Interview with director James Mclean

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

After 10 years of Film editing professionally, I found that I had a desire to get into production. I love editing, and the way in which you can dictate the story through pacing and various styles, however I found myself wanting to tell stories that I was thinking up in my head, and film is the perfect outlet for this.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Absolutely not. Film making comes from the creative ideas within anyone’s head.. as long as you are dedicated to the cause and passionate about the project.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Staying pro active is key, keep any ideas that come in to your head and write them down. Be patient, and stay dedicated from the outset.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Be open to last minute changes. We originally planned to film a Bee Keeper in the UK after filming in Sweden. However Hannah our location manager new of an amazing Bee Keeper Hasse that was local to Vastervik. Within 24 hours we had arranged to film on location at his Bee farm the day before flying back to the UK. The location and people involved were perfect. Hasse now features in the film.

  • How do you find or generate ideas for documentaries or is it a different process for every project?

For this project in particular, I saw an article about Jerome Davenport in the Evening Standard. Ideas started running through my head about how he would be a perfect subject for a short film, especially with the environmental issues we are all experiencing at the moment. I thought it was such a unique way of spreading an environmental message, whilst also show the skills that Jerome has with his artwork. For other ideas, the key is networking and talking to people, be open with ideas and share these with people to get feedback. Don’t just stick with the first thing that comes into your head. Develop them into something until it feels like it will have a real and engaging impact.

  • Can you describe your approach to writing treatments?

Take inspiration from other people, take my time and make sure it works on paper before thinking about production. I like to create large mood boards and shot lists to visualize what I would like to shoot before shooting. Coming from an editing background, I find it extremely useful as I can picture how a film will cut together before shooting.

  • Do you ever use the camera yourself?

Not when I have extremely talented DOPs to work with. The collaboration with your DP is vital to creating something you are happy with.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

When creating a film, I think more about how the audience will engage with the film. Not all films are for everyone, but certain audiences will appreciate different films. I think every film maker at some point will worry if the film will be well received, but I think as long as you’re happy and you’re sure the film is the best it can be on the budget you have, then you should not worry to much.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Festivals are a great outlet to showcase your work. Without festivals it would be much harder to gain a large audience. Each festival offers a different audience with a variety of films. Its also great to see what other film makers are up too.