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Rob Chiu How Reinventing Yourself Can Be the Best Thing for Your Career

by Clarke Scott | Last Updated: September 17, 2021

In this episode on the Next Level Filmmaker Podcast I speak with Rob Chiu about his journey from working for free to directing Porsche commercials.

Show Notes


And by doing that everybody forgets about the old stuff, don’t care. And then you have to come back up again. So I had to work my way back up through the 1000 pound music videos into 10,000 pound music videos.

Welcome to another episode of the next level filmmakers show where we interview filmmakers from around the world to explore their pathway to success. What worked, what’s working now, so you can take your Korean business to the next level. I’m your host, Clarke, Scott. And I believe that having the right systems in place is the difference between taking your career and business to the next level, or just being another dude or dudette with a camera. So if you’re tired of hustling for one off projects, being undervalued and underpaid, I’d like to invite you to an exclusive free training I’ve put together for filmmakers, just like you where I share the exact strategies I’ve used to grow my own video production agency. Just go to Clarke, Scott That’s Clarke with an E. Clarke Scott forward slash free training. That’s Clarke, Scott forward slash free training and start your journey to becoming a next level filmmaker today. All right, Mr. Chu. Alright, So question number one, how did you get your start?

So I Well, I’ll tell you my story, I guess I started off as a graphic designer, and then I moved into motion design. Because I had such a love of graphic design and Photoshop, this is back in the late 90s. So after Facebook Live the next step after after Photoshop. So it was basically taking Photoshop and animating those layers. So I got into that. And then I start out at the same time, I bought myself a VHS, VHS or mini DV camera. And I started filming abstract sort of stuff. And then I would use that as a base for my motion graphics works, I’d put graphics over the top of live footage. And then I would start then I started moving into more just messing with the camera getting rid of the motion graphic stuff, which started to feel like it was just pretty pictures there for the you know, as as decoration almost in it was taken away from what I wanted to say. And then I got more and more into live action thing. And then I got signed by a small animation company in France was then picked up by stink to a big production company worldwide.

Everyone knows about stink? Can I can I just stop you there? There’s a there’s seems like there’s a big gap between just kind of mucking around with a mini DV and getting signed by a company outside of the company, the country that you live in? How did that all come about? What What were you doing to make that even happen? And what did how did you get in contact with them? Was it email or?

Yeah, no, they found me. So I I so I went. So basically, I went to I went to uni University started the BA in graphic design. And I was doing that part time while I had a job in a design agency. So for five days a week, I was working in the design agency, then one one day a week, I would go off and go to university. And while I was at university, I taught myself how to use After Effects, which is how I got this whole motion graphics thing. And I, for my final piece of work, I wrote a dissertation about this, how I felt about my work and how I feel I felt like I should be moving away from this kind of corporate graphic design and move into something more personal have something more to say. So I made this short film was comprised of some footage I shot and loads of photographs of me growing up. And it was kind of this it was like this point in time where I was like reevaluate in my life and thinking about how I’d come up and the direction I wanted to go in. They use that film as a springboard to show other people. So after I got my degree I got I got a first class degree off the back of that film. And then I used that I left my design job and I used that film as a platform to bring myself more working. And then I started working for director clients stuff like local, county, local government agencies who wanted to make it they wanted to make they did loads of stuff, but one of the jobs that first got me going was this documentary on the area that I lived in. And I went down and I found all these residents of this area of this neighborhood and just to get how they felt about the area because basically what the government wanted was some they wanted like a box pops kind of thing where you just interview people they tell you how they feel and they made this kind of documentary about this area which which got into leads into a film festival. city called Leeds in northern England. And then that propelled me forward. And then I made off the back of that I was asked by the unit by a university in the town that I lived in to make two documents. They basically had never run in a course for refugees from Afghanistan, in Iraq and place like that back in 2004 2005. And they wanted me to document these workshops that they were putting on for them. And I took my camera and I started interviewing these people, and half of them didn’t want their pictures taken or video taken of them because they were Muslim. Didn’t want that. So and I found it a bit like, what am I looking at? Anyway, I’m looking at people sitting in front of PCs on a computer now, what am I looking at? So I start to talk to these guys got their stories, accumulate all the stories where they’re coming from and how they managed to escape from Iraq or Afghanistan. And I came up with this kind of put all these stories together made a short animation called Black day to freedom, which was it was using After Effects, but it was basically making his 2.5 the world’s you know, after effects. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. It was kind of like you. Back in the day, I did some did a graphic design course. And in that there was it was Photoshop and After Effects light of it sounds like we’ve kind of similar stop saying otherwise. Yeah.

So I did this book, I did this film. And I made a book that when I interviewed, I invited I think that 30, graphic designers and illustrators that I knew from around the world, and they were contributing to this book. And maybe we should make this 100 800 plus pages book called Black dead freedom, which we sold online. And it came with a DVD with the film on them. The film got into the Edinburgh Film Festival, International Film Festival. I’ve gone to a lot of film festivals, actually. And it got picked up by somebody in France, who then distributed it. off the back of that that got me going. I did like a talk at the ICA in London on as part of this collective called by designers for designers, where they invited people to come and talk about their work a little bit like what they’re doing now, but like, physically,

okay, so and that’s how you got signed by the French company. No, no, no. So that was, that was just the distribution. And then off the back of that I

