5 years ago I was well into the depths of my college eduction, just like many other 17 year olds, studying film and media for my A Levels, however, unlike my fellow students I had a secret side-project... I wrote & directed a 2 hour long feature film - purely to pursue my passion for filmmaking.
I am often asked if I went to film school and the answer is "no, I made my own". This comes from a fairly subjective view point I have carried with me all my life... If you are passionate enough about something, if you care that much and will never give up, then anything is possible. And what better film school is there than diving straight into the deep end and figuring out how to make a feature film?
Raymond's 5 is the emotional and often amusing story of a man's final 30 days before his cancerous brain defeats him. Raymond sets out on a journey of redemption as he searches for the five people he has wronged the most. Raymond's voyage of self-discovery entangles him in the lives of others, leading him to question his own life.
So, how did a 16 year old boy from Hampshire write and direct a 2 hour feature film with a cast of 40 and an average crew of 3? How did he raise the budget? And how did the film end up on Amazon Prime? And how on earth did this all happen during his A Levels?
Back in 1964, a 17 year old filmmaker by the name of Steven Spielberg directed and screened his science fiction adventure movie 'Firelight' to a sold out audience of 500 at his local cinema. What better way to follow in the footsteps of your hero than to do the same thing at the exact same age. Spielberg, Jurassic Park, Jaws and Schindler's List are the reasons I am making films today.
It all started back in January 2016. I had an idea, I had a genre and I had a character. They say 'write what you know' and write with what you know you have access to. I wrote a 113 page script with 40 cast members and 30 locations dotted around the UK. I didn't make it easy!
First up... cast. There's no film without actors. Keeping to my theme of not making things easy, 'Raymond', the main protagonist, appears in almost every scene in the film, meaning I need to find an actor willing to commit to 30 days of filming?
CUT TO: 2 Months later.
Sam Halpenny enters the room.
After a small audition process, I was very lucky to find the wonderful and very talented London-based actor Sam Halpenny. Mr Halpenny stayed in our house for 30 days during the shoot, he was fed, watered and as I was too young to drive, he drove me to set everyday in his van.
Next I found my team, Adam Tucker, responsible for almost every job going on a film set, was my right-hand man. Plus he portrays around 5 different roles in the film - 4 in disguise! The team also included Cinematographer Francis Cousins, producer/actor Savannah Cook and Photographer/Producer Karen Knowlson. The next few months involved desperately searching for 39 other actors willing to offer up a day or two of their lives to 'appear in something truly special'. Although money isn't everything, it's nearly impossible to make a feature film without a little bit of cash...
Cue Kickstarter - a crowdfunding platform for creative projects and the primary source of funding for my project. Weeks of research told me one of the best techniques to raise the chances of having a successful Kickstarter campaign is to stand out. Be bold! Set yourself apart from other average project. So, what could I do? I'm a filmmaker. I'll do what I do best. I'll make a video. And It'll be bonkers! How can I ask for money whilst making it entertaining? A music video would be fun. How about we cover a song with a rock band? But mix it up with a few different music genres? Opera perhaps? Why not add a women's choir? Some latin dancers? A Bollywood dancer? And get the town crier to come along!
It turns out it worked. I ended up raising £10,000. Just enough to make this possible!
Filming lasted 30 days. Some days we had a crew of 6, on others only 2 of us ran the production. It wasn't easy, but our determination and shared passion helped us through to the finish line. There were long days and long nights, but it was the most fun I've had and the best education I could have ever received.
Just like my hero, I screened the film at my local VUE Cinema to an audience of 220 people. It was a huge success and earned a spot on Amazon Prime. Considering the fact I was just a 17 year old boy with a dream, I ain't done bad! Still a long way to go, but I will never give up!