In the following interview, George shares with us why he decided to become a filmmaker and gives detailed advice on how to make independent feature films.
Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I grew up in a family surrounded by all kinds of arts, my father was a painter, my grandfather a theatre director and my mother an actress. So there were constantly actors coming in and out of the house. I would listen to a lot of music, watch a lot of films and I was surrounded by plays, scripts and my father’s paintings.
As I grew up, I found that my passion lied in a combination of all of these things put together. There was one art form that combined acting, directing, music and the meticulous visuals …cinema!
The more I understood how films worked, I learned about the various job roles, writer, actor, producer and then I saw the director. The director was the one who had to keep an eye on all of those aspects. It was their job to take a story and make it work on screen. When I was writing my scripts I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t enjoying the process of writing as much as I was imagining where the film was going to end up. That was when I knew that directing was the calling for me.
Did you attend a film school or study film at university?
I attended the film production course at the University of Gloucester UK and had a great time. I think it was very productive for me and I learned a lot. But I do have to stress that everyone is different, and university might not be the same for every young filmmaker.
There are great examples of directors who didn’t attend film school and had other opportunities to learn. Maybe they started with some connections, worked on set early or learned a particular craft. In my case I had a good time in high school watching films and writing stories. I did try a bit of acting and looked into film theory too. But I wanted to learn more about how films where made, so I choose a very practical course.
In university I was also able to meet like-minded people, who were serious about filmmaking. My plan was to find someone who I matched with, so that when university ended we could put together something bigger like a feature film. This wasn’t easy, but it’s exactly what ended up happening.
Can you describe the process of making a low budget indie feature?
The Droving was a step up in terms of scale and ambition, but we learned a lot of the process from our first film Hex. Both were about 18 months from concept to completion. In both cases the post-production took twice as long as pre-production and filming combined.
That is 6 months for writing, planning and shooting, followed by 12 months of editing and finishing the film. At Rubicon Films, we spend a lot of time making sure that the editing, sound and colours are the best possible quality. Those are the areas you need to focus on with your indie film. Of course, the story, casting and production are very important too but you get more time to edit than to film.
Once the film is shot, we take our time to make the best film we can and iron out the details. Now I understand that you might not be in the same position, and beginner filmmakers tend to be impatient. But I would say just take your time, and make sure that your film is perfect before you send it out to festivals.
Whether that be making the cuts a little tighter or the sound a little better or simply making sure the font is right. I try to have that attention to detail to make sure people are getting a complete experience. I don’t want people to think “it was a great idea but the execution was done poorly”, the execution should be the easy part. The hard part is to come up with an interesting story. Whereas execution is just putting the effort in.
What advice would you give to a filmmaker hoping to direct their first independent feature?
Surround yourself with passionate people, the ones that want to make independent features just as much as you do. Because filmmaking is a journey, it’s going to be like The Lord Of The Rings. You're going to be a fellowship and there will be peril and danger, not everyone will make it to the end. There will be sleepless nights, bad weather and many problems but you have to keep pushing forwards, you have to be dedicated.
You don’t want someone walking out on you because they don’t care about the project as much as you do. You can fake professionalism but you cannot fake passion. You need to find and surround yourself with passionate people. They might not be the most skilled, but they will be on your level. Talent is a plus but passion is what makes an indie film, you want someone who sticks with you until the very end. And they do this because they want to show how good they can be - they are not just doing it for you.
As a director I always say ‘This is your film as well.’ If you don’t see this film as yours then don’t do it. If you think you're doing it for me or as a favour don’t do it.’ It doesn’t matter if you're a runner, you have to approach it as if it is your film because it is. Your name is going to appear in the credits. Passion is indispensable.
What will be your next project?
We have a couple of ideas in the pipeline. In the same way, The Droving was a step up from Hex, our next project will be an even bigger step up. It’s important for us at Rubicon Films to strive for better every time.
Our most developed idea is an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast with a darker Game of Thrones type atmosphere. It’s called Iron Hearts, and we believe it is the best script we have written so far. It explores more mature themes than the original tale and delves deeper into character. We’re very excited to continue bringing dark fairy tales and folklore to the screen.