made, I started working with a friend called Chris Hewitt, who’s now at smuggler, we made a film called Things Fall Apart, which was just taking photographs, and then cutting them out in Photoshop and creating this kind of fake depth of field. We did that, which is a little narrative piece that got picked up by the French company and distributed. And then we did, we were invited by the off festival in Barcelona. They’re based in Barcelona, but they had a bad one go in in New York that year. And they invite us to do the title sequence about so we just went to New York and we the three days me and Chris and we had to go video cameras, and we just filmed the other stuff and cut it together. And then that really blew up and then that got us going and then off the back of blowout. I think I was I was trying to stink at that point. And Chris got signs and knucklehead. Yeah. And just be one stage backwards is where I got picked up by the French company to ask because they thought when my work online, they might have seen it for that distribution company as well. And he was working to hide we still doing graphic design. Before the same time. Yeah, yeah. Okay, I was well, I a little bit not so much. I was doing mainly stuff for magazines, computer arts, computer arts magazine, and some other sort of stuff that talked about graphic design. I do like double page spreads and stuff. But I was using a lot of my video work, I was taking stills my video work and then bring that into Photoshop. And then overlaying high res graphics, we had this kind of lo fi feel to it. At the same time, I was doing all this personal work. I was working a lot with the BBC on documentary series, like overland graphics and that kind of Stranger Than Fiction style, where things just pop up and they give you information. Yeah, that’s how I got my start. Okay,

and so even when you’re working doing some work for the BBC, you’re still doing the other stuff in the with the graphic design was was was still happening. Yeah.

Yeah, I had like three or four things going at the same time. Yeah,

I think that in I think I know I’m guilty of this is seeing successful directors and assuming that they start was just, you know, I shot a short film, I got signed and voila, I’m now rolling in money or, you know, none of us are rolling in money. But you know what I mean? Like it just it’s it seems like it’s very, very easy, but when you when you everyone that I speak to and I just I know it’s the truth. That’s why I like to bring it up so that young people don’t think it’s as easy as what it is what it sounds that there can be a lot of grinding that can go on for years before Yeah, before that moment. Yeah, yeah. Call that moment of overnight success. Yeah, totally. Totally the so when you were assigned to stink, we you’re still Actually who was now iconoclast. So when you were with stink, were you still doing graphic design? Or was it that was around? Yeah, yeah.

Yeah. No, no, for a little bit. I was still, I probably did graphic design until maybe the end, I got signed by stinking 2008 or nine. And I finished. I think the last graphic design project I did was probably back in 2011. Wow. Yeah. See, it wasn’t that long ago now. Maybe 2010. But yeah, not so long ago.

Yeah. Amazing. It’s amazing. So take us from from that point, when when you got signs from stinking by that by that stage? You know, the whole world have been turned upside down with the five day mark two and, you know, yeah, all of that kind of jazz. You know, of course, the crash that happened in 2008 2009. Around that time, like the world literally got turned upside down. When is, when was division of gravity? What year was that?

I filmed it in 2010. I think it came out in 2011 2011. It came out. Okay.

And so that’s, that’s basically when you create kind of really started to go to the next level. Would you say I had?

No, I think it was before then I had to stuff pics before then actually, I okay. I had one for a short film called Philo, which is a film about kids in London. And then I had one for a commercial project I did, which was straight to a client in LA straight to an agency in LA. Like a design studio rather. I did. I yeah, that was my first job. First kind of commercial job, I guess. Yeah, in 2009. And that got started as well. So that that got me this kind of little following on Vimeo and people were talking about me at that time. Okay, then then I followed that up with I think I followed that with fear love, the short film and then I started doing commercials off the back of that all that stuff. And then I did division of gravity. While after I’d already been doing a lot of commercial work. Not a lot of commercial work, but I’ve been going about a year maybe. Okay, how many jobs did you do? You reckon? My first year? I got really lucky actually my first year. The first job I did the stink was for Katya and it was single bid, which is jobs now. I did that and then it was an absolute disaster. And then I can probably you want to you want to talk about three, four or five jobs out here. Okay. Yeah, when I went into it, not knowing what I’m doing. I didn’t know how to make nobody teach you how to make commercials or the system. Especially if you’ve come from a design background. You’re used to making things on your own edits and everything yourself, you know? Yeah. You know, you you you just working for yourself at that point. And when you get on to a commercial made like 40 or 50 extra they know what to say to them. I’d never worked about this before. I didn’t write in how did you get the job off the back of this thing that me and Chris had done this aura, these off tiles. They like this style and they’re like the energy of it. But as is often with commercials, what the references doesn’t really translate well into real commercial work with you know, a million people have an opinion and yeah, just stick the client Okay, the same energy. Yeah, yeah, cuz the thing with the off time was me and Chris basically just had a video camera. We have to remember we basically went to New York, we just filmed stuff that we liked. And then we just it was the way it was edited together. It was just it’s full of energy, have a had a vibe to it, which you can’t really recreate in the way that we found Cartier. You know, it was totally different. Yeah. Yeah. Particularly when you just get a big machine. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And then when we did the film and edits, went back to Paris, we edited it. I edit. Yeah, I edited it, which was the worst decision I ever did to get to present it in the in the clients office. And they said it’s the worst thing they’ve ever seen. Yeah, that killed me. So then we got an editor to work with me. Which was good, but it still never be done. It’s still not my confidence massively. No Man’s gonna rebuild that back up.

The was the lack of budget involved in that in that job as well?

No, it was too much budget for me. I used it was like a big massive budget, but it was big enough. And we shot in Buenos Aires in Argentina. And it was I was used to nothing. I was used to having nothing. I’ve been able to create something out of nothing. And I wasn’t used to being able to have all the bells and whistles and I think that’s what really messed me up. Yeah, know what to do. Have it, you know, okay, I had too much too many things I could use, and I didn’t know how to use them correctly and so on. Well, we’ve got this, we’ve got that we’ve got a crane. Let’s use that and not really knowing what to do with them.

Yeah. And so the piece, like, if you look back at the piece now, do you think the client was right? Or was there something? Okay? No, that’s not it’s not on your website, then we can’t go and have a look at it.

