Giles Alderson and Dom Lenoir, spoke to Chris and Ben Blaine (AKA The Blaine Brothers) about their filmmaking journey and the lessons that they have learned.
The brothers started filmmaking in school, by adapting the Bible, as a joke with their friends. The film, which did well, was eventually banned in their school.
Getting into Edinburgh Film Festival
The film not only created a love of filmmaking, but was also an introduction into professional filmmaking.
While working in a newsagent, one of the regulars – a friend of Gregor Fisher, who played Rab C. Nesbitt – had seen a bit of the Bible and suggested that Chris and Ben needed to do some exercises to figure out how to make films.
He “set us the challenge of making a short film that he’d help us out on. We made this short on 16mm, with a hire firm who when we turned up we’re like you guys are kids, we’re not going to let you have our camera, but we’ll come along and help you make it. So we got help from them and from Robert, and we made this short film called Crowd Scene for Existentialists and it got into Edinburgh Film Festival.”
On the Short Film Front
After spending some money on software, they started focussing on making short after short. Shooting, editing and getting their indie films made.
“A lot of the time we’d be doing something where we were aiming really high, and that film wouldn’t necessarily come off in the way that we wanted it to.”
They found that the films that they ‘knocked out’ were the ones that everybody liked, that the best shorts were the ones that were simple.
“When it feels like it just came out all in one go, it actually makes it feel quite special.”
They went on to say that “as long as you’re not aiming to make something that’s going to get into the cinema, it is a fantastic process. And you get a lot of valuable insight doing that, which can teach you a lot of lessons that make you make better shorts.
Aiming to do something that isn’t going to get into cinema is a really important stage to go through with shorts. You meet a lot of people who are trying to make their first short film, and it has to be perfect, it has to be flawless.
And there’s an incredible freedom in that: freedom to experiment, a freedom to fail and a freedom to learn. And I think that was the energy that ran through our early shorts: we were just experimenting – it didn’t feel like the film had to be perfect. It took a long time, and many discussions with people, before we started to realise that we needed to do something that could be perfect.”
Why They Started Making Their Own Films
After working in TV writing and editing, and having seen the way that TV channels used similar formats for all of their projects, they decided that they needed a change.
“A lot of the time the fun stuff would get cut out. The weird stuff. So you’re cutting stuff to standard length. We were writing feature films that we were trying to shape into more standard formats of what people expected you to write.
And we found that we were cutting out the stuff that we liked and the stuff that we loved, to the point where we got rid of the only reason to write this film.”
Creating their own projects, what they wanted to make and write, “was really nice and freeing: to write whatever comes in our head.”
What They’ve Learnt From Their Experience
During their formative filmmaking years, they were fortunate to receive help from a lot of filmmakers and companies.
“The real lesson is that people in the industry will usually help you out if you make honest mistakes. The mistake is when you hide your vulnerability and when you hide the things that you don’t know. That is often arrogance and that’s the mistake – not letting everyone else in.
They also raised the point that has been discussed before in a lot of our podcasts. The age old conundrum: you need to have made a feature film in order to make a feature film.
“There is an absolute truism that no one believes you can do anything other than the thing you’ve just done. Even to the point with feature films, where they go, ‘you haven’t made a feature film. So can you make a feature film, because you haven’t made a feature film?’”
Going on to say: “the process of making a film is all consuming. Even if you have a brilliant idea, let’s say you’ve got the best idea in the world, that is only a quarter, a fifth of the process.”
With regard to directing, the focus is on whether the person has “the ability to take that good script and shape it when the casting demands it to changes or when the budget demands it changes.
The whole process is vastly more than having a good idea. It’s important that you have brilliant ideas, but it’s more important that you are open to working with people, because if you are open to working with people, then you can actually go to someone with a mediocre idea and they’ll be able to help you see what’s brilliant about it. It can start being mediocre and together you can shape it into something brilliant. A good creative relationship is worth a hundred brilliant ideas.”
Listen to the Blaine Brothers podcast here.