Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Director Prepares

I'm not long back from the big smoke, aka, London, having attended a workshop for TV and film directors.

I always travel by train whenever I have to go down. It takes around four and a quarter hours, which considering the distance is not really that long. It's relaxing too. I pass the time reading the newspapers, a good book, listening to music or watching a DVD on my laptop. I once calculated that to travel by plane it would actually take me slightly longer door to door, and no doubt I would be far less relaxed.

I arrived late afternoon on the Thursday, meeting up with my friends, John and Linsey, who live in a nice area half an hour out from the city centre in Chiswick. John is an executive with Paramount Pictures and we've been good friends for the last ten years. Just a couple of years ago he moved from Sydney to London with Paramount and now whenever I'm down that way he very kindly puts me up.

On Friday Linsey and I went along to Tate Britain to see the temporary exhibition Rude Britania. In order to get to the gallery showing the exhibition we walked through the Turner galleries. This was the first time I had really taken a close look at Turner and I was pleasantly surprised. The way he had captured the light from a particular point, casting light onto an area of the painting, really caught my eye. The Rude Briatania exhibit was a lot of fun, with comic art from the 1600's to the present day. Everything from Gillray and Hogarth through to Viz and Spitting Image. One of the sections exhibits was chosen by comedian Harry Hill. All well worth a visit. In the evening we met John after his work and went for a meal at the Oxo Tower on the south bank of the Thames. Great setting and view across the Thames, but maybe just a little on the pricey side.

On Saturday and Sunday I attended the workshop at London Film School near Covent Garden, called The Director Prepares. The guest director running the course was Harvey Frost. Originally from England, he had emigrated to Canada many years ago and now lives in Pacific Palasades, very near to Santa Monica, LA. Over his career he has written and directed many made-for-TV movies. At one point he directed a series called Avonlea, which can be described loosely as a Canadian Little House On The Prairie. We watched one episode and to be honest I wasn't overly impressed. Not my sort of thing at all. That was untill he told us that the budget in 1995 was roughly $2 million an episode! I almost fell off my seat. We have feature films made in the UK that don't get those sorts of budgets! The only TV series I had heard of that he had directed was 90210, but he had been out there, in Hollywood, making a good living. Times have changed however. It's difficult to get work as a director out there now, he told us, even with his long career and track record. Gone are the days of constant work, big budgets and seventy of a crew. He feels fortunate these days if he gets one a year to direct. Overall, the workshop was very enjoyable, and boosted my confidence no end, as I realised just how much I already know. But I always learn something new that adds just a little edge to my skills for the next time.

I spoke to a number of other directors on the workshop, people doing the job in London itself. All of them seperately told me that it was not possible to make a living as a director in the UK. This is something I've suspected myself for quite some time, and one reason why I am currently diversifying. From September onwards I will at last have a small, but nearby, office to work from every day, using my producer skills to organise more efficient use of my time into exisitng and new areas of business.

To kick start the process I now have a new showreel, which you can find by clicking on this link (remember to switch on your sound first):


Maybe soon I will be running a workshop and people will travel from the big smoke to Auld Reekie to participate.

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