Interview with director Peter Paton

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

I cannot recall a definitive moment when I recognized that filmmaking was my way of telling stories. I started out taking landscape photos around my local neighborhood which kindled my fascination with cameras and photography. Through various experimental projects I stumbled
upon time lapse videography and then filmmaking. It was only until my Bachelors degree did I have the knowledge and crew to be able to bring some of my stories to fruition. So it has been a long process of experimentation and learning.

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

No. I believe that everyone is unique and it’s the stories that only they can tell that will make them a good filmmaker. In order to be a successful filmmaker all you need is a compelling story and a camera.

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

Facing a blank page is always a hard place to start but facing the challenges of production can be just as difficult. I think it was the fear of failing that I had to conquer. I would doubt whether my writing was any good, whether we were getting enough coverage, whether it would make sense in the edit. At every stage there is always a seed of doubt of things going wrong but at the end of the day you have to treat it as a learning experience that you can take on to your next film.

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

Compromise. With every film there is compromise which usually stems from budget limitations. On Black Bear when one of our shooting days got cut in half due to unforeseen circumstances it took compromise to shoot just the essentials in order to make the scene work. In some ways this
can help you focus on what’s really important in the scene and to get rid of any unnecessary camera shots or moves.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

As previously mentioned things often go wrong in filmmaking. Locations change, budgets get cut and actors get recast. On the last day of production we had to battle with rain, wind and snow in order to get the last exterior shots of the film. This meant waiting around for conditions to change
and ultimately less time to shoot the scene. When compromise happens you have to be more efficient. It times like these I find it vital to understand every aspect in filmmaking because the more you know about the craft, the more efficient you can be when push comes to shove.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

To be honest there weren’t many hard artistic choices to be made. Compromise is always hard but as long as it didn’t affect the story it isn’t a hard decision to make.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I met most of my crew through University and I think communication is key in maintaining good relationships with them. Throughout production it is important to acknowledge everyone’s hard work and thank them for it. Be appreciative to all the hours your crew has put in to supporting your vision.

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

I think every audience member goes into a cinema with different intentions so it’s hard to say what the general population wants and studios will spend millions trying to find out. It’s so elusive that the studios can never predict which films audiences will like because everyone has different wants. As a filmmaker I think you have to make films that you want to see, something that hasn’t been done before. If your story is unique and compelling enough then it will find the right audiences.

  • 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 way of getting a film out there to a wider audience as they have done with Black Bear. They’re a brilliant culmination of industry professionals where you can watch new and upcoming films and talk to the people that made them. In order to make the most out of going to
festivals you should watch as many films as you can and talk to as many people as you can.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think it’s the unique films that innovate the medium of film and really captivate an audience. The films that challenge the classical film structure and clichés. Yes, there are certain cinema tropes that audiences are used to and are more digestible but I think the best cinema uses the form of
classic cinema but brings something new to it whether that’s in story, camera technique of character.