Friday, 1 August 2014

Number Four

For the last month I've been in Tobago, filming feature film number four - Learning to Breathe.
With filming in Central London scheduled for later this month, I'm taking a moment to rest and reflect on what's been one of the most challenging shoots of my life thus far.

Every feature film, at every scale, is always physically and mentally demanding.
Especially if it's your own script.

Even those around you don't quite realise the level at which it consumes you, and just how exhausting a process it is.

Every day when you're making a film, you have to be positive. Be the cheerleader, the motivator. Even if you have your own doubts, or insecurities.   Perhaps you simply have a head ache?  Doesn't matter.  You have to be professional.  Be calm and clear and focused. No matter what.

And whilst those thousands of questions and problems fly around your head, you must always have a smile for that 1001th question. No matter how insignificant it may be.

By the time you've done a few films, and maybe had some praise, you feel confident in your ability, but the sheer act of carrying 100 pages of script with you daily and overlooking every single department really is challenging.   
Perversely, when you're doing it, it feels overwhelming at times, but when you're done, you miss it like a drug.
Maybe because it's so all-consuming it leaves a big hole to fill?

Being grounded and pragmatic helps.  Having the support from loved ones also helps.

For Learning to Breathe I decided to operate one of the cameras too.  A decision I took to get closer to the actors and the action.
As if writing and directing wasn't enough!!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not moaning. It was a personal choice.  But it's very much a one-off.   It was right for this film.
It helps having a great crew and knowing the second camera was in safe hands too.

As for the film itself, my natural mix of modesty and self-preservation mean I will leave the promotional stuff to those who do these things better.

So far.  It's been gruelling. Yes.
But there's magic.
And plenty of it...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

What is a feature film?

Its an odd time to be a filmmaker.

I've made three feature films to date and am shooting my next one shortly.
Inevitably, there are questions that arise...

How much do you talk about it?
Who should you tell?
How should you tell them?
Does anyone give a shit?

(that last one usually crops up on a Monday)

When I started, if you said "I'm making a feature", people would almost drop to one knee and bow their heads in deference.
There was a genuine awe about the process and it felt very special.
The truth is, nowadays, anyone can make a feature film.
Take a domestic HD camera and shoot something thats 90 mins long.  Bingo!   Feature film.
Crowdfunding has empowered people to fund their own films, and online distribution platforms means you can reach an audience, albeit on a severely reduced level.

I'm not judging this trend, just acknowledging it and wondering what impact its having on the nature and perception of the feature film.

To be honest, parts of it make me feel uncomfortable.
When I started I had to fight REALLY hard to justify why I was making my first film and had to work very very hard to get investment and then distribution.
So, the fact that anyone can go out there and make any film without any quality control is a problematic one.
But you could also argue that it means that true artists can now make their work without restriction.
I mean, what do those suit-wearing investors know anyway, right?

For me, a feature film is precious.  From its inception to release. It has to be protected and nurtured and then released to the world carefully and in just the right way.
For low budget filmmakers they have to be so careful.  If you have an online presence you could be seen to be begging. For funding, for support, for an audience... and the film then starts to feel like it's not good enough for someone to pay to see.
There's no greater turn-off for a movie audience than the word "please".  Not when you're up against the studio movies with their "The GREATEST movie of our time" quotes on their posters.
If you're a paying punter you want some assurance your £10-£20 of hard earned money is going to be rewarded with a good cinematic experience.

I'm curious to see where all this leads.

The production and distribution model in the UK is on the brink of collapse.
That's no exaggeration.  Look at the box office for the UK films released in the last 2-3 years.
At the time of writing, Starred Up, a heavily promoted, well reviewed, and widely distributed film, has under performed.  It's just one of a line of films that has UK distributors scratching their heads.
With the physical media market drying up as well, and margins from online distribution a fraction of physical media, its getting harder to justify budgets for films.

Movies in the UK are now dropping under the £100k production budget level, because, frankly, they don't recoup their investment.
Sales agents and distributors are now dictating the kinds of films being made.  So called "made for market" films.  A daft policy, given the 1-2 year turnaround of the average feature, rendering any market-led concept out of date.

As a cinema goer, why would I pay £10 to go see a "made for market" sub-£100k movie, when I can see a slick big budget Hollywood movie, or a decently funded and artistically driven European film?

Something has to give.

As more feature films are made, the onus is on the filmmakers to come up with movies that rise out of this over-populated sea of content.

In a world where even Terry Gilliam is turning to Crowd-funding and Crowd-led distribution, we have to really question where we are headed as filmmakers.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


I'm going to overlook the huge gap since i last blogged and dive on in.

The last 8 months since the last entry have been full of stuff.  Best I keep it that vague.
I prefer to be positive, and thats what prompted this blog entry.

I find myself fighting a persistent mystery illness that threatens to curtail my filmmaking, but due to my innate stubbornness I'm going to carry on anyway, even if someone has to prop me up on set!

I'm shepherding two movies to the big screen at present, one a much bigger one that I've ever been involved with before, and is now part of a much greater machine than me, with exec producers and all that lark, so its journey will take a little bit longer.  But that's okay.  
Inevitably, those are the kinds of films you can't talk about without press releases etc, which I'm not really a fan of, but I understand the sensitivity involved.
If I were to say something about Kate Winslett it would annoy the grown-ups, wouldn't it?

The other film is another personal labour of love that takes me even deeper than The Man Inside (if thats actually possible).
This one shoots very soon and will be the first film in a long time that I will also shoot myself.  Meaning, I will operate the camera myself.

