Al Carretta is a prolific independent Film Director. Over the past 8 years he has directed and produced 13 feature films. He also runs the Nightpiece Film Festival within Edinburgh Fringe which is currently taking submissions - Details Here
In the following interview Al shares his thoughts on the film industry, how he funds his films and advice to student directors.
What was it that first attracted you to the film industry?
I’ve been fascinated by film for as long as I can remember, however, it was whilst working in Chatham Historic Dockyard, Kent between 1997-99 that introduced me to Hollywood scale film productions such as ‘The Mummy’ and ‘The World Is Not Enough’. Seeing the machine of filmmaking in action I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a less labour intensive way of doing things. I absorbed everything I could from these productions and planned (very carefully) how I would eventually make my own.
Did you attend film school or study film at university?
I attended Keele University and studied Visual Arts where I learnt the basics of photography. I must state that I never understood the technical aspect of the cameras until much later in life - I just learnt how to take pictures.
I left in the 2nd year of the degree as there were no further practical elements of the course and I was told in no uncertain terms by a tutor that my ideas would not attract good grades as she simply disliked my output. In an attempt to continue studies in what would have been my 3rd year I attended a HND Theatre course at a local college - but left in a matter of months due to multiple creative differences and the knowledge that my professional experience (at 20 years old) had already surpassed most of the tutors there.
How are you able to make feature films yearly?
Generally, it's a question of getting organised, however, the key is turnaround and this is where workflow, skill set and discipline comes into play.
Drive and passion turn the films around but more specifically being able to do the jobs of multiple people cuts production time enormously. Few people understand just how much effort is involved in my part. In 2018, when we shot my experimental feature ‘Tara Reata’ I must have done 120 hours across the week and I acted in it. I often over work myself with laser focus on the film at hand then burnout with a massive mental block where I achieve nothing for days and weeks.
Overall, making films is my life - everything else fits around the project that is currently being produced and this includes whatever work (DJing funds lots) I can pick up. For someone with the amount of experience I have I struggle enormously to find work and I, like so many filmmakers have done far too many favours for people.
Most people don’t entertain this sort of lifestyle. The pursuit of filmmaking has cost me multiple relationships and friendships. Funding is a constant battle (the source is me and my long suffering parents) and I’m always carrying debt but I have a defined production method and a detailed knowledge of cost cutting. The films come together a shooting day at a time over a period of months. I pour every penny I earn back into the films and constantly look to acquire practical filmmaking equipment. I always have an idea in development, I’m always looking for an opportunity to create something and I’m not afraid to experiment, be divisive and take criticism.
Drive and passion turn the films around but more specifically being able to do the jobs of multiple people cuts production time enormously.
How do you distribute your films?
For a low budget film in 2019, streaming platforms and film festival submissions are the only distribution avenue you need to concern yourself with. Distribution is a campaign of effort to sell your film but it takes a long time to learn the fact that your masterpiece is nothing more than a product that other people are also making to a far superior standard. Brutal observation, but it’s a core reality of the situation.
Once your film is in the pipeline of production you need to take advantage of IMDb. A loaded page with poster, plot, images, trailer is the start point for the exposure that then spreads through the internet. Make sure you own everything, have all rights in perpetuity and don’t sub-licence additional copyrighted material; these are costs that will interfere with sales of the film years down the line, particularly if you have to renew any rights.
Also, if any of the films you make get a high level of interest be ready for vitriolic abuse irrespective of standard. The internet is a cauldron of abuse and like life, indie film is laden with people who can give an opinion but can't critique. If you can break your film through the noise on no budget you’ve succeeded in a way you’re probably not going to realise you should be crediting yourself on.
When it comes to marketing it's logo, artwork, trailer, logline, synopsis and production stills that are an absolute must but don't forget to sign up to Distrokid and get your Soundtrack or at least a single - out on iTunes/Spotify etc. as it creates so many additional links that increase the presence of the film.
For a low budget film in 2019, streaming platforms and film festival submissions are the only distribution avenue you need to concern yourself with.
If you have an actual budget to play and suspect your film is potentially good enough go with Distribber or Quiver digital and pay them some money. You're looking at £1500 - £3000 but they're aggregators and deal with iTunes and Netflix so have the potential to open up your content to a much broader audience if it’s of appropriate standard.
If you don't want to spend any money, or like me, haven't got any, it's a combination of Vimeo on Demand, Amazon Video Direct (Prime) and Filmhub, who are now by far one of the most interesting streaming sites out there.
What Film projects are you currently working on?
Submissions just opened for the 6th Annual Nightpiece Film Festival. Our production year is built around Nightpiece in August during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. So many contacts and opportunities are created here.
We’re currently shooting my 14th feature ‘Princess in the Castle’. This is a complex tale about Connie Castille (Rachael Sparkes), a late 2000s YouTuber with a growing fanbase who disappears only to re-emerge ten years later with a horrific tale of abuse and captivity at the hands of her parents. All is not as it seems.
In January we shot the 12 minute short film ‘As The Frost Glistens’, which is referenced directly in Princess as the one of the films Connie has appeared in.
You can watch AL’s latest short film here
Shot on a Thursday, edited on a Friday and submitted to a film festival on the Saturday. Frost is a film that is part of a much greater publicity machine for the Princess project.
What advice would you give to students hoping to pursue a directing career?
In a nutshell, don’t be a prima donna and learn the fundamentals of acting so you can empathise with your performers. Understand man management, stand behind your projects, get them done quickly and always be planning for the next one. If the film has taken longer than a year dig deep and ask yourself why?
In detail, be more than just a director and if you’ve got a vision, see it through as best you can. Learn every role on the set but most pertinently, learn how people work and understand that you need to be surrounded with like minds who are on your wavelength with regards to their respective talent and intellect.
Stand behind your projects, get them done quickly and always be planning for the next one. If the film has taken longer than a year dig deep and ask yourself why?
Mismatched abilities don’t combine to deliver good film projects but attitude is everything and you need to learn personalities. It’s imperative to know who you can rely on because ultimately, they will make or break your project.
You can follow Al on Twitter Here