What influenced you to work on independent films?It all began when I was sat in a lecture at university a few years back. Although I studied English Literature, I was keen to take some film modules – watching films is easier than reading books, after all. By looking at film on a deeper level, I started to really appreciate film and almost immediately realized that I needed to work in the film industry. I’d like to think I’ve always been somewhat creative and imaginative, so I decided to try my hand at writing some stories with a view to turning them into films. Unfortunately, though, Hollywood doesn’t come knocking the minute you decide you want to make films, so I decided to make it happen for myself.
Could you tell us about your company “JumpCut UK Productions”. What kind of films do you guys specialize in? Do you guys have a signature style that define your films?Well, I say I made this happen for myself, but the truth is, you cannot succeed in this industry without a strong support network around you. Luckily, I have an excellent team of like-minded creatives pushing in the same direction as me – Nick Deal, who shares my love for telling stories; Samuel James, the man with an eye for great cinematography; and Oscar Barnes, our Art Director. To be honest, our films so far have been rather dark, but I wouldn’t say we specialize in, or are limited to any particular style or genre. We have lots of projects in development, from comedies, to crime-thrillers, to realist drama; we just want to try our hand at a diverse range of films and experience as many aspects of film-making as possible.
Could you tell us a bit about your short film “Harlequin”?‘Harlequin’ actually started life as a piece of poetry I wrote a few years back. From there, I developed a deeper story, and eventually put this together as a short script. On the surface, this is a story a pretty creepy clown who isn’t very good at what he does. Hopefully, though, if the audience looks deeper, they can recognize my attempts to portray the contrast between appearance and reality. I find it equally fascinating, and upsetting, to consider that many people out there have deep-lying problems, “demons”, if you like, that they feel should be hidden away and bottled up. I wanted ‘Harlequin’ to act as something of a reflection, albeit an extreme one, of the negative effect this kind of behaviour can have, and hopefully this message can resonate with some viewers and help them to confront their “demons”.
Art films such as Harlequin seem to have a lot of imagery and the usage of color is very important in order to express certain moods and expressions. How do you balance out imagery and color while still managing to tell a coherent and entertaining story? Whilst I’m a big fan of the visual aspects of filmmaking – I can be a sucker for a nice colour palette and an interesting camera angle – I firmly believe that nothing is more important than the story at the heart of any film. A mantra I follow strictly in my filmmaking is that “no amount of visual flair can rescue a poor script” – get your narrative right, and then you can start to think about cinematography and all the other trimmings which make a good story, great. I’ve always got time for some neon lighting though.
What was the process of making this short film like? Were there any unexpected challenges?I think ‘Harlequin’ was something of an anomaly to be honest, in that it all ran pretty much smoothly. I wrote the script, sent it to a few independent production companies and I was lucky enough to get the attention of a company called Felix Mater Society. They liked the story, have an amazing outlook on supporting emerging artists, and wanted to collaborate to make this vision a reality. Then, I had the privilege of working with the uber-talented Kenton Hall – an actor whose work I very much admired after watching the wonderful indie film ‘A Dozen Summers’ – in bringing the central character to life. Kenton was superb during filming, simultaneously lending his experience and advice, whilst respecting my own ideas and direction. I would say the main challenges arose during post-production. As a small team, we currently handle all of the editing, too, and let me tell you – editing is damn hard.
We saw that your company has a new short film that in production called “Conscientia”. Could you tell us a bit about what that film is going to be about?This is a very exciting project, for many reasons. First of all, this is going to be my acting debut, something I never thought I would be saying. Until last year, I hated the thought of being in front of the camera, but after seeing Kenton in action, I decided to give it a go. ‘Conscientia’ will also be Nick Deal’s directorial debut, so this will be a new challenge for all of us. I don’t want to say too much, as the mystery will add to the experience when viewers first watch the short film, but I can say that ‘Conscientia’ is a horror, which will hopefully scare the shit out of lots of people.
What qualities do you think make a great film, and could you give us a few examples of films that you would consider great?I think the key to making a great film, for me at least, is not only about the way the film makes you feel duringviewing, but how it makes you feel afterwards. For days, weeks, months, and in the best instances, years after watching a film, I want there to be some kind of connection to the story and the characters I’ve seen on screen. If a film can keep me pondering long after, then I feel that film has achieved something pretty special. My favourite film, for example, is Donnie Darko – a film which I stilldon’t understand, after about 100 viewings. But I love it because of this. There are lots of other elements to making a film “great”, but ultimately, it all comes down to the emotional effect. Great films are the ones that get you asking questions, the ones that surprise you, inspire you, intrigue you and enthrall you; Films like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, and more recently, ‘La La Land’ and ‘Ex Machina’.
What philosophies or beliefs, if any, do you follow when creating a film that you believe are integral to making the film great?As I mentioned previously, the narrative at the heart of a film is paramount. The story, and the characters have to be your first priority if you hope to ever make a great film. When it comes to my writing process specifically, I always follow the words of the brilliant Stanley Kubrick, who said: “If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed”. Because of this, I never limit myself or compromise on the story I want to tell, and I never worry about what the budget might be further down the line – if a story is good enough, someone, somewhere will ensure it makes it onto the screen. It’s also very important to be open to new ideas, and responsive to the feedback of your peers; there is a big difference between having confidence in your own abilities, and being ignorant to the fact that others could offer something you may have missed.
What advice would you give to someone what wants to create an independent film of their own?There is no greater, or simpler advice that anyone can offer to someone wanting to create their own films, than to simply say: “Do it”. If you have an idea for a story, write it down. If you want to turn this story into a film, pick up a camera, gather some friends, and shoot it. There is no better way to learn, than from experience, and most importantly, from mistakes. Whilst it’s nice to daydream about making films, you’ll get nowhere unless you go out and make it happen.
Where can we follow you to learn more about “Harlequin”, “Conscentia” and all future projects by you and your company?You can follow me personally on Twitter @jumpcutjakob, but be sure to follow @jcukproductions too, if you want a slightly more professional approach to filmmaking chatter.