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.