Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oliver Jones: Director/Writer/Editor/Animator/Graphic Artist

Oliver Jones is a Director/Writer/Editor/Animator/Graphic artist from Birmingham England and along with his friend Liam Delaney, they are co-founders of the production company, Betterfeelingfilms. Since completing his degree in animation in 2006, Oliver has been working freelance, making music videos for local bands, and working on the art department of several feature films. After years of creating shorts he and Liam decided to dive in at the deep end and spent the best part of the last two and a half years working on their no-budget feature 'Lost in the Headlights' which focuses on a fictitious rock band who have to deal with a tragic event. The film Premiered in June of this year to a packed out audience to great success. Currently they are gearing up to start production our my latest film 'Power...less' which is about a team of superheroes.

What is the current project you are working on?

Power...less, it's a short film, roughly 15-20 minutes that focuses on a team of superheroes, over one night as they protect their city from Muggers, Mobsters, Super villains and Giant Robots. After that I plan on working on a stop motion trailer to gear up support for a possible future film.

How do you handle rejection?

I don't, I'm far too bull headed and persistent. If I can't make something one way, I'll make it another way.

Did you always want to be a filmmaker?

I was a film maker before I even realised I was. When I was 8 would make films in the back garden with my friends, attempting to remake films such a Terminator and the Mask, using tin foil and green face paint. However when I was around 18 it all started coming together and making sense, it was then I wrote my first and directed my first original feature called 'Past Tense'... It was crap.

What inspired you to become filmmaker?

It was around eight years old when I would go round my friends house and his older brother would be making films with his friends and to amuse themselves, they would rope us in. After seeing how much I enjoyed it, my dad brought the family a camera which I used and abused for a few years, making films in the back garden, and crude stop motion animations. Then believe it or not it was Batman and Robin that made me realise I wanted to be a film maker, as a bitter 13 year old I thought I could do better, I got as far a completed script and costume designs. However It wasn't until I saw Clerks a year or two later that I realised 'Hey I could do that' . It was then that I wrote the 80 page Script for 'Past Tense'. Before that I thought you needed millions to have a film make it to the cinema, since that day twelve years ago, I have been trying ever since.

What is the best thing about being one?

There is nothing more fulfilling than the end result. Sitting at the back of a packed screening of my last film Lost In the Headlights and hearing people applaud as the credits rolled was easily one of my greatest moments/achievements. However above all that, its the friendships/bonds I have made, I have met some amazing people while pursuing my goal of becoming a film maker.

What is the worst thing about being one?

The stress. Being in charge of a whole production can be a mammoth undertaking. When I'm working on a project there's not a waking moment that I am not thinking about it, be it casting issues, finding locations, filming logistics etc... it all ways down heavy on your head. It can dominate your life, becoming an obsession and if your not careful it can interfere with relationships.

What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?

Personal projects/friends projects, I would say around 14/15 and that includes feature films, short films and music videos. Professionally I have worked on 3 feature films. The Tormented, The Tournament and Faintheart. Working for the Art Department, creating the graphics and making props.

Who is your favorite filmmaker?

Now this is a tough one, I admire so many different film makers for many different reasons. the usual I guess, The Coen Brothers, Sam Raimi, Christopher Nolan, Wes Andreson, John Carpenter, Henry selick, the Brothers Quay, Brad Bird, Edgar Wright, Spike Jonze, Martin Scorsese. But of all of those, I would have to say Nolan, I really admire the way he makes films and the decisions he makes.

How has your life changed since you became a filmmaker?

I've never really known any different to be honest, I couldn't say what I was like as a person before hand as It's all I've known.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to make it in the movie business?

Speaking purely from a writer/director point of view, I say just go for it, write a script, pick up a camera, grab some friends... learn by doing.

What do you like to do besides film making?

Spending time with my Friends and Family. Art is one of my biggest passions, I paint and Sculpt. I adore music of all kinds, I have played in several band, and attend many live shows. I love to read, Books and comic books alike. While I'm not a big sports fan, I enjoy going on walks, Bike riding, and swimming. I also working out my thumbs playing video games.

Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become a filmmaker?

Sadly I'm not at the position to quit my day job just yet. I used to work in a video rental store, which for me was the perfect job, getting paid to sit on my ass and watch movies... its the dream. It was fairly quite and I got plenty of time to write and draw during my shifts. However that place has since closed down, and now I currently work in a Video Game store.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

Film : The Empire Strikes Back, Ghostbusters, The Thing, Inception, The Iron Giant, Rushmore, The Devils Backbone, Dark City, Clerks, Coraline, The Fantastic Mr Fox, The French Connection, Trainspotting, The Fountain, Seven, Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Adaptation, Evil Dead, Old Boy, Amile, Alien... So many to mention.

