Giles Alderson on making his own work while helping you make yours
Giles Alderson talks to us about directing his first feature The Dare, producing another A Serial Killer's Guide To Life, and supporting indie filmmakers by hosting the Make Your Film events and The Filmmakers Podcast.
Hello Giles, thanks for talking us. You have remained very busy over the course of lockdown, not least with continuing the support you offer indie filmmakers with the Make Your Film events you’ve now taken online. Can you tell us about these?
Myself and Dom Lenoir who run the Make Your Film events didn’t want to stop helping filmmakers because we all can’t meet up, and an online summit seemed a great way to do that. It also meant we could get guests who weren’t in the UK too, cuch as Beck and Woods (A Quiet Place) and Jack Binder (First Reformed) who are happy to jump on Zoom rather than a plane. Cheaper too!
Also I feel it’s really important to stay busy during this lockdown. As creatives, we can easily lose hope and wallow so by keeping proactive and productive it can only benefit us when all this does end. So I’ve been prepping all the projects that were in limbo, completing and tidying scripts, getting vision packs ready. Plus now is a good to time to get them looked at and read by the powers that be so why not do the best you can now rather than sat on your couch.
Your support and love for filmmaking doesn’t end there, you also run and host The Filmmakers Podcast, which is a must-listen for all filmmakers. Tell us about the podcast and how has that’s been going during this period?
I love doing The Filmmakers podcast. Talking to other filmmakers about how they got their projects made is a delight. You would pay good money to hear these stories and we’ve chatted to over 200 people on just that and yet, it’s free. Doesn’t matter how many books you would read you still wouldn’t get that level of detail.
From no-budgets to Hollywood, Oscar winners etc. I set it up as another resource that could help not just filmmakers but me as well and it’s a great marketing tool for our projects and the guests own ones so it’s win-win. It’s are the No.1 Indie filmmaking podcast in the UK. We’ve worked hard to get it there but it’s worth it.
You’re a filmmaker in your own right and not long before lockdown you released The Dare in the USA and Canada (due for released in the UK in October), your first feature as a director. What’s the film about and how did you go about getting it into production?
Well, compared to some of the other films I tried to get made it was a brilliant experience. Another project I had on the go was falling apart, as they always seemed to do back then and I remember wanting to go back to basics and make something simple. Little did I know it would turn out to be a big studio movie and take up 5 years of my life. But then, what I’ve learned doing the podcast is most films do take that long!
I originally had two ideas I put together and wrote a treatment/scriptment which I then took to screenwriter Jonny Grant to write it with me and within a month we had our first draft. I love writing with other people. It’s easier for my constantly active brain so I have two, theirs and mine. Now I feel confident within those parameters to get a project written. I’d recommend it to any writer. It’s so easy to get bogged down,lonely and perhaps never finish it on your own but with a partner they are always there to gee you up and help. I mean, you have to choose your partner wisely and definitely make sure you have a contract or one pager agreement in place as well. Even if you are best friends!
In what ways did your experience directing short films prepare you for the feature, and what aspects were different from what you had done before?
Making shorts was a massive stepping stone for me to go on and make features. It’s so important to dip your toe in the water and go out and make as many shorts as you can. They don’t have to be amazing and you don’t have to show anyone if you don’t want to. You learn so much about what you need to shoot and what you don’t. What you would cut out in the edit from dialogue to coverage. I mean you hardly ever use the wide shot so why do take after take and spending ages on it when you should be concentrating on the performances and Mid/Close Ups where we actually see the actor!
The huge differences were the amount of effort it takes to make a feature and how taxing that is on you as a producer or director. I says it’s like hosting a huge event but in the films case you are doing that everyday or as Phin Glynn mentioned the other day on the Make Your Film online event ‘As a director you are like a race car driver and you’ve pulled into the pit stop and you need everyone around you to do their job as quickly as possible or you can’t go…” It’s that. You are leading the ship but without those around you doing their job correctly it can all go to pieces in seconds. So, not only do you need amazing people around you but you also need to be a wonderful communicator. This comes from making shorts and Ads and promos etc and honing your craft.
But here’s the kicker; if you don’t prepare as a filmmaker and really know what you want and are able to adapt, then you won’t be able to communicate that on set because you will be making it up as you go along. This is a recipe for disaster so you have to prepare, prepare and then do some more. You will be so tired on set, so over worked and brain fried more than you have ever been and in those moments if you haven’t got all your ducks in a row you will sink. That, and being physically and mentally fit. It’s not an easy ride making a feature but it can be so rewarding.
What were the biggest lessons you learned directing this feature, and if you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice before filming, what would it be?
I think the biggest piece of advice I could have given myself before directing The Dare would be to relax a little and trust I was able to do it. It’s that huge fear we all get that you are not good enough and you are going to be found out. I mean, that technically never goes away but the idea of failure was huge.
From what started off in my mind as a small micro budget indie ended up being a studio backed movie with 60 odd crew. That’s a daunting prospect and without making all the mistakes and the good things I did on the shorts beforehand I wouldn’t have got through it.
As a producer, you have another feature film being released on Sky Premiere this week, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life. Can you tell us about the film and your involvement?
A Serial Killers Guide to Life is a joyous fun feature that follows the life of self-help addict Lou (Katie Brayben) who unwittingly embarks on a road trip of violent self discovery with her unhinged new life coach Val. It’s the brain child of Staten Cousins-Roe who wrote and directed it.
I produced his Bafta long-listed short This Way Out and Staten and his wife Poppy, who also produces and stars in the film, asked me to come on board the feature and produce with them. So along with fellow producer Charity Wakefield we all embarked on a journey ourselves. It was a two week shoot of multiple locations and characters on a very tight budget so it was a case of constantly being on top of the whole filming process so it didn’t run away with us. It was fun but as you can imagine a full on shoot. We all mucked in and managed to finish on time and all in tact.
Staten is very gifted and has made an incredible film that we all very proud of. To get any indie film out there for people to see is a miracle to get it on Sky Premiere is a dream. So hats off to everyone involved. Having made the leap to directing features from directing shorts, what advice would you offer filmmakers looking to follow in your footsteps?
Know who you are making the film for. It is not everyone. It should be carefully considered. If it’s horror, what type of horror? Comedy or Psychological etc. It’s vital you know your market and your distribution strategy way before hand. Even before you write the script.
Writing takes a lot of time and patience so if you have no idea who would watch your movie before then don’t waste your time. Look at other films similar and see what their journey was. It is a business. You have to think that way. There is so much info out there on how to make films, like The Filmmakers Podcast, you have no excuses. Aim high but be realistic. And if you want to make it for fun, put it on Amazon and sell to your pals then fine but be aware most of them won’t buy it.
Lockdown is affecting projects across the board, but what have you got coming up next?
I had just delivered my King Arthur movie for Signature Entertainment called Knights of Camelot so we had to finish the delivery up on that. Lucinda and Jeet Thakrar, the production team at Picture Perfect did a brilliant job of not only getting the movie made but delivering it as well, especially during lockdown. That should be out in July if all goes to plan.
I had been writing a few projects and this lockdown has given me a chance to finish them, Plus I’ve been on post for my feature documentary Food For Thought, about animal welfare and the vegan movement, so that has kept me occupied.
But next up? There was a lot of things on the table before Covid so been working hard to keep them going and we are in talks to make The Dare sequel so a lot of things to keep me going. To be honest, I feel busier than ever!
Follow Giles on Twitter: @GilesAlderson
The Dare is out now in USA and CANADA (Released in the UK in October)
A Serial Killers Guide to Life (OUT on Sky Premiere May7th)