Interview Manchester Freelance Filmmaker John Grey

John Grey is a freelance filmmaker living in Manchester. He recently submitted his short film “Maybe” to the Virgin Media Shorts competition. “Maybe” is an excellent little film, about a man wondering what could be when a young woman joins him at the bus stop. I met up with John, wanting to find out more about the film, his freelance work and the importance of good friends.

How did the idea for “Maybe” come about?

“Life I suppose, personal experience. The genesis of that idea kind of came from being in that position. I don’t want there to be any illusion about the film’s (being) based solely on personal experience or anything like that. I’m not sort of emulating myself in the main character at all. But I think there’s definitely an amount of personal experience in there.”

This is your second entry with Virgin Media Shorts, what attracted you to this competition?

“Well I’ve always been aware of Virgin Media Shorts and if I’m being perfectly honest I can’t even remember how I first heard about it. It’s just something I’ve been aware of, on the grape vine. But it wasn’t until I moved to the centre of Manchester that I became aware of its pull and its influence and what exactly can come from entering.”

For a film this size, do you find yourself performing multiple jobs or do you try to stick to a purely Director role?

Maybe” is an interesting example to pose this question to because it wasn’t made specifically for Virgin Media shorts it was made as part of a different film making event called Filmonik Cabaret and the idea behind that is to get as many people from as many different disciplines as possible and make as many films in as short a time as possible. And that’s where the original cut came from.

So it was shot in one day and edited over night and as a means of making it quick I just took on all the core jobs myself. So I think taking on several jobs myself made the scope of the film easier but I wouldn’t necessarily say that the scale or length of the film would have a direct knock on effect on whether or not I chose to take on several roles or just stick to one.
I do like to try and put as much focus and effort into directing as possible. So I try to make sure that never falls by the wayside.

UNSAID from John Grey on Vimeo.

Typically how long does it take for a film of this size from initial idea to completion?

It depends, it depends entirely. It’s contextual it really is. Often you’ll find if you’ve got no incentive, you’ve got no deadline then most likely you’ll never even make it. You really need either a reason and say a competition or an event or perhaps even just someone there to give you a kick up the backside.

That’s a difficult one to answer, truthfully. For “Maybe” it was shot and cut, the original, in a day. And then we re-cut and re-graded and re-scored it. It took about a month maybe, maybe two in post production to really complete it, to add the sheen that it needed.

Now I know that you are also a film freelancer, what sort of work do you do?

Oh everything, everything and anything. I don’t generally turn down anything unless I don’t have the physical capabilities to do it. I do a lot of corporate work, interviews and events coverage. I’ve also worked on music videos and educational films, those kinds of things.

As a writer, director, editor and occasional actor all rolled into one, what are your favourite tools of the trade?

Up until about a year ago, two years ago I wasn’t cutting on a Mac. I was cutting on Windows and I didn’t realize, until I switched over to the Mac and to Final Cut in particular, how sluggish and slow my workflow was.

Final Cut has definitely made my life easier. But I’m also turning in to a bit of a camera geek. I’m not quite as bad as some people out there but I do like to geek out over cameras and lenses.

You do a lot of filming in Manchester, is there a reason you choose to film there?

I don’t have a car (laughs). It’s a really versatile city to be honest. You can pretty much find almost anything you’re looking for in and around Manchester. If you want inner city stuff there’s great locations in the city centre.

Whereas if you go more towards the outskirts, you’ll find really nice park areas. It’s got a quite nice variety in a comparatively condensed space. I love the city, I like it a lot.

You graduated from The University of Bolton 3 years ago now, what advice would you give to those graduating this year and looking for a career in film?

Honestly, the best piece of advice I feel I could give someone is to just keep doing it. For me, I kind of took a hiatus after my final semester because I was exhausted. And I don’t mean just physically, I mean inspirationally, emotionally. I just didn’t have it in me really, for a while and I just wanted to take a little break from it.

But I kind of wish that I’d tried. Because, like you said, it has been 3 years and while I’m very happy with how far I’ve gotten and I’m not complaining and I certainly wouldn’t change it, not for the world, but I feel like maybe I could have gotten up a bit quicker. So yeah just get up, just stop thinking about it and go and do it.

I mean, harking back to one of your questions, how long does it take to get one of these ideas up and out onto the screen? It shouldn’t, shouldn’t take long at all. But it does because you end up just sitting there, thinking about it and life gets in the way. And you’ve just got to find time. If it’s what you want to do and you are in love with it then you should find time for it.

And make lots of friends, they’re invaluable. If you find people who are just as in love with it as you are then there are always going to be people who can help you realize your vision and what you want to do. And not only can help you, but actively want to and that’s an important thing.

You can watch “Maybe” on the Virgin Media Shorts website.

You can also follow John on Twitter on @JohnTheGrey and watch his other shorts on his Vimeo page.

Interview by Emma Ellinson, @Emzorzin3d

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: