I started making short films when I decided to go to film school. Having no experience, I simply set out to experiment, using trial and error to hone my craft. My primitive attempts were deeply flawed in a million ways, but each taught me a new lesson not only in filmmaking but in storytelling. I read filmmaking “how to” books, watched as many successful shorts as I could find and listened to the people kind enough to guide and advise me. My most common obstacle in those early years was finding a capable and keen cast and crew. When I arrived at film school, I found a hoard of actors and filmmakers desperate to make films, so I began straight away.
I met a great group of people, most of whom remain close friends to this day, and within a week we had our first film planned; Bittersweet Relationship. I learned more during the production of this little romantic drama than I have done on any other film I have directed since. Working with friends in their second and third years of film school who had vaster knowledge, experience and technical ability than I did. I was thrust into a group of brilliant, dynamic and passionate people who strove to create the best piece possible. Bittersweet Relationship was also one of the most fun films I have ever made, mostly because it forged those friendships and helped me discover I was not alone in my mad dream of making films. Finally, at film school, I was surrounded with enthusiastic, budding filmmakers who were eager to be on as many film sets as possible.
Years later I can see all the flaws in the film, but with a micro-budget of £100 and less than a week to make it; I am proud of what we achieved. A film that still makes me smile with a sense of accomplishment and nostalgia. At the time, everyone that saw it was very complimentary, praising our initiative and drive to make a film so early. There was of course negative feedback, which although stung at the time, has been far more beneficial.
I once asked Jason Reitman (during an open Q&A on Twitter through IMDB) what motivated him more when his films were received: positive or negative feedback. His response was as brilliantly relevant then as it is now. He quoted Whiplash; “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job”. That little Tweet from one of my favourite contemporary filmmakers was like a light switch going off in my head so I started going back and watching my old films, picking them apart from the criticisms they had received. Remembering those comments when I am working on something new reminds me how pivotal it is to heed the wisdom of those who give you relevant and useful feedback, especially the negative.
Here is Bittersweet Relationship an early film that holds a special place in my heart. A deeply flawed film that constantly inspires me to work harder, do better and most importantly: learn from my mistakes.