London based Simon Hunter is considered one of the best new British film directors with 2 features and over one hundred commercials under his belt.
Simon has just returned from 15 months in LA where he is attached to several projects.
We caught up with him at the aptly named Camera Cafe near our office in Bloomsbury.
Did you go to film school?
I went to film school at what was then THE WEST SURREY COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN, in those days there were very few under grad film school, it was a choice of them and Bournemouth, I chose WSCAD in Farnham because they ran a degree course and I wanted to do three years of work. It was fun I learned loads but mostly from fellow students. We are all a bit arrogant and came away knowing almost nothing about the film industry but we made a good few films!
What was the most important thing you have learned?
That material is everything, far more important than budgets or what you think is an opportunity. ~Its a cliche but it’s so true. You cannot repair anything in post if the story is crap. Stick to your guns right at the outset – that’s where things usually go wrong. Look at most films they are almost universal of the same or similar technical standard – it’s the story that separates the good and bad ones.
What was your first Big Break?
My first big break was getting British Screen to finance a short film called WIRED – it was the precursor to my first feature LIGHTHOUSE. We were then hooked into British Screen and they helped us get our first film off the ground.
If you had to do it over, what would you do differently?
So many things – I suppose I would change genre – I would have started with an out and out thriller – it’s the genre I understand the most and I love. I would have had a lighter more upbeat start to my work. For some reason I ended doing relentlessly dark material – I would change that and EDIE is a low budget Raindance style film that will do just that.
What (if anything) has changed about the film industry has changed since you started out?
So much, The last decade was about the democracy of making the film, ie cheap post production (FCP PREMIERE AFTER EFFECTS ETC) then came cheap but high quality ways to capture the film (Canon 5D etc) – on Lighthouse which was only made in 1999 we spent nearly 100K just on film stock and processing! madness!
The next 10 years will be about bring democracy to distribution, you will sell your finished films directly to Apple, Love film, Amazon, Netflix etc etc and there will be a growth of specialist outfits that will be more film maker friendly – like Raindance maybe – they sell for download a select bunch of films and cut a better deal with the filmmaker.
What was your first project
My first ever ambitious film was called Tea and Bullets it was really ambitious and concerned the travels of two pensioners who set out on an adventure across England to look for King Arthur. I first showed it at Raindance in 1995 and that’s where I met Elliot. It had a balloon chase, a car chase, we blew up a cottage – it was made but I learned loads. We did loads of optical compositing on 16mm! it was a nightmare, the magic of film….the nightmare of film, it was really hard and expensive to try and create a fantasy film on a small budget
What are you working on now?
My latest project is called EDIE, its a bit like a film I wanted to make back at film school all those years ago. It’s a radical change of direction for me. I always wanted to find or develop a script that was deceptively simple.
People often makes screenplays too complicated and far too much plot stifles out the visuals and the film making. Edie is a very simple tales of an old lady who at the age of seventy five decides to head to Sutherland in North West Scotland and climb a mountain. She’s like a lot of old people, not sweet and Disney-esqe but bitter and anger that her life and her relationships didn’t pan out like she had dreamed.
The theme of the movie is ‘it’s never too late” which I think appeals to everybody. You’ve missed the boat is a very British and very sad thing to say – no one has ever missed the boat. Find another boat! It’s a small feel-good festival film.
What is the number one lesson you’ve learned?
I have come to learn that the only real guiding principal should be ‘make what you love’ and and then you can be the true creative judge of your story.. We are trying to raise just 350K to make it, it’s an ideal film for a private or angel investor. It’s going to be a long hard shoot – the entire crew will have to spend six days climbing the mountain with the cast. We are desperate to try and shoot in September which will be ideal for weather. Fundamentally it’s a a gentle and moving drama that I really think will find a smaller but very loyal audience.
Sounds great. Where are you at now?
At the moment we are finishing off a very modest fund raise through the EIS. We hope to start shooting in the autumn.
How can I get involved?
Tim Dennison who has produced dozens of movies, is producing the picture so if anyone wants to get involved and help, please get in touch with Tim Dennison here,