No, you can probably Google it. Okay. The it’s not it’s not so bad. The problem as well was it was a first person perspective film, which are hard anyway. Yeah. You know, so it’s literally like a video game. And that’s, that’s tough anyway, because you cut in points are always hard. Yeah. What you’re looking at, you know, it’s just like these hands coming in and doing all this weird stuff is, yeah,

yeah. Okay. So what happened next this this was what he was that that was 2011. Did you

say it was 2010 when it was 2010. And then after that, I did a smaller job in France, because this is all for the French Office of stink at the time. I did a smaller job from France, which is more and more my style. It was all shot on a five D me and Mateus balkar he’s like it’s huge gap now. It’s when he was first getting into commercials, I think he might be doing some stuff before but he was still wasn’t a name yet. And we had a five D and we just went out and film and other stuff. There’s such a low budget commercial. They gave us all freedoms, we just went out the fight the shot and other stuff. And that worked out okay. And then I used that to get me more distinct use that to get me more work. And then I think I said after that, or just before that I had gone away with the BBC on a documentary project, they simply have to do a second unit on a show about people it was called, I think it was called human at the time. I’m not sure what the final project was called. But it was sold into me as human. And they wanted me to go out and do all these poor moving portraits, video portraits of people. So they sent me off to Mongolia, Tokyo, went to Sicily, and just did all this stuff in five days. I did that. And then I did the project where I shot with multispoke on on five days. And then after that, I managed to win a project for locost. And I shot an American tennis player called Andy Roddick. Yep. On a phantom back in 20. year back in 2010.

It was clear I remember saying that, too. So I’ve heard enough. I saw that after I must have seen that after your the the gravity thing that Yeah. It was the game. Yeah. But yeah, you might not have noticed it. Yeah, yeah. So how did you go from that to Porsche? What was the trip trajectory between that and and can I say, I don’t know if this is going to go across all that well, but I wanted to, I wanted to the reason why I’m asking. It’s not a criticism. So please, please take it the right way. But I am comparing your work which no one hates. Everyone hates it when you compare your work to someone else’s work. But I wondered whether this this would have to be 10 years ago now. There was a there was a it was a I don’t think it was a spec sport. I think it was like a passion thing that a filmmaker in California did have red gums at one of Vimeo staff pick. The dude’s name was Jesse someone. And the voiceover and the sound design at the start of his pay sounds very similar to your piece. And as soon as I was watching, I love Porsches. So as soon as I particularly about the Porsche spot, the know the pert the Porsche spot, the sound design sounds very, very similar. And the voiceover also sounds very, very similar. And I wondered whether whether there was any kind of reference to that video from back in the day, because it almost has a it has a feel. It doesn’t feel like a costume at all. It feels like a magnet. It I wouldn’t say I mean maybe it’s the sound design and the memory of watching that. That thing in the Jessie. I think his name was Roatan and it’s all about the the redwood trees in in California. It feels like it’s very nature oriented, which is possibly just me being influenced by this thing that I saw a long time ago. Was that referenced at all? No, no, I’ve

never even seen that film on that. I can google it now. Actually. Probably the question apologies. Now that that script.

That script came in very different to how it ended up. That was one of the scripts I really put my own stuff into. But I think the story of it starts off with three stories about a girl who finds an abandoned house, a guy who’s hiking in the forest and up in the mountains, and the dude who’s in the rain installation, which I added. But it’s not nice. If anything, it’s influenced by my love of, well, I spend a lot of time in nature. But I also very early on in my career, and I guess even network definitely now influenced by the work of Terrence Malick. And our major plays into that. So that’s, you know, it doesn’t necessarily look like Terrence Malick, but it’s that kind of Yeah, that’s where the inspiration came from some, I think, but also, I mean, some of the situations you’re given by the agency, you know, a guy walking in a forest that ends up in the mountains is it is what it is. And that’s might be why the redwoods kind of, because it’s the same kind of, I guess, it’s the same aesthetic.

You’re looking at the trees, and you move into the aesthetics actually very different. But if you look at the to look at the two pieces, you would, there’s no similarity in, in the look visual. It’s it is in the visuals, it’s the sound design, and voiceover. Now, I haven’t seen that piece in 10 years, so I could go and find it now. And we’re all go clock, your fucking idiots like nothing a lot. But as soon as I saw it, I went, Ah, that’s reminds me of this other thing. A long, long time. I’m actually gonna go on. I’m gonna go on. I’ll have a look. Yeah, I’m gonna go and have a look. And I’ll email you. I’ll email you the link. And then you can tell me I’m an idiot, because it’s probably not unlikely. But that’s what I felt. I felt nice. It’s interesting that you said that you’re inspired by nature, because immediately that’s what I felt. So yeah, the opening shots, doors. It’s not even nature related. So good job.

