Case study

Film director — Ian Cottage

Making the most of an opportunity led to Ian receiving critical acclaim for his work and a commission from the BBC

How did you get started in the film industry?

I'd been making short films and experimenting with formats like Super 8 since I was a child. Although I'd made other short films after leaving film school, my main break came while I was a student and met the artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman. He agreed to be filmed and encouraged me as a potential filmmaker. I later edited this footage into a short film entitled Small Gestures, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 1995 and received a special Jury mention.

Receiving this mention raised my profile and directly led to my first commission from the BBC.

What are your main work activities?

It's my responsibility to tell the story: to work with the actors to get a truthful and emotional performance and to oversee the visual side of production. The believability of a performance is critical. This is why casting and working with the actors is one of the most important parts of my job. Working with a strong cinematographer who can realise my creative vision is vital too.

What do you enjoy about directing?

I love the filmmaking journey: from conception through to completion, development and planning through to post-production. Most of all, I enjoy the shoot. I feel most comfortable when I'm directing and working with actors and crew.

What are the most challenging aspects of directing?

I don't like waiting. As a director, you're always waiting: for the next project, the right cast, financing or the weather. The worst bit of my job is waiting.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My degree made me understand how to pick up the camera, record sound and carry out the practical aspects of making a film. For me, it was about access to equipment and meeting other filmmakers. One valuable piece of advice I was given was to make films with content. Make sure you've got something to say.

What are your career ambitions in the film industry?

I've made more than 20 films and I want to continue to make critically acclaimed work, particularly commercial films that reach an audience on an emotional level. I want a body of work that speaks for itself.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to go into filmmaking?

Follow your curiosity and follow your instincts. You'll know when you're ready to do something but don't wait too long. The more you make, the better you'll get at it and everything soon becomes second nature.

Talk to people and listen. But, be aware that others can get things wrong or misinterpret your script or idea.

Finally - enjoy your work.

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