21st Century Film Directors. Interview with 5 Film Directors

Just how do film directors in the 21st century establish their careers? How do they fund their projects and how do they plan to distribute their films?

I have decided to do an investigation into film directors. I am following 5 feature film projects currently at different stages of production in the UK. I intend to follow these projects throughout the next couple of years.

All of these film directors are in their thirties, for four of them this is their debut feature film and the films budgets vary from low budget to high. This is the biggest project these directors have tackled within their careers so far.

Kate Herron Circle.jpg

KATE HERRON

1. How Long Have You Been Directing Films For?

Hello my name is Kate and I’m a Screenwriter and Director. Including the nonsense I made a teenager roughly ten years.

I have written and directed shorts, written features and am currently directing a show for Netflix called Sex Education.

2. What Is Your Feature Film About?

My feature film is called Miss Universe and it’s about a beauty pageant under alien attack. The film is at the script drafting / hustling for money stage. We should be filming next year. 

3. How Are You Funding The Film?

My producers are the force behind that one. Once I get this draft done it’ll be a mixture of locking in cast which will bring in some investment and speaking to companies also.

In terms of development we did the Film London Microwave Scheme two years ago and from that were also selected for the BFI Genre Weekender. It’s been an interesting journey for the project which started off as something much cheaper. In time it became clear that we needed a bigger budget. As my directing career has progressed over the rewrites the project is now on a much bigger scale, which is exciting. 

4. How Are You Hoping To Distribute The Film?

The film ideally be in cinemas but that’s an interesting discussion in itself. In terms of my career, like every job, I hope to work again and that it’ll also be something that if I hadn’t made myself I would want to go and see.

5. What Tips Would You Give To Beginner Filmmakers?

Make want you love, it’s very time consuming making any film so make something you really want to see. Don’t stress if the first one doesn’t go as planned, things will go wrong and it’s all part of learning. It’s much better to make mistakes on your earlier stuff than later when it’ll cost you more so take risks creatively right now. 

Surround yourself with people who are as excited as you. It’s way better to have a tiny crew who are excited than a large ‘group clock’ watching waiting to go home. When you find these people work on each other’s projects. Console each other when it goes wrong and support each other when it goes well. 

This industry is about networking so attend as much as you can and reach out to filmmakers you like online. Don’t wait for permission. Go out and shoot on what you can with what you have access to ie your phone, film it in your house, get your friends to be in it etc. 

Don’t give up. Remember that online isn’t a complete window into how people are actually doing. People only post the successes but everyone has shit days and has rejection.

Keep going!

Twitter - @iamkateherron | Website Kate Herron

LUKE RUFO

Luke Rufo Circle

1. How Long Have You Been Directing Films For?

I have been directing factual television for broadcast for the past 5 years and worked in broadcast television for 16 years. In my spare time i have made scripted films for the past 12 years.

 2. What Is Your Feature Film About?

Perfectly Frank is about an 18 year old lad called Frank who suffers with agoraphobia and has been raised on a cultural diet of 1950's and 1960's musicals by his Grandad.

3. How Are You Funding The Film?

The film has been monetarily funded by myself, my wife and our savings as modest as that was. We have spent £6,000 so far on necessities but the vast majority of the funding has come from donations.

All cast and crew are unpaid and are doing it as a labour of love for the project. Speaking with various professionals currently working in the industry they all said it would be easier to give up the odd weekend to work on a passion project leaving their week days open to pay the bills with other jobs.

This led a 30 day shoot to become a shoot that spanned across 4 months but has meant that we get the best people on the project for free. The post production is a bit trickier as it can take 5 days a week for 10 to 12 weeks to edit a feature film. This is a lot of weekends for an editor and would mean that the editor wouldn't have a day off for the best part of a year which is just not workable so we are looking at crowdfunding to pay for an editors time.

As far as equipment is concerned I have worked closely with Provision over the years. We have been bowled over by the generosity of people, so it goes to show that the right project filmed in the right place can get a lot of love.

 4. How Are You Hoping To Distribute The Film?

We hope to enter the film into film festivals to generate a buzz around the film. From there, depending on how it was received at festivals, we will use it as a marketing tool to get sales agents and distributors on board.

5. What Tips Would You Give To Beginner Filmmakers?

Go get some life experience and meet different people. One thing my years of making factual programming and current affairs has done for me is to help me get to know a massively wide cross section of people not just in the UK but around the world and in completely different situations.

Every filmmaker needs to understand people. People love watching people and if you don't get it right then you could alienate your audience.

 Twitter - @LukeRufo | Facebook PerfectlyFrankMusical

CHRIS CRONIN

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1. How Long Have You Been Directing Films For?

My name is Chris Cronin and I've been a director since 2009 when I shot my first independent short film “Ante” Since then I've been directing shorts, developing features and shooting the occasional music video and commercial.

