DIRECTING AND EDITING FILMS WITH JENNIFER SHERIDAN

Jennifer Sheridan, director and editor of Rose: A Love Story, was on the podcast this week with Giles Alderson and Andrew Rodger.

Jennifer loved watching films as a child, but she got her inspiration to make films from a teacher at Brit School. He had given her an Asian horror film, The Eye, to watch. 

“I watched it and was like ‘Oh my God, this is so incredible.’ It’s really creepy and weird. Proper dark, weird horror stuff. It was just not like anything I’d seen before.”

After that he gave her Battle Royale. This was just the start of her interest in making “big ideas and worlds and sci-fi and horror. And things that aren’t totally set in reality.”

Her Start in Editing

When asked what inspired her to make films, Jennifer said: “I really wanted to tell stories.”

She said that the best thing that came out of her uni days “was my love of editing. I started editing at uni. I used to make little title sequences for our multi-camera stuff.”

At this point her lecturer realised that she was good at making motion graphics, something that she had taught herself from YouTube. Her new skills got her a full time paid editing job, working for someone that her lecturer knew.

But “I stopped working with them because he wasn’t very good at paying. So then I went freelance editing and managed to get some TV stuff. And that was when I sort of broke into editing TV, but I really wanted to edit film and I didn’t know how to do it.”

She then spoke to Harry Potter editor Mark Day, who suggested building a relationship with a director who was making their first feature, because they’d fight to take you with them.

“I started editing short films for the directors, trying to meet and establish a relationship with someone who would move up and hopefully take me with them. But all that ended up happening was that I was editing in my day job and editing on my weekends and evenings. I had no life. I was developing RSI at the age of like 25.”

“I realised that I couldn’t really set my future on the hope that someone else was going to make it, and it just felt like it might never happen.” So, she decided to make a short film, to see what could happen.

Making Rocket

Jennifer had a 5D, and asked her friend Callum to help. “He shot with me for a day and then he couldn’t make it the next time. So I shot a lot of it on my own. And that was Rocket – a two minute, little weird dog film. I won the Virgin Media Shorts with it and I won money to make another short.”

Before spending the prize money, she made the wise decision of making more shorts. “I didn’t want to waste that opportunity. I knew I wasn’t ready. So I went off and made a couple of shorts –  dialogueless, but had actors in and proper camera people. Before I spent 30 grand on a proper short.”

“They were okay. They weren’t amazing. But I felt like a lot of filmmakers will relate to this with Acoustic Kitty (which was the 30 grand BFI backed one). I was like, now this is my break into the industry. Everyone’s going to love me and want to work with me. And all that happens is I had a couple of meetings with agents. It was a bit of a wake up call because when something like that happens, you have to reset your expectations, lower than where they were. And start again and try and figure out what the next step is.”

For her, it was making another short. She worried that Acoustic Kitty wasn’t ‘festival-friendly’, so she made an emotional short. “And what I was doing was a story I was passionate about, but I was trying to please the industry and hope that that was the right thing to do.

Ultimately, unless you’re making stories that you want to make, you’re not representing yourself well. I wasn’t an emotional filmmaker, there are filmmakers out there who make heart-wrenching films, but I am not that. I’m a high concept person. I’ve made so many shorts. Cause I was trying to figure out who I was.”

Jennifer’s Advice

When friends tell her that they’re making another short, she suggests that they do one of three things:

“Either you learn a new skill – maybe you’ve never worked with a steady cam, try and work with a steady cam 

Or you’re establishing a new relationship with someone that you think could go forward – like a DOP relationship or an actor relationship that you want to establish. 

Or you’re doing something that pushes and elevates what you’ve done before with your shorts”

She says that “as long as you’re elevating yourself through that short. You have to be pushing yourself every time and not resting on your laurels.”

To listen to more from Jennifer Sheridan, click here.

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