Yeah, that’s massive inspiration for me. I mean, we got I got married the year when I made that film 2017 I got married just before them. And for our of our wedding slash honeymoon, we do all the same time, we basically did a road trip all around the west coast of America, you know, through all these amazing places in nature. That means we live in nature that the minute I can get out of London, I’m gone. Yeah, me too. Yeah, kind of dummy cities. But the way I got into go much earlier question, how to what’s the bridge between the cost spot and the Porsche spot. That’s quite a long story. So I was distinct for a long time. And what happened is, well, what sometimes happens if you have a production company, and you’re not at the top of that pile of directors, you kind of get forgotten about and I felt like I was forgotten about. And I started working on projects, and they just, I would get sent stuff that I didn’t really care about. And I got wrapped up into this just making money thing. And got to a time where it was time to leave. And I realized I had not really got a good portfolio anymore. I didn’t have a good reel at all. And I went to iconoclast in France, and I asked if they would sign me and I didn’t have much to show but they thankfully saw the potential and took me on in France and I left the London stink office and I went to HSI those guys have gone there as well. But what the most important thing is that HSI built me up, they got me back into doing music videos and stuff again. So I kind of start almost reset, reset my career and started off again. So I you know, at this high with all this work before the party I wrote this little wave, let’s think for a year and then kind of came down. And by doing that everybody forgets about the old stuff, don’t care. And then you have to come back up again. So I had to work my way back up through the 1000 pound music videos into 10,000 pound music videos. And eventually, I got this opportunity to pitch on this McLaren job against to our directors with our hadn’t done cards either because it was all based on mood and the reference was drive the Ryan Gosling film and I’ve somehow managed to win it and after I won that I became like the thing the guy to go to for cars for for a little while now. I still am, unfortunately but I’d become the car guy now. And it’s just been like snowboarding that I got Porsche off the back of that I definitely would have come off the back of McLaren and I did a Lexus at the time. A lot of other stuff. I’m definitely going to get the McLaren thing was it the that was that was the best my most. It was a big issue. You’re not seeing that. That was

Yeah, I haven’t seen the spot I’ve seen the movie. The the opening shot of drive is Amazing.

Did you use to Yeah, no. But the McLaren No, there’s not. There’s it’s, I don’t know if drivers even reflected in it anymore. Really? It’s all it’s all social Phantom. It’s all in slow motion. It’s all at night. And there’s not even any people in it. But it’s it’s just the mood, the moods Really? What’s good about it is that they just let us they had so little money, they let us do. We can only do what we could do. And we made something good out of nothing. Almost. And yeah, it was almost like a personal film rather than a commercial film. It was like we put everything into it. I mean, Mateus will call it again, shot it set to myself with this circle right here. There was literally no money, but we wanted to make soap so badly.

Yeah, the, we’ve heard that on the show a number of times have big, big companies that are, you know, international, multi international internet, multi and international with large businesses that don’t want to pay filmmakers to create marketing material that they’re likely to make millions of dollars off of. And it gripes me. But let’s, let’s, let’s move on to question number two, which is, what’s the one unique or even strange thing that you’ve done? Or that you feel that you’ve done? That’s been the biggest contributor to your success so

far? The one thing that I’ve done that’s been the biggest contributor. I mean, I would say, McLaren. What do you mean by McLaren? By doing that, by doing that job,

the one I just spoke about? So that’s the job but what was it in that job? What’s the like? The question is, um,

love is definitely a turning point in, in my career, that was that kick started things off. And it’s probably one of the reasons why I’m talking to you now. And you know.

So what do you mean? Like, it’s the style of it, then got you more work?

No, it’s not the style. It’s the it’s, it’s? I don’t know. It’s I think it’s because people could feel I put my heart and soul into that. And,

and that, remember what we were talking about before we started? It’s never been the work. It’s about something. So do you think that um, and anyone that’s that’s watched more than one episode knows, knows me? knows that. I’m always gonna push back on that. So um, it’s it’s Is it your enthusiasm on set? Was it your? No, no, it’s

not No, I don’t mean on set, but I put my heart and soul into like, I really worked on that job like that I, the agency knew they would get a good film, by the way that it was all sold in the way that we all the discussions that we had. The way that me and Matt is, you know, before when I won that job, the first few miles in less than a car commercial that time. And we both said, this has to be the best film that we’ve ever done, we were going to treat this like a personal project, we are going to put everything into this film. I can’t remember the process of winning it to be honest. Obviously, I did a treatment, I did all the presentations and everything. Went into meetings in number of times.

I mean, coming back, coming back to what we spoke about earlier in or you know, it, maybe McLaren is not the best shop to talk about with the Porsche one is a good job, because the way that I won that job was it was through. So they invited I think, five directors to pitch on that job. And we all had to fly to Stuttgart in Germany, and present our treatments. But I went one step further. And I made a move I really wanted this film. So I made this mood film, because I kept using, obviously other people’s footage, and some film footage and cut it all together and put a piece of music on and presented that and I had that was really, really got them and they you know, because they could see it. They could see it there. And then I mean, it’s very different to what ended up making. They understood the energy.

And yeah, that that whole process of just talking talking to them and having created a relationship with the with the client and the agency before we had even won the job really helped. Okay, let’s let’s talk more about that. To trust us. Okay.

So what what was it? How did you go about making that relationship with the with the client and the agent before you ever won the job? How did that look?

Well, they the production obviously has a good relationship with the agency. And then I, they bring me in, and I’d be happy to do all these calls, we do these meetings. It’s, it’s a people business, if you can get along with people and make, you know, almost make friends with these, these guys. neurogenetic the same thing. I know a lot of directors, younger directors get fed up. Why not? Me, me too. And back in the day, you get fed up of agencies and things like that interfere in and you get a lot of that are those guys are paying the ads, but we’re all trying to make the same thing. And the best work comes from collaborating with agencies and clients and understanding what they need. No, because sometimes we go into these projects in like, Oh, yeah, I want to make this, this and this. But that’s not what the agency or client wants. And doesn’t matter what you want, we’re paid to help them achieve what they want to achieve, right. So it’s about going there, understanding that and creating that relationship where you know, you’re all collaborating together, which is the best hour or the best work happens. I mean, I’m working, I’ve been working on this short film now I’m working on right now for two years. And it’s only really come to life. This past six months, I’ve been working with people on it. And you know, the screenwriter, really getting into it. And fives in on staff. It’s just, you know, multiple minds are better than one definite. And I come from a background of just my one mind set in my bedroom doing stuff. So that’s been, you know, it’s always been hard to let go of things. I’ve had to let go of editing very early on that to let go of color grading, of compositing stuff myself of holding the camera. And now it’s now I’m letting go of my thought process is like, my thought process normally myself, and somebody else can say, Well, why don’t you look at this? Or what do you look back? And that’s how your work gets better? answered your question. Oh,