Whilst making The Man Inside I found myself wanting to be even more part of the process.
Quite often, you sit behind a monitor or stand offset with a portable monitor, and then you interact with the actors after a take.

I decided for this next film I wanted to get closer, and that meant going back to my roots and getting right in there with the camera myself.  making it an extension of me.
In many ways it means I won't so much be directing, as closely collaborating with the actors. 
Able to establish an intimacy, so that we are telling the story together.

I find it all very exciting. The idea of exploring new ways of filmmaking, and breaking down the barrier of camera and emotion, so there's a real purity to the storytelling.

The film is called Learning To Fly and is being shot in Tobago and London this summer.

I'm looking forward to sharing more about this film soon.

Monday, 10 June 2013

New horizons

Where do I start?
I've been beavering away on so many projects this year that its difficult to know what to begin with.
Firstly. My long-cherished stage play "Postcard From Vienna" is headed to the stage. It will be my stage debut as director and I'm thrilled to be able to realise an ambition that started out in my village hall when I was about 10 years old!
It's a really exciting piece of work and I'm looking forward to working with some incredible talent on it.
Of course, that doesn't mean I've gone all lovey and turned my back on film. Far from it.
In the next few months I will be able to announce some big news on the film front, including a movie that I've been trying to make for about 6 years now. Anybody who knows my work will know which film that is, and I promise when "he" finally arrives he will be charming and sexy and very very dangerous indeed!
Because I like hats, I believe you just can't wear enough of them. So...
I'm very proud to be working with the  Elstree UTC.
The UTC is a brand new technical college, set up to be the arts version of the Brit School.
I will be designing projects for students to assist their development in the world of film.
It's 100% practical work and reminds me of the old apprenticeship system where young people learn their craft from professionals whilst they are actually doing the work.
It's going to be interesting to see how these students develop over the next few years.

Finally, I would like to congratulate all the NUA Film and Moving Image students who are graduating this month.
They have been wonderful to work with this year and their work has been exceptional and inspiring. Having seen work from other Universities, I can safely say Norwich is about to become one of the top university film courses in the country. The quality of work is outstanding.
For me, teaching helps me become a better filmmaker. I take enormous pride in seeing students develop, and in doing so I learn more about myself as a filmmaker and a person.
Its a huge privilege to be able to help others in ways that I never had when I first started out.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Next Chapter.


Its been a while since my last post, but now we are into 2013 its time to start ramping things up.

Making a feature film like The Man Inside takes it out of you and has all sorts of impacts, some good some bad, especially when its a biographical film.

It was a roller-coaster experience to have a film of your life and the life of your best friend released to the world, and reviewed by the press.  A bit like bearing your soul for all to see and have people comment on it!  Its probably difficult to understand exactly what this means and the impact it has upon you personally and professionally, unless you've been through it yourself.
But... I'm immensely proud of the achievement and humbled to have told such a personal story on such a wide scale.

Having made a film like The Man Inside I now feel like that particular chapter is closed, with the future now mapped out with more entertainment-based films on the horizon.  I think its important to tell personal stories and its a very cathartic exercise, but as a filmmaker I also want to tell bigger and broader stories, explore lots of different themes and move around all the genres that excite me.

I'm constantly inspired by filmmakers like Danny Boyle who effortlessly moves from harrowing films to uplifting films and even science fiction.  Its too easy to put writers or directors into genre boxes, so I am in awe of his ability to defy those expectations and hope I get the opportunity to do the same.

In many ways it would be easier to pitch projects that adhered to genres I've already covered, because I have a track record in them, so it will be a bit like starting over with some of the new genres I am about to embark upon, but thats never stopped me before!

Meantime, I've started up an official Facebook page where I can share news and make available exclusives like film commentaries and podcasts and behind-the-scenes photos.  Official Dan Turner Facebook

I would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone for their support in 2012.
It means a great deal to me.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Thank you

This blog is slightly different to the norm for me.
I wanted to take a moment to thank all my friends who have supported/encouraged/protected and generally been lovely over the last few weeks.

It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride with some very scary bits and I feel very lucky and blessed to have some truly brilliant people, both close and across the Internet.

I've been skeptical in the past of things like social networking sites like Twitter but through those places I've met some extraordinary people who are both very cool and very kind too.

I'd love to do a roll call of those people both near and far, but fear I may forget someone. Suffice to say... Thank you to everyone who helped. I hope I can do the same for you whenever you need me.

Dan. Xx

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, 27 July 2012

"Countdown to July 27" Diary: The Final Day

Friday July 27:

Todays the day.
In 25 screens across the UK The Man Inside is released.

There's nothing more to be done except to hope an audience find the film and take something away from it.

I'm under no illusion of what to expect. You'll not see the film on buses, or billboards or television adverts, it's not got that kind of support. So its down to those who want to seek the film out, or people who might take a chance on a little British film over one of the $$$$$$m blockbusters thats on at the moment.

I hope for those that get a chance to see it that it touches them and makes them think a little about the choices we are presented with in life.  thats what the film is about really.

I think this review in The Guardian probably sums it up.

I want to reiterate that its a privilege to get The Man Inside made and onto cinema screens.  I am a simple lad from Colchester in Essex who just wants to tell stories. I never dreamed I'd be able to do this.
I've had to work hard for almost twenty years now to get to this point and I'm proud of what I've achieved.

I'm grateful to everyone who has helped me and encouraged me over the years, especially my parents.

If you cant see the film at the cinema over the next week, then it will be hitting the shops in time for Christmas on December 17.  You can pre-order it on DVD and Blu-Ray.
I've been personally involved with some of the extras on the disk, so I look forward to talking about that nearer the time.

Thank you for your support.