3 Lessons Learned from Great British Filmmakers

What do you get if you put an award winning writer, an award winning director, critically acclaimed producer and an editing legend in one room? You get The Rural Media Company’s master classes for the BFI Film Academy. BOLD STATEMENT ALERT: Not only was it incredible to have some very honest and real insight into the film industry, I think I’ve come away a better person and that’s what I want to share in this article.

As a filmmaker you must view every task as a piece of a puzzle, a puzzle that you and your crew fit together to make a film. Like allpuzzles you can see the front of the box and say ‘that’s what the puzzle will look like’, the difficultly lies in finding the right pieces and placing them in the right position. We often get frustrated, trying to force the wrong pieces into the wrong places just because we want to see the final picture. Sound familiar? Never fear, follow this advice from the best and I think you’ll find filmmaking a whole lot easier.

Lesson 1 – Feel the fear and film it anyway

Geoff Thompson, BAFTA award winning writer (Bouncers, Brown Paper Bag, Clubbed)  spent the day with us talking about finding the ‘truth’ in your storytelling and facing the ‘fear’ within yourself. Find the heart of whatever it is you’re writing about and stay honest to that base concept. Face your fears because there is a truth in that and for most people, reaching for a dream can be scary at times but to coin a phrase you have to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.

If you didn’t know better you’d think you were in a life-affirming metaphysics class of the Aristotelian variety, not a master class for budding filmmakers but if you were to think about it, why would they not be one and the same? If you, YES YOU, are wanting to reach self-actualisation and become the best filmmaker you know you can be, it ought to be first and foremost about finding the truth within yourself and of about the world and use film to celebrate it. As lesson number one, this was a good start.

London to Brighton

Lesson 2 – Perseverance preludes the light

Alastair Clark, producer behind the BIFA and Raindance winner  ‘London to Brighton’ talked about his journey through the ‘mysterious film industry’ (I hope you read out ‘mysterious’ in a spooky voice, adds to my writing). We’ve been very keen at Rural Media to give people an insight to how films are made and how the industry works and Alastair’s discussion showed the filmmakers that it’s possible; your dream is possible, provided that you do the work. Alastair talked on his first 3 short films and mainly how he didn’t just sit and think about it, nor just talk about it – he actually did it. ‘Doing’ is a step closer to achieving and the more you do, the more you learn.

Lesson 3 – Authenticity shines through from pre to post production

BAFTA award winning director Esther May Campbell and one of Britain’s leading film editors Tony Lawson (Byzantium, Michael Collins, Straw Dogs) talked about being emotionally honest. Tony gave us the rare opportunity to see the what-could-have-been, the rough cuts of his film career, from ‘The Butcher Boy’, to ‘The End of the Affair’ to ‘The Brave One’, in each case Tony would show a rough cut and then the final cut. He emphasised the importance of stripping the film down to find ‘authenticity in the edit’ and how an editor needs to, more than anyone, understand what the story is truly about. So for all you control freaks out there, involve your editor in pre-production!

Esther May Campbell started off her session with a screening of her award winning short film ‘September’. Esther was very open and honest about her experience and even though I didn’t know her, I could instantly tell that ‘September’ came from a very real emotion and a real space in Esther’s mind. Can you say that about your latest film? Is there a part of you embedded in your film so much so that you actually weigh less from the experience (not a proven weight loss technique…I’m being whimsical).


So that’s the basics, feel the fear – persevere – find authenticity – win a ton of awards. Simples (I hate myself for writing ‘simples’…twice). I hope after this you will all have a very honest and direct conversation with yourself and hopefully, the truth will out!