it has in fact, I and I want to kind of circle back because I think this is part of the reason why I want to dig because often the answers we hear from most creatives is I just put my heart and soul into the work. It’s all and it’s always it’s the work, it’s the work to the work. I don’t believe that’s the case, as you said, before we hit record, there has to be a standard of work, that’s just a given you, in order to be in the game, you have to be good enough. There has to be there has to be there regardless. So it’s something other than that. And with what you did here is you really wanted this job. So you’ve gone above and beyond what other people have done. And some, some people may have heard that and gone well, it’s still about the work. And I say rubbish, I think what that is actually doing is you’re building rapport, affinity trust, these kinds of things that as you said, it’s a people game. This is a business where someone’s given someone else a lot of money, and that person doesn’t want to fuck it up for the client. So the person they’re gonna hand this job over to, they have to trust so that that the mood video you do, may well have been the thing that got you the job. But as you said, they looked very different in the end. So what that mood thing could have been is simply, we trust this guy. And that that was the thing it wasn’t the job. It wasn’t the work. It was that that was the thing that made them go we can trust this guy with whatever the budget was a million bucks 100,000 whatever. That’s my feeling. Would you So in light of that, if you look back at your career from precinct which kind of sounds a bit weird but precinct to production company stink pre all the way back to graphic design when you’re doing after effects. Is there one thing that you could you look back now 3d Korean go, you know, I always kind of did this thing here. Was there something like that that kind of sticks out?

Yeah, maybe I mean, I’m not a very confrontational person. So even if I want something really strongly, I will put my foot down and throw my toys out the pram and say, Well, I’m not doing it if it’s not my way. So I always try and I guess I always try and negotiate my position and take on board other people’s I think Yeah, I’m good at listening and good and you know, to a conversation getting you to see what I want to do or maybe even making you allow me to do what I want to do but always through conversation rather than just said like, well, this is my way or or Fuck you. Yeah, okay, no, I’ve never done I’ve never done that.

My personality, I guess, do you is a strategy when you’re when you’re trying to get your own way, and you’re using a conversational tactic in order to allow that to happen. Have you brought those kind of strategies into your career?

Yeah, yeah, every every time, you know, obviously you, you’ll have creators on set. And they asked you what I found is really useful when you want to set is to talk to the people you’re making the film for, before you do it, don’t just go off and make make a shot, explain it, or even do what you were paid to do first, and then say, I want to come and try this. Because I think this could work as well, once they’ve got, you know, they want to shop, there’s a certain thing and a certain point, you know, they want to look at that picture behind me shoot that then say, okay, but now I want to try and do it, where you start over here, and then you pan across into the picture, or whatever it is, you know what I mean? You then you can do your suggestions rather than go in first and with your artistic or wife? Do what you’re supposed to do first, and then you can play. That’s how I feel it’s always worked best for me.

And what about before you even win the job? You mentioned before about trying to nurture a relationship before you even started? You want that job? Have you? Have you found yourself doing that? A lot? And if so, how?

Yeah, so I mean, wrong, if possible. Especially when I’m in London, I try not to do the calls on the phone, I would rather go in to the agency and meet people in person because then you you meet people, it’s way different than talking on the phone. That always helps to be there in person. If you plan for whenever possible, I do that. Sometimes I’ll go back to agencies after I’ve done an initial call, or I haven’t had an initial meeting, ask more questions. Because I want it to be collaborative. And sometimes I have more questions. And I feel like it’s always better to ask questions rather than to not.

You know, okay, this is interesting. All right. So, and that’s what I was told. That’s the beginning. Okay, so that’s a strategy that.

Yeah, well, I don’t know if it’s, I don’t know if I see it as a strategy. But it’s something I definitely do I ask a lot of, I feel like I asked a lot of questions, especially if I don’t understand something I don’t feel. I’m never afraid to say I don’t understand this. You know, if an agency has got an idea, and I don’t understand it, though, it’s not clear to me, then I will say I don’t get it. Can you explain this more rather than simply saying, okay, right. Okay. Yeah, then they got the phone. That’s exactly the producer, what the fuck, I don’t understand what that’s about. I’d rather just ask the agency. And, or even if I understood it at the time, and then I go away, and I think about it, and it still doesn’t know, it’s something doesn’t make sense. I’ll come back and say, Can I Can we talk again, I did that on a really big project, like maybe three or four calls, just to fully understand everything? Did you know? No, because I did four more calls. But you know, some of these some of these campaigns, they’ve been working a year on to this so intricate, it’s so in depth, and then they have to explain that to a director in 20 minutes, or 30 minutes on a call, and you’re going to lose a lot of things. You know, and then we interpret it, how we see it. And that’s another thing is why I use I used to I used to sometimes you’re asked to change things and reinterpret things as you see them, which is fine. But sometimes you’re not. But, but you almost feel like you should change things. And the danger is of changing things too much. Because obviously these concepts have been approved, there might have been they might have done market research and all the rest of it. And it’s been approved by so many people, then you go in there like Well, I don’t like this, I don’t like that. I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna do that. And that’s when you lose stuff. I feel unless they’ve said we want. You know, this is a starting point. Yeah. Okay. So that’s something I’ve learned the hard way.

