Director Q&A – Billy Mullaney

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At our first AOTS event we invited along a couple of talented directors to screen their short films and discuss how they went about making them.

Billy Mullaney was kind enough to come along and screen his short films Absent and Cut.


Q. What was your first ever attempt at making a film, and how did it turn out?


My first attempt at making a short film was when I was about 13. All we had was a Hi8 camcorder and no editing facilities so it was a matter of record, pause, record, pause, if it went wrong we had to rewind over the scene we didn’t want to keep and record over it leaving the final short with snippets of unwanted scenes popping up between cuts. Sound was a nightmare and we never wrote scripts in those days, they were all improvised and almost silent which usually meant the final product usually ended up being some surreal black comedy or a crappy horror. I remember the first film I ever made was about a teenager who got high on some kind of drug to begin hallucinating, The character was then attacked by whatever toy I could find in my little brothers room at the time. It was strange, even more so with the old video FX you would could get with the old camcorders like negative, sepia, B/W etc all having to be activated in real time by a little button on the side, I used them all, probably too much.

Q. You seem to cover a huge amount of roles in the shorts that you’ve made; a one man film-making machine. Is this out of necessity or do you like to do it all?

I guess it’s just what I’m used to, when I started I didn’t have a crew of any kind and I had to do everything but act, friends always wanted to act in the films I made funny enough but never wanted to hold a camera or anything so glamorous as props or lighting… so I did it. I got used to doing it so much that I thought I didn’t need anyone’s help, that all changed with my first crewed short, BLOCKED. Although I still held the camera, I had a producer, First AD, runners, a sound man and stills photographer, also for the first time professional actors. I got so much done so much quicker and found that I loved working with like-minded film people, it was really fun and encouraging, I had the time of my life. Looking back I think I did everything on my own because it seemed impossible that other people would want to make a film with me, especially just for the fun and experience of it, I  thought I would have to pay everyone with money that I don’t have. It came down to confidence in my talents and having the courage to reach out. I still hold a camera the majority of the time purely because I enjoy it, my bad back doesn’t.

Q. Do you intend to make a feature, or are you happy with short-form film-making?

I definitely want to make a feature film, I grew up watching feature films, short films for me are merely a way to hone my skills, try out ideas and build up confidence, it’s all just leading up to my first feature film. I love making short films and they are a great way to show off your talents to others but I find myself wanting to take the stories further and develop much deeper characters, they can only go so far in a 10-15 min short.

Q. If you were to offer one piece of advice to filmmakers starting out, what would it be?

Don’t spend money unless you absolutely have to, if you are willing to give up your time to write and direct a short then others will be to. These days it’s so much easier to start, get yourself a DSLR, a semi decent microphone and start filming. Ask your friends to help out or go online and find hundreds of like minded people (like Action on the Side for instance). Just have confidence in yourself, for me this is the hardest part of film-making, the rest is easy. Write what you know to begin with and write with a budget in mind, use what you have around you and can get hold of for free… basically just make the short with no money if you can, when it costs you nothing you can make another, then another, then another until you master it. You would be surprised how much you learn from each short, and how much they improve with every attempt, Don’t be afraid to make a crap short, they are always crap to begin with.

Q. What projects are you working on at the moment?

Feature!  I am currently writing a low to no-budget feature script that I hope to film this year.  I’m always helping out others with their short films though; I find it good practice… but mainly for the sheer joy of it.


More of Billy’s work can be seen at

Director Q&A – Martin Stirling

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At our first AOTS event we invited along a couple of talented directors; to screen their short films and discuss how they went about making them. Martin Stirling was kind enough to come along and screen his award winning short film Future Inc.

He also took the time to sit down with us and be grilled about his filmmaking career thus far, here are the results:

What was your first ever attempt at making a film, and how did it turn out?

I tried to make a film in my school toilet. It was just me so I was filming and acting and doing everything. It was a bit of a failure but it was a big step for me.

The films you’ve made are not easily categorisable in terms of style or genre, has this been a conscious decision on your part or do you simply find yourself drawn to a variety of approaches?

It’s something I’ve had to battle with. I’m interested in styles and genres and like to play and experiment. It’s tough because people do like to categorise you in this industry so I’ve had to resist being know for any one thing even though it would probably make my life easier. It makes commissioners feel safe and secure knowing that you’ve done something the same before. It’s less of a risk for them. I find an unvarying style tedious so I don’t like to repeat my successes, I think you can get lost making the same crap over and over again. I like to keep challenging myself and try to take bigger risks with each project.

You’ve worked with both animation and live action, do you have a preference for one over the other, and how differently do you approach each?

I don’t have a preference. People often say with animation that your imagination is your limit, but I think that is true for live-action too. The key difference for me is the design. You can have characters with crazy proportions and simplified features or complex body structures. You can manipulate and augment an actor’s body to a certain degree; in animation that can be charming, with live-action it’s disturbing. But I like disturbing things too. So no preference!

How did you go about making the move into the professional world of filmmaking/commercials?

I entered a 24 hour challenge and won which lead to my first commercial pitch. That got the ball rolling but I’ve continued to make films and enter competitions because they raise your profile and lead to more work. I cannot overstate how important they can be for turning this into a career.

Future Inc. is an incredible achievement for a 48 hour film competition, how did you manage it? And do you plan to enter any more 48 hour film competitions?

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some extremely talented people. From the start we had an excellent writer in Andrew Ellard. I knew we’d have a strong script to work with which he continued to refine even while we were shooting. That’s class. Secondly. I had a superb DoP who made the thing look beautiful. I’d worked with Carl Burke quite a few times and so we’ve developed an intuition in the way that we work together. Having those guys meant I could really focus on the performance and characters. It was a long and mental weekend and I would absolutely do it again!

Do you intend to make a feature, or are you happy with short-form filmmaking?

I have two features in development right now but I will continue to work with short-form. I believe in the power of brevity and short-form content forces you to focus your ideas and simplify. Commercials and promos also give you a chance to be creative and experiment with styles and technology so I plan to keep those things ticking alongside the longer form stuff.

If you were to offer one piece of advice to filmmakers starting out, what would it be?

Know your audience. You have to make a lot of decisions and those should always be informed by who your audience is.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

It’s a busy period right now. I’m working on 5 commercial projects at various stages of production whilst developing the two features and a TV series. Yeah, I’m not getting much sleep…


Martin is represented by Jess Cooper at Curtis Brown.

I want to create film, let's get together and: Make it happen!