. Good luck and as we say in the soul scene, keep the faith. Now go make some cool art!
Photo credit: Conor De Ath