J: I never really cottoned on that I wanted to be a filmmaker until I was 22, and I felt like I had to do it. It was tearing me apart that I was so far away from what I wanted to do. I remember being a kid and all I ever looked forward to at school was getting home and raiding my dad’s video collection; it was weird that out of all my mates I was the only one allowed to watch stuff like Taxi Driver.
M: My love of film started from an early age, going to the cinema with my Granddad. He was an artist and taught me to draw and paint, which set me on a path towards the arts. It wasn’t until my teens that I picked up a camera and started filming my friends skateboarding on a little Sony Handycam and teaching myself to edit using Premiere. I began to take it more seriously, studying media, and considering it as an actual career possibility.
R: What interests me is what keeps us motivated and continuing to produce work, as we all know it can seem daunting sometimes when there is no work coming in
J: Well there’s never an excuse to not be out filming; if you just sit around and wait for the jobs to come, you’ll get nowhere.
R: You’ve got to constantly be getting yourself out there, offering to shoot stuff.
M: If I’m going to a gig then I’ll often get in touch with some of the bands playing and ask if they want me to bring my camera down; it’s a great way to practice and I’ll never say no to a free gig! Also, when it comes to editing at home, all the best ideas come to you when you’re sat in your pants!
J: I believe in chaos, if you create chaos, people will notice you!
R: So what is it about grassroots filmmaking that you love?
M: It’s all about meeting like-minded people. I recently went on tour with some mates and shot a little music video of everything that went down that week; the people that we met during that trip were some of the kindest, and all of them were very like-minded within their own DIY communities, all just as welcoming as here in Leeds. None of this would have been possible without being a filmmaker.
R: Some of the people I’ve met through projects have had a real impact on me; Tony Rimmer from my film ‘The Last Cobbler’ was such an interesting and charismatic man who shared with me his life story, some real personal stuff, and if I hadn’t made a film about him then we never would’ve shared that experience. I will treasure that for the rest of my life. Also when I made a short film with the Halo group at the Hamara centre in Beeston, I got to immerse myself in the lives of these adults with pretty severe learning difficulties for a month; I even got to attend mosque with them which is something that would never happen otherwise. I have been humbled doing what I do on more than one occasion..
J: For me it’s about being able to express my artistic side. I remember as a kid I would try to direct everyone in the playground to act out cult films like Pulp Fiction. But before I discovered film making I used to hide it away, as where I’m from I thought I’d be mocked for it! I suppose I didn’t realise I had a passion for storytelling.
R: Leeds is a fantastic place to be at the moment in any part of the arts scene. Personally I know this through being part of the Goat Collective, and we’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing people and gain some great work through the tight knit community. I have got work by simply filming when we’re painting a mural or running a stall at an arts market
J : For me it was down to Jack Simpson of Hyde Park Book Club, who offered me a small studio space, and helped me put on the Open Film Night. I remember being shocked at the amount of people who showed up to screen and watch films, who shared the same passion and wanted to collaborate!
M: The Leeds creative community as a whole, in the past couple of years the collectives that have been becoming more and more prevalent in the city, like I AM Collective, Ladyfuzz, Kalyan, you Goats, we’re all within one shared arts community in essence and that’s where these movements will begin to build and take shape from.
R: Do either of you see yourself going down the more traditional route and working in big budget cinema?
M: The idea of working within an industry where you’re just a faceless employee behind a camera or edit desk clocking in your hours on set to make a salary defeats the entire object of why I wanted to become a filmmaker in the first place. When it begins feeling like a job rather than a passion, then what’s the point in doing this? My work should be a representation of myself to the world and the minute it’s no longer that then I’ve failed
J: My intention is to carry on trying to build something here in Leeds. That can only happen by filmmakers investing time in the city. It’s important to me that I make my films in and around West Yorkshire and reflect the world I know, because I feel I have a lot to say. That’s solely my focus for the next few years at least.
R: That makes three of us then! I love seeing my vision right through from start to finish. I enjoy every part of the filmmaking process too much to focus solely on one aspect. Plus, I want to continue to meet the cool, crazy kinds of people that I have done to date! Yeah, if you work in Hollywood you may get to meet Samuel L. Jackson, but for all we know there could be someone just like him living somewhere in Leeds, my aim is to find him instead. I have always believed that staying in Leeds was the right thing to do. The independent film scene in Leeds is taking off. Watch out, Hollywood!