This episode, along with the next three are quite special in that I recorded them during and at the Flatpack Film Festival in Birmingham, an annual event that takes place in venues across the city where recurring themes include animation, music, artists’ film, archive discoveries, offbeat shorts for kids and live cinema. The Flatpack folk are firm believers in creating a sense of occasion and exploring the fertile territory where film bumps up against other artforms, and also showing people things they might not otherwise have seen.
So thank you very much to the wonderful festival, who helped facilitate these interviews with just a handful of the really smart and thoughtful women who helped create and curate the wickedly eclectic programme.
Kicking things off is my interview with Alex Jackson. Alex is a BFI NETWORK Talent Executive for the Midlands, which basically means she discovers and nurtures filmmakers in that region. Before taking up this post Alex managed Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre’s learning and talent programme. She has also lead on other national projects, including Access Cinema, which works to establish comfortable and enjoyable cinema environments for people with disabilities.
She was involved in Flatpack’s talent camp a one-day training event for new and emerging talent looking to make narrative fiction short films. It was a real pleasure to meet Alex and hear how committed she is to make cinema and filmmaking as accessible as possible, and also to chat about the ins and outs of filmmaking outside of London.
Rachel started out in the industry over ten years ago, working as a runner on the likes of This Is England (2006), and progressed into the camera department where she worked as a trainee on Control (2007). In the years after that Rachel worked as clapper loader (don’t worry we get into what that is) on lots of British indie films such as Bronson, Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights as well huge blockbusters such World War Z and Captain America: Civil War. As a first assistant camera assistant she travelled across the US with Cinematographer Robbie Ryan and director Andrea Arnold for the road movie American Honey (2016) and has worked around the world on many 2nd Unit action sequences: Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them (2016), & Black Panther (2018) among them.
Rachel was the 2nd Unit Director of Photography on director Sarah Gavron’s latest film Rocks and has just completed photography on the feature film Concrete Plans. I felt very honored to lure Rachel away from the camera to the microphone and basically ask lots of basic questions about what cinematography actually is.
We cover lots of interesting topics such as the physicality and energy the role requires, what Rachel does in her downtime between jobs and how she stays motivated, and what she learnt from working with Robbie Ryan.
This week I go down rabbit hole of music supervision with Jen Moss. Jen is the director of music supervision at Warner Music, where she acts as the go-to person in helping directors establish musical soundscapes for their films within the budgetary constraints \ set out by the producers. This includes searching for and sourcing commercial and production music, commissioning bespoke tracks and negotiating clearance fees, among other things. Her credits include American Animals, I, Tonya, Calibre, Beast and Prevenge and Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love and I had a whale of time learning about this whole other aspect of creating and designing memorable scenes in movies.
I’m really excited for the episode this week as its completely new territory for me! I interviewed costume designer Ruka Johnson, who has a really varied CV across features, shorts, television and music videos. One of her most recent projects is Obey, a film that dramatises the 2011 London Riots, and she also worked on Sarah Gavron’s film Girl Untitled, which shrewd listeners will know has popped up on the pod quite a bit!
Hands down my favourite part of this chat is when Ruka says she wants to be really successful and completely owns it. I think its always really refreshing, perhaps sadly so, to hear a young woman claim that as their ambition. Even if you’re thinking it, we’re often told you have to keep your intentions on the down-low, and to be gracious and surprised and grateful when that success does find you. But its always super important to say what you want, to go after it and not feel shame about doing that, or shame about having success and wealth and creative fulfilment as a priority, so yeah that was cool to hear Ruka say and the rest of the chat is just as inspiring tbh. So enjoy! And thank you to Ruka for coming on.