Why we make films

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Making movies is slow, hard work. It takes enormous effort and commitment. And, in our case, we make no money from it (yet). So why do it?

This is something a few of us discussed recently, and it boiled down to five things you can read on our ‘About’ page. What follows, though, is not a team mission statement or any kind of official policy – it’s just what I feel.

And for me, it’s all about telling stories.

BlackProject150Since I was a nipper, I’ve loved to tell stories – to take someone with me on a ride through my imagination (although sometimes that’s scary for both of us). I’ve been an obsessive-compulsive fiction writer since I was in primary school.

I’ve written two novels – Lady Caine and Black Project – which I ended up publishing myself through a micro-press I set up with my wife, Trish. (We’ve also published Clare’s collection of short stories, Twisting Tales.) I approached publishers with the books, and even had an agent interested for a while. But mainstream publishers are very risk-averse. In the end, publishing them myself not only came as something of a relief, I found I enjoyed the degree of control it gave me over my own work.

That’s something we have with Zolascope, too. We get to choose which stories we tell and how we tell them. It’s pure creative freedom.

And making movies has certain advantages over writing novels or short stories.

First, it’s collaborative. On all three films we’ve made so far, we worked hard. Yet it was also enormous fun. The reason is that you’re a member of a group of people who are all talented and all striving towards a single purpose – making the best film we can make. Everyone gets to contribute ideas. It’s a social event that leads to a concrete achievement – the film.

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That end product is important too, because it’s not some widget we’re selling, and it’s not some dreary corporate strategy. While we are collaborating as a team, it’s entirely different from the kind of teamwork you find in the office. At the end we achieve something in which we can feel genuine pride.

Yes, the films have their flaws – what truly creative work doesn’t? And ours more than some, perhaps, because we are all newcomers evolving our own way of working, rather than a slick Hollywood crew turning out another blockbuster to a well-worn template. But it’s our film, made with passion, and the result not just of our creative energies but also the discoveries we have made about the film-making process.

The great thing is that others also get to participate in our work simply by watching the film – and not just friends and family, but the whole world, thanks to Vimeo. As Clare pointed out, you can do that with a novel, but it’s asking a lot of people to devote the time it takes to read an entire book. It’s different with a 10-15min film. So there’s a great sense of achievement not just in having created something but also in being able to share it.

Finally, for me, there’s the fact that film is a visual medium. Photography has been a major part of my life for 40 years. And film offers ways of using one’s visual muscles that just aren’t available in stills. I love creating pictures – so what could be better than making 25 of them every second?

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