Exploring Creativity: The film freelancer
This is the first of a new series on Rarely Wears Lipstick, about creative careers and what they involve. Whether you’re just starting out or looking for a career change, it’s always helpful to hear about what people with exciting sounding jobs actually do. Not that “day in the life” type of article (sorry Stylist, I love you but I really don’t need to know what women eat for lunch when the piece is about their job) but some questions that will give enough of an overview to help readers understand a job. Of course, interviewing creative types means I also get to showcase their brilliant work! First up is Manchester-based film maker Lucy Lincoln.
Lori: Tell me about the life of a short film producer/director… what does your job entail?
Lucy: Working as a freelancer in short film production, for me, varies greatly from one job to the next constantly presenting me with new and interesting challenges. As a creative producer, I coordinate the project from the beginning – from script editing and castings to the logistics of permissions, locations and crew. This allows me to enjoy a balance of creativity and organisation whilst being in complete control of a project. I have had the opportunity to work with many amazing people and have had the freedom to choose which projects I work on no matter which genre, because I have worked hard to gain and maintain a reputation within the industry. Networking is an essential tool for promoting the finished product and myself, whether it is via social media or in the real world at festivals and events.
Taking the role of a director is quite different, being especially focussed on the creative. It is certainly helpful to understand the roles of both a director and producer when undertaking either role but I find it difficult not to think about logistics when I am directing. Either way, I love to bring the stories to life. The variety constantly excites me, whether I am finding an actor willing to walk across a football pitch naked or auditioning for the right dog to play a lead role!
Lori: Congratulations on winning the Stockport Film Festival’s North West Short Film Award for The Dog Whisperer. Can you tell me a bit about that film and how you came to work on it?
Lucy: Thank you! I had previously worked with Ali Kahn on a short film and was keen to showcase her talents as a comedy actress in a protagonist role. I approached writer Richard Davis and together we came up with the idea of this clueless dog whisperer who was completely unaware of how bad she was at her job and we thought it had potential to be a funny story. This gave Ali and interviewer John Draycott the perfect platform to demonstrate their improvisation skills. The mockumentary style of the film required improvisation for the performances to appear natural and I think it worked very well considering the other logistics such as the unpredictability of working with dogs and babies and not knowing how they would react for a scene. We had a very small crew who were fantastic which made the shooting run like clockwork.
Lori: What has been your favourite project to work on so far?
Lucy: There are so many to choose from! The projects I particularly enjoy are the ones in which I am active as a creative producer. I often work closely with my close friend, director Amy McIntyre and together we have made mainly comedy drama as a producer/director team. The commercial Campbell’s Journey which follows the life of a man from a baby into old age enjoying soup, is definitely one of my favourites and one that we often use as a benchmark for the films we make together. For us, it was the first venture into the depths of filmmaking delivering to a brief. I had found an international competition requiring a 90 second commercial for Campbell’s soup and we decided we had nothing to lose. We actually gained a lot from our zero budget production with the film placing 4th, resulting in a cash prize, and a year later winning an RTS student award for best entertainment. This highlighted to us what could be achieved with little budget and a great deal of determination and emphasised to me that I was able to have creative control rather than being a producer that ticks the boxes. And it looks great!
Lori: The North West is experiencing a bit of a media boom at the moment, so I imagine there must be some benefits of being a freelancer based in Manchester. Why does that location work well for you?
Lucy: Growing up in Manchester and living close to Media City has definitely been good for me in my line of work. There are a lot of programmes that have moved to the studios making the job prospects much better, and being local has been an advantage. There are also many great independent production companies in Manchester making high production value films, television dramas and commercials which has brought freelance opportunities for me in production such as organising castings and location work. I am lucky that my role within production has many different options and I can adapt my skills in a few areas. Manchester boasts a vibrant short film makers’ network, with screenings and festivals and networking groups, which makes filmmaking a joy rather than an obstacle. The support within those groups is massive whether you are looking for crew or screening your film for the first time. Independent local festivals such as Kino and Screen Stockport are a perfect platform with a welcoming community environment which is why I wanted to premier The Dog Whisperer at Stockport specifically.