In the spotlight: James G. Wall

Once a month, I’ll be putting the spotlight on an emerging creative talent, giving them the chance to talk about their craft, share their experiences and provide a platform for people to see their work. I’ll be talking to filmmakers, writers, designers and bloggers, asking what inspired them to create their products, how they they plan to build their business and, of course, about their favourite things.

Up first is a talented young filmmaker who has recently finished his first feature. Step on up, James G. Wall!

James G WallName: James G. Wall
Age: 26
Profession: Filmmaker
Location: Leeds, UK

Hi James. First thing’s first – how did you get to where you are now? Do you remember the moment when you realised that this was what you want to do?

That’s tough to pinpoint. I’ve always had an interest in films from a really young age. I’ve always been creative, which has got me through life; it’s the only thing I’m good at. I was making short films from the age of 13. I honestly didn’t even know you could do a course in it. It wasn’t until I met a friend in sixth form (he was in the year above) and he left for uni to study film. I thought; wow you can actually study that? To me it was always a dream job, there isn’t a uni course in how to be a rock star (which was another dream). It almost feels like I’m cheating at life.

What did you study and where?

I studied a course called Design for Digital Media at Leeds College of Art. I majored in filmmaking. The year after I graduated they changed the name of the course to something like Film, Animation and Games because nobody knew what Design for Digital Media meant. When I’m asked I usually just say Film. I graduated in 2010 with a First Class BA(Hons) Degree.

Congrats! Tell me about the process behind making your first feature?

It’s been the best experience, but the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I spent a year on and off in pre-production, it took 14 days to shoot, and then another year on and off in post-production. The hardest part has been finding the time to work on it. You can’t use the odd hour here and there to write the script or edit the film – you need a full day or better a few weeks. It’s a creative process and you need to get a flow going.

I spent next to nothing making the film, maybe £250, which I don’t think you’d ever be able to tell when watching the film because it looks like I spent thousands on it. Having no money was hard, but it was also a great learning curve because I learnt how to make a film creatively, the hard way. It wasn’t a case of using money to hire crew or equipment, but to sit and think of ways to achieve great looking shots, sound, etc.

Networking and collaboration is vital in the creative community. Who couldn’t you do this without?

The support from my mum and step dad; they’ve been unbelievable. They fully believe in my talents and stand by the decisions I’ve made. All the people I’ve worked with over the years, some of them have stuck with me since the beginning. Jordan (the lead actor in TTAR) I worked with when I was a student and we’ve been working together for almost 3/4 years. Mark (DOP on TTAR) I met in college and we’ve worked together since. I can’t name everybody but I think it’s good to build a collective of people you work well with, because then it’s not like you’re working at all, just a bunch of mates doing the thing you love.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I have many influences, but if we’re talking filmmakers, I respect all the greats Kubrick – Hitchcock, Spielberg, Tarantino, but I admire John Hughes and Cameron Crowe. There is something about their films that makes me want to watch and re-watch. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched Almost Famous. I love the way Robert Rodriguez works. So I guess in filmmaking terms it’s Rodriguez but for story and characters it’s Crowe. I wouldn’t say he is so much of an influence but Christopher Nolan too – Inception was practically a perfect film. He’s somebody with enormous talent, and so far his career has been mind blowing. It excites me thinking about what he might do next. I couldn’t make a film like him because it isn’t my style, but I’m jealous of his vision. I’d like to see him tackle some different genres. What makes somebody like Kubrick or Tarantino great (in my eyes) is that they’ve done a variety of genres but have kept their own style, so you instantly know their films whether it be a war, action, horror, comedy film.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a film?

As Nike say, Just Do It. Don’t wait around. I didn’t think I could make a film with no budget and a tiny crew (three of us), but I did. You’ve got to be a little insane and have passion and determination coming out of your ears. Make sure the film is makeable. Don’t try and make a big budget film without a budget. Make sure you can tell the story with things and locations around you. Seek out interesting places and props. Don’t be afraid to ask. I got permission to shoot part of the film in a zoo, which would’ve made the film look much more expensive, but unfortunately our schedules didn’t match up.

Just go out and make the best possible film you can and don’t worry about what anybody else is making. I think people get put off because they don’t think they’re good enough or their equipment isn’t good enough. You are who you are – don’t try to emulate anybody else because you’ll only be a bad version, so be the best you.

What are your filmmaking plans for the next year?

I’m glad to have this film completed and finished – as much as I’ve loved the process, I’m happy to see the back of it. I’m ready to use everything I’ve learnt, which is loads, on my next project. I haven’t fully decided what it’ll be, I’ve been working on a few ideas. I reckon I’ll know when I’m ready, it will come naturally. First and foremost will be promotion for The Truth About Romance, trying to get it everywhere and see where that leads. I’d like to make a bunch of short films – it’s a great way to practice, work with some new actors and crew, test out new equipment, etc. I’m also self employed, running my own film business, it’ll be nice watching that grow.

Tell me a bit about your film business.

I’ve been freelancing since I was a student, picking up the odd job. Over the years it’s slowly turned into my full-time job. I was able to quit my job last December, which was a great feeling. It’s hard work and very stressful, but it beats working in retail. I’ve recently employed somebody to expand the business and my plan is to eventually turn it into a creative agency (I want to be Don Draper). I want to make adverts, music videos, virals, and less of the corporate work I do now, and just oversee everything whilst I continue with my film career.

I also run A Tiny Adventure, which is the name I make my short films, and now the feature film, under.

It’s a big goal and will take lots of hard work and determination.

What is the ultimate ideal future for you?

I want to be successfully making feature films. I have a plan and I’ve got massive ambitions and goals. I won’t be happy until I’ve achieved them all.

Tell me about a few of your favourite things.

Castles, pizza, Marilyn Monroe, biscuits, drawing, adventures, walking, films, films, films, films.

What is your favourite film?

I wouldn’t say I have one film but there’s a few I can watch over and over again and never get bored of: Lost In Translation, (500) Days of Summer, Almost Famous, Moulin Rouge, Back To The Future, Some Like It Hot, and lots more.

Favourite book?

t’s the same with books: The Fault In Our Stars, High Fidelity, Blankets, and The Walking Dead comic series.

Favourite website?

Buzzfeed is always good for a giggle. IMDb, YouTube and Vimeo.

Favourite shop?

I don’t visit many shops, the Pound Shop maybe. The Disney Store is always fun. I really like looking in junk shops; I love old and vintage things, objects that have a story. I find them inspiring.

Favourite place?

My favourite place is probably the canal near where I live. It’s only two minutes away from my front door and I go there when I’m stressed, upset or confused. I walk around it and clear my head – it’s definitely got me out of some bad places.

The Truth About Romance is available to view now in its entirety on Youtube.

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