2. What Is Your Feature Film About?

I can't say too much at this point but I have a project currently titled 'Malevolent' which is a supernatural horror with with Dan Films and Metro International. It's a really good situation to be in when you have a sales agent and a production company like Dan Films working on it so we are really excited. The film is currently in the finance stage.

3. How Are You Funding The Film?

We developed our first feature project with the intention to take it to market. For us personally, it was an exciting story with a fresh take on a genre we loved but aside from that the writer made sure it had strong commercial value as well.

Once completed we were lucky to be a part of Film London’s Micro Market in 2015, where we met Dan Films, and then later Frontières which was a great platform for meeting people in the industry who finance and distribute features. Dan Films has since come on board and Metro International joined later as sales agent. So we are going the traditional route of financing by going to the financiers through the proper channels.

4. How Are You Hoping To Distribute The Film?

With this particular project it's down to the Producers and Distributors but I think the intention is a cinema release of some kind.

5. What Tips Would You Give To Beginner Filmmakers?

Even if you’re busy, distracted, in financial difficulty or maybe in the middle of developing a big project, try to be always shooting or editing material to keep your brain stimulated and developing. Plus, sometimes it's the no stress projects you do that proves the most rewarding in leading up to your first feature. It's building a catalogue of your work and skills.

Additionally, don't be careless either because it's hard to hide past mistakes online and so possible investors will eventually find them.

Twitter - @filmcronin |Website Chris Cronin

JAY MOUSSA-MANN

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1. How Long Have You Been Directing Films For?

I’ve been directing short films since around 2009/2010. I started in TV magazine show style production but I always wanted to direct narrative

2. What Is Your Feature Film About?

Our feature film is a 60 minute musical based on the scriptural story of Ruth. We are just about to shoot the second block of filming and move into post production. The film should be out in 2019.

3. How Are You Funding The Film?

We financed the film by investing our own savings and then inviting partners to come in for a similar amount or slightly less. As of today funding is split between 6 partners.  

4. How Are You Hoping To Distribute The Film?

We have distribution in North America so we know it will reach an audience and we plan to have the film dubbed or subtitled in Middle Eastern languages where we feel the film’s story and style will be appreciated and understood. 

5. What Tips Would You Give To Beginner Filmmakers?

I would like to tell those starting out to focus on storytelling, to not worry too much about fancy gear and the look and to get better at visual storytelling but I’m afraid that these days, festivals and other industry professionals are so obsessed with money and how much money went into a production, that I would suggest if you want to get noticed, you tell an OK story AND make it look as stunning as possible.

Keep your best stories for when you can afford the crew and kit you need. I would also say try and get at least a week or two experience on a BBC drama production. Being a runner on a drama series was the one experience that took my filmmaking to the next level, because I saw how the pros really do it and it all suddenly clicked into place in my head. From then on, I could see what I needed to make my films look and feel the way I wanted them too.

Finally I would say practise. Tell one minute stories with your camera. Play out scenes with actors. Practise practise practise until you know what you can do.

Twitter - @jbmoussa | YouTube The Director’s Logbook

ROB SAVAGE

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1. How Long Have You Been Directing Films For?

My name is Rob Savage, a director working in film, TV and commercials. I’ve been directing since I was 17, when I wrote, directed, shot, co-produced and edited my first feature film “Strings” This film was then picked up for distribution by Vertigo Films and won the Discovery Award at BIFA.

2. What Is Your Feature Film About?

I’m currently working on a film called Dawn of the Deaf, which is a feature adaptation of a short film I made of the same name. It is about an infection that is spread through sound, leaving only the Deaf community alive. We are currently at script stage.

3. How Are You Funding The Film?

We were very lucky that the short film found great success at festivals, playing at over 100 worldwide including Sundance. From there we released online on Short of the Week and with a Vimeo Staff Pick - this led to the video going viral, and got the attention of many of the big US horror producers.

One of these producers picked up the film for development as a US based project.

4. How Are You Hoping To Distribute The Film?

We’re hoping that Dawn of the Deaf will be a studio horror release that gets a mainstream cinema run. Movies like Lights Out and A Quiet Place are films which we hope to emulate.

5. What Tips Would You Give To Beginner Filmmakers?

My main advice would be to get as much hands on experience as possible. Learn how to edit, shoot, produce, even act - knowing a bit about every discipline will make you a better filmmaker, and allow you to give direction to these departments in more useful, thoughtful ways.

Twitter - @DirRobSavage |Website Rob Savage


I would like to thank all of the directors for taking the time to answer my questions. I will be following these projects throughout the next couple of years to see how they develop and enhance the directors careers.

If you have any questions you would like me to ask during this investigation please let me know in the comments section below.