Review of the Year: 2014

Lining up a shot on the village set for Ren
Lining up a shot on the village set for Ren. Photo: Michael Hudson

Last year’s review saw me uncertain as to where to go next as a director, but chuffed to have DPed some great projects including Girl and a Scar and The First Musketeer. I stated my goals for 2014 as follows:

So in 2014 I hope to work as DP for many more great directors, to complete A Cautionary Tale, to see Stop/Eject get into a significant festival, to enter Virgin Media Shorts again.

Finding a frame with director Sophie Black on Night Owls
Finding a frame with director Sophie Black on Night Owls. Photo: Dimitri Yiallourou

Well, I’ve achieved 50% of those.

Virgin Media Shorts is no more, so that was the end of that goal.

A Cautionary Tale – now re-titled Amelia’s Letter – is nearly finished – finished enough that we entered it into a festival last month. But we still need to tweak the grading, record the music with live players and mix the sound.

Stop/Eject got into the highly significant Raindance Film Festival, and has recently been long-listed for a Bafta. Not too shabby.

Last but the opposite of least, I have indeed worked as DP for many great directors this year. You may have heard me mention a little web series called Ren once or twice, and that I quite enjoyed it. As I write this I’ve just been looking at some of the rushes again and even though I was there for two months shooting it, I’m blown away by the production value which director Kate Madison got on screen. Big things will happen for Ren, I feel sure of it.

Shooting Hellblazer
Shooting Hellblazer. Photo: Amy Nicholson

Shorts I lensed this year included Coffin Grabber (dir. Claire Alberie), The Gong Fu Connection (dir. Ted Duran), Access All Areas (dir. Rick Goldsmith), Night Owls (dir. Sophie Black), and Forever Alone (dir. Jordan Morris), plus the music promo for Hellblazer by Savage Messiah (dir. Tom Walsh).

Perhaps the most important thing to happen in my career this year was my decision to stop doing corporates. This was a massive decision that started with me telling a client of over a decade’s standing that I didn’t want to do their editing any more, and snowballed from there. Little corporate jobs booked way in advance were getting in the way of bigger, last-minute drama shoots. There could only be one winner.

Corporates had been my main source of income for nearly fifteen years, but I’d had enough. I simply couldn’t take the lack of creativity any more.

I was focusing in on what I wanted to do and stripping away what I didn’t. I don’t want to be executing notes from corporate clients. I don’t want to be shooting interviews. I don’t want to be lensing training videos in bland offices with no crew and a client who has no understanding of aesthetics or story. And I don’t want to be stuck in a room with a computer, editing, especially when there are so many people out there who can do that much better than me.

Gaffering on By Any Name
Gaffering on By Any Name. Photo: Sophie Wiggins

I want to be on set, DPing drama. I want to tell stories with lighting and composition until I die. If people want me to direct things occasionally, fine, that’s fun, but cinematography is my passion and my calling.

An interesting sideline that has developed is gaffering, something I’d never done before this year. I’ve worked on two shorts and a feature this year as gaffer for DP Paul Dudbridge, and it’s been great experience to watch another cinematographer at work.

So in 2015 the goal is very simple: keep DPing drama, with a bit of gaffering in the gaps. There is a short film in development for me to direct, and I have a vague ambition to direct some music videos, but those are much less important than continuing to light and shoot drama. If I can earn enough money to buy one of those new-fangled hoverboards that are coming out next year, maybe some self-lacing Nikes and a hover conversion for my old road car, I’ll be happy.

Merry Christmas everyone and remember: life’s too short to not be doing what you love.

Review of the Year: 2014