Yeah. So I think questions a strategic questions or asking questions where you know, the answer, that you’re asking the question for not manipulative way either to understand them more deeply or to elicit particularly in particularly in a direct to client where perhaps they don’t actually know what’s best for them. Instead of questions that you’re asking, you actually know the answer. So what you’re trying to do is get them to know that you know the answer so that there’s trust there. That’s why I was asking you a question around was district strategic because sometimes asking questions where you know the answer, and what you’re, what you’re actually doing is just you’re building rapport, and affinity and trust.

Yeah, yeah, maybe there’s a bit of that as well. I mean, I haven’t worked direct to client for a while. But when you do work directly to client, you are basically the agency as well as the production company, which is a lot, you know, the agency do a lot of stuff that we don’t see, take a lot of pressure off of us do of all that is Yeah,

yeah, that’s my businesses are all direct clients. So it’s, it’s, um, my guess is an agency Really? Alright, let’s move on to the third question is, what do you do? And you kind of spoke about this earlier with with nature. So it can be however you want to answer but what do you do to sustain your career?

To sustain my career? Well, I’ve been very lucky the past few years, I’ve been able to stay my career purely by doing commercial work. But my heart has always been in personal work. And I came up through doing all my personal work. And I’ve just, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been working on a project now for probably two years is in script stage is going to be another personal project of mine. And that’s what keeps me going. Because that’s what I really, really want to do is make personal Well, I want to make narrative work, as I guess every director says that anyway, most of us came up by doing our own personal narrative work without something I’m being drawn back to now. More and more, as commercials become, you know, harder to win. They’re becoming more sales LED, but I feel in recent years. So I’m becoming, I just need to have my time, I need to get all this all these ideas out, you know, through a different channel other than commercial work. Okay.

What I’m working on at the moment, is that it’s leading into longer form narrative. Yeah.

I would, yeah, I’m looking towards that. At the moment. I’m only working on a short film, but I mean, I’ve been working in short film for such a long time. I feel like I almost feel like short films, might as well be feature films, the amount of work you put in the amount of research you do and stuff. So but yeah, I’m hoping that this will, we’ll see. Yeah, okay.

All right. So question four is, what are you doing today, to help your tomorrow?

Same, same answer working on personal work, so that I can not reinvent myself but show a different side of me that I haven’t shown previously, say things that haven’t said previously, in fact, this personal work I’m working on, it’s not i’m not even there is a visual side to it. But it’s, it’s, it’s is at the bottom of the priority list. For me, it’s all about how you feel when you watch it, what you take away from the film, what it’s saying. It’s just, it’s about the feeling the emotion, the story is actually the, the, if it ends up looking like a commercial than I’ve failed, it can look like a commercial because I mean, commercial is about to grab your eye and make you look at it and make you want it. And this one of the story that I’m telling, it’s a dark story, and you don’t want to be in this situation. So if things look what I mean, I love things looking pretty, as you can probably tell from my work, but what I’ve come to realize over the years is that when something if something’s dark and Moody, or it’s like a war film, when people are killing each other, and it looks beautiful, then there’s something wrong about that. Because it’s not supposed to that’s glamorizing it, you know, slow motion glamorizes things, it has to be true to what it is. And that’s what I want to do, basically want to strip away everything that I’ve learned in commercials and make something that’s I don’t want to light it at all. For example, I want to have a 360 degree camera that doesn’t change lens, it’s all designed in a style of a one shot, it’s not going to be a one shot, but I designed it in a style of one shot. So the the proximity of locations matters, the the camera language, the language of the camera matters more than what then the beautiful framing, it’s the way the camera moves the way that the what it’s showing you in the frame, you know? So I’m very excited about that because it’s going to be something different I haven’t done before and it might fall flat on its face and fail, but I have to do it. Okay, and what why is it important for you to do that? I feel sometimes when you do commercial work you are hired to do the job that you did before or what you’re known for doing so it’s very hard to break out. You get locked into this lane. And I need to get out of this lane now and try something else. I know I can do that everybody knows I can do that already. They want to, I feel what I want to see myself do something. There’s not I don’t want to become this cliche, which is almost easy to become cliche of yourself. And only do one thing.

What why not just do a spec something do something commercial on spec and not spend.

Because there’s a commercial spec I don’t need because you make a spec commercial to when other commercials. I don’t want I don’t need to win more commercials by making a spec piece because I’ve got commercials that will do probably do better.

Yeah, but if you did the spec in this new this new you showing you the new you Yeah, that’s the worst thing in the future.

Well, the spec would have to speak is not because commercials for me is still it’s still a visual medium, what I want to do is tell a story that comes to my heart. And in a spec piece. I mean, I guess you could if you made a film, a spec piece, about something very close to your heart, but then it doesn’t become a commercial. It’s not a commercial because a commercial is selling something, I don’t want to sell you anything I want to show you what’s going on in these people’s lives. And how we are all affected by this or how or part of this problem is happening. It’s basically a film about youth in London, and we’ve got this massive knife crime epidemic at the moment. I don’t know if you know about it. Yeah, I’ve heard I’ve had kids and stuff. I mean, there’s like I got somebody dies, like every week, it’s like kids. It’s a massive epidemic. And people look it up in the news. And it’s like, okay, yeah, another kid that says those kids over, they’re killing each other, you’re not affecting me So, but the way the world works now with gentrification, and we’re all living on top of each other in these really small, you know, geographically small places, with millions and millions and millions of people, then what I do is gonna affect you, and what you do is gonna affect me at some point. So it’s, we’re all part of the problem. And that’s what I’m trying to get across in this film, which is why it can’t be a spent piece, because it’s way too deep. And it has to be longer than one minute. It is a you know, it’s probably a 15 minute long film. But it’s Yeah, that’s it. It’s simple. How does that get you more? How does that get you different kinds of work? So you mentioned that I see I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it to make more commercial work. I’m doing this primarily because I have to tell this story. Yeah. And I will, then I will, you know, put it into film festivals and stuff. So I will hopefully get recognized as a narrative filmmaker, so that I can progress into telling bigger stories that I want to tell, which is the same. I want to do narrative work about similar concepts, or that whether that’s feature films or a series, but this is the starting point for me. And it can also be seen as a proof of concept for a longer format thing as well. But it’s not it’s not necessarily to get me more commercial work, although it will have an influence in the commercial work I do. Because people will see a different you know, it’s another string to my bow. Yep. And people will see that I can do something else. And then and I mean, I do do a lot of car work, but I’m also actively trying to do other stuff like I do. Okay. and stuff. That’s perhaps documentary. That kind of No, I do think dogs my style. I have been dark in the past. I don’t think dogs my style anymore. Have you seen the movie fish tank? Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly the language.