TV: The X-Files, Lost, Batman the Animated Series, Venture Bros, Arrested Development, Breaking Bad, Spaced, I'm Alan Partridge, Ren and Stimpy, Beavis and Butt-head, Freaks and Geeks.

How would you describe your film education?

Lonely...I studied Animation at university. Unlike live action film, animation at uni is a very Conley affair where you make films by yourself. The first two years were all about learning techniques, making 30 second films. In the last year we were able to create fully formed shorts and I produced a film called '10/6' which was loosely based on Alice in wonderland. The films only had to be around two and a half minutes, mine however was around seven and as a result I made myself quite ill, lack of sleep etc. The film was well received , I got top marks and the film was nominated for an award at the 'Flip' film festival, sadly it I didn't win, but it was the first time I got to see one of my films at the cinema. After Uni I applied for film school, but it wasn't to be.

How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?

As far a Indie film is concerned its pretty quiet, there is the west midlands film forum, and we meet up once a month and have people in the industry give talks and we get to mingle with like minded folk. I have actually met several of Power..less's crew members though the film forum.

Several feature films were produced in my area, which I worked on and there was promise of more. Then the recession kicked in, and many projects were cancelled or postponed. However the BBC makes a few of their TV shows in the city ( Birmingham)

How has social media changed the independent film industry?

With professional equipment becoming more affordable , and sites like youtube, facebook, Vimo etc It has defiantly made it easier to make your film and get it out there. On the down side, there's a lot more competition out there, so there is still that struggle of getting your voice heard.

What's your opinion on crowd funding?

Fantastic, it's hard work trying to convince people to go along with your crazy ideas is not easy. If you do it right, it can pay off, I have had several friends who have had great success from it, and now I'm hoping to do the same with power...less

How does independent film differ from the mainstream?

It used to be that Hollywood gave you spectacle and Independent gave you the truth, but recently the lines between them are starting to blur, as you now have films like Monsters that succeed in being as spectacular as their Hollywood counterparts, and mainstream films such as Lars and the Real Girl being as intimate and quirky as an independent. You also have movies such as Star Wars and Kick-Ass that by definition are Independent movies. I believe there are a lot of similarities between the two, most of all when it comes to money and control. With Independent, its about lack of budget and having to cut back on ideas and time. With Mainstream while there's more money and time, it also means there are more fingers in the pie and the directors say isn't necessarily final. This is just a generalisation as there are always exceptions.

This is a Question you could go round and round in circles trying to come up with an answer but ultimately I think that most independent and mainstream film makers are aiming for the same goal...to make the best film possible, one that entertains, makes you feel, and makes you think, they just happen to work at different ends of the spectrum. On one hand you get Back to the Future, on the other you get Primer. Both have a place and need one another to survive, the majority of today's great Mainstream Directors come from an Independent background.

You could go back in time and see any classic film being made. Which film would it be and why?

Another tough one, but I'm going to go with Ghostbusters. That film looked as much fun to make as it is to watch. Being able to watch those four guys in their prime, making with the funny and being able to go back stage and watch them create all the effects would be an utter joy to behold.

What's your favorite movie quote and why?

I'm terrible at choosing quotes... can I just choose the entire Ghostbusters or Big Lebowski screenplays?

What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?

I have no problem with sequels, so long as the film makers have a genuine reason to go back, have something to say and expand on themes and the characters arcs. All to often these days it seems all studios release are dates not films , and the the movie suffers. Also I find that as the more successful franchises become, the more inflated their budgets and becomes a case of too many cooks. That said there are some fantastic sequels out there that surpass the originals.

As for Remakes, I'm not 100% against them but it's just a shame Hollywood pumps so much into them, when there are bound to be 1000's of fantastic unmade screen plays out there. The only reason for all these rehashes is that Its just a safe bet for studios, they know they have an instant audience and will make a profit. I don't think I've seen a remake that was warranted with the exception of True Grit... or is that considered as an adaptation?

What is your opinion on book to movie adaptions?

Again, I have no problem with them so long as they are done for the right reasons. I'm also a believer that its not essential to stick to the book. Film is a totally different medium to the written word. Films are 90 - 120 minutes long and the pacing is dictated to you , where as a book can be over 500 pages and as the reader you have control over its pacing, so its a no-brainer that things have to be cut and changed. As long as the core is there, everything else is negotiable. To those people who moan about the book/comic being changed, get over it... you still have the original on the shelf.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

John, Cheers for letting me ramble on. To everyone who wants to check out what my new films all about, and how you could help with the funding, go to http://www.indiegogo.com/powerless or go to http://www.betterfeelingfilms.com, Thanks!