GEORGE McDERMOTT INTERVIEW | DIRECTOR'S CHAIR
I got together for a quick chat with up and coming Dundee based film-maker George McDermott to discuss his inspirations, aspirations and what he thinks it takes to make it as an amateur film-maker.
What attracted you to film making initially, George?
Well, I've always loved film. I love the challenge of something starting as a concept and having to create what you'd initially seen it in your head. When I was little I was always coming up with alternative scenes and re-imagining films I'd seen a million times over; especially coming up with comedy sketches and that's continued all the way up till now, and I'm twenty-three. At school I didn't think there was much encouragement to go ahead and be creative in a film making sense. So, after leaving school I'd continue to do all the things that I did enjoy whilst there: drawing, writing, music – anything that gave me the chance to produce something from scratch. Most were failed ventures as careers, but the input of writing remained so I kept at it and at the beginning of this year, I decided that instead of waiting for an opportunity to present itself I'd just create them myself by just doing what I enjoy. In the time I have been doing it, it already feels like I've learned a lot and made a lot of useful contacts.
What elements of film making do you enjoy the most/make you want to tear your hair out?
What makes me want to tear my hair out? - definitely the lack of time. Ask any amateur filmmaker, that has a day-job, and they'll tell you just how hard it is to organise a shoot and maintain a social life and other responsibilities. But on the other hand, when everything is hectic when we're filming then it seems to assemble better because you've got to work that little bit harder.
Are there any notable film makers you look up to – how does their work inspire your own?
Do you think it's important to have what an audience may like in mind when you are writing a script?
To an extent, yeah. But when I write my own material, my thinking is that if I know exactly how the next part will pan out then your almost guaranteed that the audience will too. So, now when I write I'll set targets for where I want the story to progress. When I get to that target, I'll try and do a complete 180 from where I had originally intended it to go. In that sense, it challenges you as a writer and keeps it exciting. As long as it flows and remains relevant, then why not? It gives you the experience to see what works and what doesn't. Sometimes you can write yourself into a corner but that's when you need to put your creativity into practice. I didn't always think like that, when I first started writing. I would just kinda go by what I'd seen in most films, and by the time you've completed your own it would be a like-for-like interpretation of a much more successful film with your own ideas only being slightly touched upon. Overall though, I think if you have a strong enough idea, then inevitably you disregard what the audience wants because you're so excited just to flesh your own story out and should have an exact vision of what and how your story should pan out.
Can you tell us a bit about any projects you're working on?
We've just completed a 2 minute short for the FilmFour scene stealers competition. It's a really good idea actually, anyone with a camera can enter. You don't need a great camera or a crew, just an idea. You pick from a list of selected films and do your own interpretation of it in 2 minutes or less. If you win the competition, you get to work with FilmFour to produce your own short film along with £5,000 to go towards the production-with the finished piece being shown on TV. To any aspiring filmmaker it really is a great opportunity to show your efforts to those already in the industry and to gain exposure for your film to be seen by the public. After watching a few of the selected films, I decided on Trainspotting. At that point, no one had attempted the baby scene especially with a real baby-including the original. So, I decided we'd re-create it and do our own take on it with it playing out as a bad trip for the main character. I think we pulled it off pretty well, but we won't know until August 10th. As of now, we're in the middle of filming another short called, "Rentboy".
Being based in Scotland, do you feel you are at a disadvantage in terms of opportunities open to you as a film maker?
Initially I did, yeah. But after looking up and researching other people it all kinda jams together and you meet other people that are looking to do the same as you and it really snowballs from there. Being based in Scotland is more of a disadvantage in the sense that you don't have as much access to acclaimed film schools, but then you have to make your own opportunities and try your best to make sure that you get your work shown to as many people as you can.
Do you find it difficult juggling the day job and your filming commitments?
Yeah, definitely. I work a 9-5 job as a homeless care officer. It was never something I wanted to get into, just kinda fell into it. That was three and a half years ago now. Although I enjoy the job sometimes, I wouldn't say that I'm passionate about it. I think the longer you do something you dislike as a career then the more intent you become on getting away from it and pursuing what you love doing – and I think that's the story with me. I don't feel like I'm cut out to work on these jobs till the end of my days, not that there's anything wrong with them, but I feel like I want to do something worthy of my time and something that I enjoy. So to do that, I'm gonna have to work at it constantly and that is what I've been doing the past 7-8 months. We try and film as much as we can, but my producer has a one year old son and works split shifts so you can imagine how it affects filming. But an overall day would be work 9-5 and then filming from 17.30 up until 12.30 and depending on what we've filmed then maybe another two hours of editing.
What obstacles have you faced so far as a budding film maker?
Depending on your social circle, a lot of people can be really indignant about it and be discouraging as to why you'd ever want to make a film. And that can be an obstacle, finding the people that will support you and help you create what you have on paper. To them a film is just something you go and see on a Friday night at the pictures, but it's not – films can be a great icebreaker that brings people together. Most of my closest friends are people that I've got on great with because they know most lines to films we enjoy making fun of and that leads to sketches and what-if's and that's what you need – people that are really supportive and show an interest that you can bounce ideas off of- they're the people you want! Get people that are 100% game for just going out and doing something just because they can.
Well, that's what I'm hoping for. I'm just trying to keep as busy as I can and participate in as much as I can in regards to filmmaking. After we've completed "Rentboy" we'll be doing our best to enter it into festivals.
Do you think up-and-coming film makers need to possess any particular qualities in order to make the most out of a project?
To be totally honest, I think when you begin film making you have to have a certain arrogance to you in the sense that you think you could do better – otherwise, why bother? I think you need to have a great imagination and be a good story-teller – not that I believe this is something most film-makers have instinctively but probably gain along the way of trial-and-error amateur filmmaking. But overall, I'd have to go with enthusiasm, mainly because when you're doing your own films your gonna be met with a lot of problems along the way. Staying positive is key!
Thanks George, all the best for the future and keep us posted!