With the pandemic wreaking havoc amongst the creative industries, we wanted to show our support by promoting some of our friends and partners in this series of interviews. Enjoy!
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Loved reading your piece 'F is for Film' taking the temperature of the Notts film scene - what's changed since if you were writing it today?
I feel like I’ve lost touch a little bit with the Nottingham film scene, to be honest. A big thing is with LeftLion starting to get involved with the Nottingham projects recently and now the owner is on the board and a big part of their platform is trying to make sure that creative filmmakers know that it’s not inevitable that you have to move to London to have a successful film career. I think there are people now - obviously Jeannie Finley is the biggest example of someone who's had huge success around the world without having to leave Nottingham, and she’s still based at Broadway Cinema.
So, I don’t know what’s changed. I think the independent scene seems to me to be doing very well. People are still getting projects made, but I think Covid-19 has put a halt to that a little bit. To me, though the Nottingham film scene feels kind of the same, it’s always felt as if there are two kinds of levels such as the level of people who are making films for fun and doing it because they enjoy it and then there's the next level of people who are trying to make it into more of a career.
I'm a young buck wanting to head off down to the bright lights of London where the streets are paved with gold to make films with Hugh Grant or something - what would you say to change my mind and stay Notts-side?
I’m not a big fan of London for the most part. I think from actors I've spoken to, London is a bit of a meat market and it’s a very impersonal place. I think the good thing about Nottingham is the people I work with when I'm filming anything are people I've worked with for quite a few years now and it allows you to develop relationships and bonds with people. It feels like you’re working with a core group of friends a lot of the time. Whereas I don’t know if those opportunities exist in London, I don’t think it’s as tight-knit.
I’d say the biggest thing is if you can get money without going to London, if you can manage to get something funded, and there's a lot more regional funding now from what I understand, than there was five or so years ago. If you can gain funding then I think it's better to stay in Nottingham because people are nicer here essentially, it’s just more personable here and I prefer that. In London there’s no room for personality.
What productions locally have you been involved with?
I made my feature film three or four years ago now which I spent about two years working on and then before that I made about three or four short films. Before that, I worked on Tristan Ofield's documentary and did some of the press and promotion work for that called Operation Oman which is on Amazon. I’ve worked mainly on a lot of short films, a lot of the people I work with now all met on this same short film, it was an absolute nightmare but we all bonded well on it, which I think is one of the good things when you have bad sets and bad experiences on film, you do learn a lot and it bonds you quite well together, at least four or five people I met there I still work with regularly.
You can either be behind the camera directing or in the audience as a critic ripping or praising a film - which one do you choose?
Definitely behind the camera directing, especially as I’ve got older as I used to love ripping apart films and then I made a film and I realised it’s not a fun experience. It’s enjoyable looking back but the amount of hard work is crazy! I don’t think I’ve ever written a bad film review after making my film and to be honest I try not to review films at all now. As I’ve got older I think the practice of reviewing films to me, I know I’m the editor of a magazine with reviews, films, music, art, everything, but I now think the art of criticism is kind of a bit of a false economy because there’s almost an element of snobbery to it.
Also, from a lot of film critics I’ve met, you think a lot of you couldn’t make a film so it’s an odd thing to criticise when you’re not able to do it yourself. So as soon as I made a film, I stopped writing bad film reviews. I realise that even with the worst film in the world, somebody put a lot of hard work into it and it was someone’s dream at some point and it was still someone’s ambition. I don’t feel guilty because I still stand by everything I’ve said (in the past about bad films) - I just don’t take the enjoyment from it anymore.
That’s fab, cheers Ash! Check out some of Leftlion's stuff over here:
Edited for clarity by Esme Johnson.