So what you were telling me I thought immediately it’s like, okay, something like fish tanks. So to me fish tank has a rawness about it that is moving towards dock. So when I talk about dock, it’s not BBC docks. It’s something like fish tank.

So the reason fish tank to me it was dark is the way that it’s filmed. Maybe that’s wrong, but that’s exactly how I agree totally. And I want to take those situations, what happened in fish tank, but I’m gonna film it very differently to how it’s been filmed. As much as I love how that’s been filmed. I love Bobby Ryan’s work to death and I love angiomas work with that. But the way I’m gonna approach it is very different to that in terms of the camerawork, which is what will make it even though the situations could be very similar, and there’s no lighting and it’s that kind of world. The way that I want to film it will feel infinitely less documentary than that, I think. I hope, okay. Okay. All right. So I haven’t done it yet. So I don’t know. But that’s,

that’s a good question. The howey I’m interested in how you’re going to move the camera. So is this gonna be like?

Yes, it’s I don’t want to say too much because I haven’t worked it out yet. But I’m working with a DLP at the moment on it.

Are you thinking it’s obviously not going to be shoulder?

No, yes, Steadicam is a steady camel movie. Okay, have you like it’s almost like a intelligent camera, it shows you things that maybe their characters don’t always know about, or shows or is part of their environment. And they know it’s there but they don’t think about it but you might not know about it.

So a conscious camera type of an icon so the the action might be happening here and then all of a sudden the camera just moves to show you something. As if the camera is actually a it’s conscious. It’s conscious camera.

Yeah, it’s like being in a it’s almost cannot really be another person. Yeah, yeah, the location is another character for definite and the way the camera I mean, I’ve designed it as a one shot. It’s not going to be a one shot. I don’t want to get one shot, but it’s designed as a one shot. So if you imagine how your camera has to move, I guess yeah, that’s how it’s gonna be.

there’s a there’s a new stabilizer type thing out. It’s an IRA thing. I think it’s called the affinity could be completely butchering this up. And I was just about to Google it. I was watching a something with Roger Deakins was on I found out Roger Deakins YouTube video today, which I had 15 minutes I watched it.

You know, they just shot 1917. That’s a one shot.

And that’s Yeah, that’s the film the same? Yeah. So that film, Roger shot that that and they used the new the mini lf they use the the the ARRI primes, and I shot it on this, this new, it’s kind of it’s a movie slash steadycam thing. It’s a I think it’s called the affinity. If I find it, and I’m guessing that your film that that thing would be perfect for your film. Because it can sound expensive. It looks expensive, too. I just didn’t see it. It looks, it looks really good. But it can move the camera in a way that we haven’t yet seen. So be interesting to see how how Roger would have the tools and work that together. So I can see this. I’m looking forward to seeing the piece. It was taking you two years. But here’s the thing, it’s taking you to get to this point. So how long is it going to be before we see it?

Hopefully not long as it’s, it’s taken me two years to get to get to this point, because I started off with a story inspired by inspired by something that happened. But I didn’t know what I wanted to say. So to begin with, the film was just holding the mirror up to things that were happening. And that’s easy, that’s almost easy to do. Everybody does that. And what’s more important, as a director is to have something to say about what’s happening have a point of view. And it’s taken me a while to realize that and to find, I mean, I had so many things to say. And I’ve had to narrow them down through research and you know, whatever, to get to this point where I know what I want to say, I know how I want to tell it, and I know how I want you to feel. And I know, you know, I know all these things now. So it’s and I also feel like I understand how a short film works. And I feel like the short films I’ve made in the past are really short films. They’re almost like many feature films. And that’s not what a short film is a short film is something entirely different, which I’ve only come to realize, and when I found out what a short film really is, I felt like Well, that’s not what I am. But why not? So I’ve had I’ve gone You know, I’ve almost been through film school with my own little head and worked out what I was, where I was going wrong and what I’m, you know, where I want to be. And I feel like now it’s a strong position. strong point. And yeah, hopefully it’s gonna happen very soon.

Yeah, I like starting projects, even commercial stuff. But certainly, my own narrative stuff from from a philosophical argument. So one piece that I had, which was a longer form thing. The theme of the entire piece was that love is a choice. It was a philosophical argument. That’s, that’s my that’s the that’s the conclusion that I want. That’s the conclusion of my argument. And then I just basically broke that down into cause and effects. So what do I need to get someone to think to agree that that love is nothing more than a choice? It’s not something that we, you know, the whole notion of soulmates i think is bullshit, I think it’s a no I’m married your marriage, I choose every day to turn up and be a husband and to love my my wife. That’s a choice I make. And sometimes people decide to stop making that choice. So I then set the narrative based on cause and effect so this event happened this event all the way through to well if all of that was true, then that must be true. It was a very it was an interesting process to go through. And I’m I like filmmakers that have something to say that is meaningful. That is does have an element of kind of holding up a mirror but at the same time to replay what they’re saying. I love tarkowski but the and I love the last shot of stalker. So stalker, the little girl at the end of the table, and there’s the glass and it’s just moving. But to this day that irks me I What the fuck is he trying to see? I’ve

never seen stalker. Oh, really? Okay, so yeah, I’ve just I’ve just, I’ve just recently got into

some Russian cinema though. I’ve just got I just watched Leviathan. And I know Yeah, yeah. Have you seen those? Yes. Like loveless blew. My mind is like, fuck me. That’s so so powerful. Yeah, totally. And that’s the kind of cinema I want to make. Okay, you know, yep. I’m Lawrence. I can’t watch any of this Hollywood crap that I see. And I watch it. But I’m just I’m not interested. They

can watch it.

