I’ve been working in the world of broadcast documentary for nearly seven years now. I was always one of the ones who knew what they wanted to do. All the way through school and all the way through Uni I was like a broken record, “I want to make films, I want to make films.” I wanted to write and I wanted to direct and I wasn’t willing to wait for the opportunities to come my way. I sold pretty much everything I owned (not much!) at 25 to make my first “proper” short film.
I had a degree in Film, TV, Theatre and Italian from the University of Bristol, I had read a lot of books, I’d done a weekend course at Raindance – I was sooo ready. I managed to fly a small crew out to Gibraltar, chartered a small boat and convinced a couple of good looking builders to perform for me for free. The premise was fool proof; 2 Gibraltarian brothers (after the funeral of their father who died tragically in a boat accident) sail out to sea and find an illegal immigrant from Africa drowning in the straits of Gibraltar. One brother wants to save him, the other wants to hand him in to the police … !!! It was ambitious! My cast and crew were fantastic but the film has been buried in the deepest darkest corner of my flat ever since. I said when I make my wonderful fantastic tour de force Oscar winning feature, I’ll add the short on as an extra to give other film makers hope. Unfortunately the short is still in the box . . .
Three years ago I began the arduous task of raising funds for my first feature documentary film, Gibraltar. It was a soul destroying, long and painful process but I got there in the end. I somehow managed to get Revolution Films (Michael Winterbottom and Andrew Eaton) to produce it so I had a great team around me. I’m originally from Gibraltar and felt very strongly that the story of the people on the Rock should be told. It’s a great David and Goliath story and I really gave it my everything. My grandfather was one of Gibraltar’s most prominent leaders when Franco closed the border between Gibraltar and Spain, so I had access to great archive but also my family was a part of the story. My family, like many others, were separated by the gates at the border and many never lived to see each other again. It became very personal and for 2 years it completely took over my life. When I finally finished the film, I was proud and happy and relieved! I thought, this is it! Finally people will see I can really direct, I can really shoot, I can really produce – no more AP jobs for me! I expected festival success and instant distribution and broadcast. My moment had arrived! It was all worth it! Idiot! I think I spent a year crying over rejection after rejection. It was horrible. I had beautiful, wonderful critical reviews but no one would broadcast it. It was subsequently near impossible to find work because I had a big hole in my broadcast credits while I was off shooting my feature doc. In the eyes of the industry I was still a researcher / AP, still waiting for someone to give me that golden opportunity . . .
I did go back to AP-ing and then DV directing broadcast documentary and finally, finally, I somehow managed to convince Transparent Television to let me PD and shoot a prime time two part documentary for Channel Five, Botched Up Bodies. Transparent were fantastic. They started me off as a DV Director and the more I did, the more they let me do. Eventually they gave me the job and I shot, produced and directed both documentaries. First episode TX-ing on Mon 14th Jan at 10pm (yesss!).
It’s been a steep learning curve but I am proud of my work so far. I still don’t know what the lessons are from having thrown myself so whole-heartedly in to my own independent projects early on. I thought they would get me further faster, but in the short term they slowed me down. Perhaps in 10 years I’ll know the answer.
Gibraltar has been sold to broadcasters in Finland, Australia and Spain and when I finally get Richard Klein to watch it …
I live in hope.