or refuse to watch it. The, my my wallet. I’ve got a home theater. 20 foot screen upstairs. And it’s, we do things like my wife and I the family. In fact, that is really just the wife and me. We sat down, I don’t know, six months ago. And we went through two coffees all from his student films, one after the other. Just watch all of them in a row. That was that was fat. I love that. I love that. And then but today that I tell you this because I’m going to tell you, I’ll tell you that because I’m going to tell you this. We watched the movie Get Shorty. Have you ever seen that? So that’s Holly we long time ago 1995. Um, Travolta looks like a different person. But that that is so well written. The the actual screenwriting itself is really, really well written. I think it must have been. It looks like it was shot on 16 mil. Like it looks. It looks beautiful. So there was a time when Hollywood was doing kind of decent stuff. But anymore.

Not anymore. Or superheroes kicked in. Yeah, there’s too much money in that remakes. Yeah, exactly. It’s just they’ve become cinema has become theme parks. Yep. Yeah, it’s not there’s no art there anymore. I mean, you do get smaller films that come out. But they’re like around for a week and independent cinema. And you have to, you know, hunt it down. Yep. And find it. Yep.

The world’s changing the commercial world is changing. You’ve lived through it. I’ve lived through it. And, you know, there’s a lot of stuff happening in TV and because of digital ID. I think in 10 years, we’re actually going to be better off as filmmakers not worse off, I believe. Oh, yeah. 100%. Yeah, well, it’s gonna change. Yeah, yeah, the world is clean. Okay, to our final question. Tell us something you’ve read, watched or heard that inspired you recently? And it can’t be anything to do with Russian cinema. No, I

mean, a lot of the stuff I’m being inspired by the stories I’m reading in the news about certain. I’m living in a crazy country at the moment, which is going through this whole Brexit thing. Which I was, which I am very much against. And I was very, very stressed about it for a long time. And you know, I like literally, I was really stressed about all this and then it’s just such a circus of events that are happening as well with America and what’s happening over there. That you just get to a point where like, I’m powerless II, I can’t do anything. I voted. I did whatever I had to do still go into shit. So when you take a step back and you look at what’s going on, is it’s just it’s absolute madness. What’s happening? So I’m taking inspiration at the moment from all of this. So I’ve got all these ideas based around all these things, so many things that happen all at the same time. We’re on this small little island, you know, England, United Kingdom. Now, I just want to tell stories from all over the place. So everything I all I do at the moment is read, I avoided the news for a long time, I deleted all my apps on my phone. I didn’t want to read anything, but at the moment now I’m, it’s like, massive inspiration, I see all these crazy things. I’m like, Fuck, I’m like writing all these notes all the time. That’s crazy. I’m taking the bits from here and there. That’s why I’m being inspired by the moment it’s just the world and where it’s especially here, and what what is happening and what’s going on. And because this is such a small place, and you can just drive two hours, and you’re in a totally different area, totally different accidents, totally different mindset, almost different cultures, but it’s this so diverse, it’s insane. And it’s just to understand why some of these things are happening and looking at Worlds that people are just like, Oh, well that’s those guys. You know, it’s again, it’s coming to this thing of that’s happened to those guys over there. But here we’re we’re living you know, it’s not we’re all so connected, and which is why Brexit is happening. I guess that a lot of us thought we were safe that we live in this little bubble that we live in, but there are pockets of this country that have been shafted and forgotten about and like will fuck you guys. And those guys. I will fuck you know, we have. So that’s where my inspirations coming from. This might not be the answer you expected. But yeah, no, no, it’s it’s rather than watching stuff.

It’s your truth, man. It’s um, I mean, basically, what you’re saying is you’re inspired by life.

Yeah. Not necessarily my life, but but the lives that I’m reading about. Yeah, yeah. Life as in capital F. Yeah. capital F, Jesus, capital L. and just trying to understand what’s going on and why things work, the way they work and how, through doing this short film, I’ve realized how interlinked we are how on all on top of each other we are. And it’s just it’s so interesting. And that’s even globally. Things. The way things eyes, it’s just, I’ve never had to, I guess, really think about it. And now I’m having to really think about it, which is, I guess what this whole Brexit thing is about, as well as I wake up and see why we’re not being loved or being helped. And it’s kind of done the trick because people buy at least I’m looking around now I’m thinking ship. I get it, even though I’m not. I don’t think it’s the right answer. But I understand why people are doing st and Sansa and things not all obviously racism is bullshit. And but some of the problems that you know, it’s Yeah, it’s crazy. Crazy. So I’m drawing inspiration from all that. I want to tell stories about that stuff.

Yeah. Cool. All right. Well, thank you for today. And thank you for sharing that. Always. Have you enjoyed today’s episode, and here’s what I want you to do. Next, I want you to take one thing that you got from today’s show, and to put it into practice in your career in business, because it’s only through having the right systems in place, that you’ll be able to take your career and business from where you are today to where you want to be. So again, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. So until next time, I’m Clarke Scott from next level filmmaker. Have a great day.

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