Live at Kino – Jennifer Sheridan and Giles Alderson Sharing Their Leap from Short to Feature

Giles Alderson was in the hot seat this week, joined by fellow director Jennifer Sheridan. 

Giles and Jennifer were invited to be on the live panel for a Kino event and were interviewed by Dustin Curtis Murphy, the festival director of Kino Short Film. They spoke about their filmmaking journeys – making short films, progressing to features and more.

Giles, who studied acting, had been writing since he was young and was putting on plays for the Royal Court’s Young Writer’s Programme. But “I felt if I went into directing, it would get in the way of acting. So I just carried on acting, but writing and putting things on. We started to make things, but I never directed them.”

It was only when he was writing a comedy series for the BBC, and the “director pulled out a couple of weeks before that I put my hand up. I didn’t want it to fall apart. And then the first day of filming, I remember that moment of just falling in love so deeply. And at that moment I wanted to do this as my career. How do I transition from being an actor to a director? That took 10 years of hard graft till I managed to direct a feature film.”

From Editing to Directing

Jennifer “fell into editing at University and managed to bag a job doing editing and motion graphics for this guy. He hired me as an ex-student, but he was very bad at paying me. So I ended up having to leave that job in order to get some money.”

She got some other editing jobs, including working as an editor on an Iranian version of X-Factor, and some comedy awards, which was her first British credit as an editor.

After that, “I immediately approached an agent and said, I’m an editor. And I really want to edit comedy. That’s my passion. And they said we’ll try and help you out. And they did. I got lots of  panel shows and comedy factual entertainment shows and built a really good CV, but I wanted to edit films.”

After speaking with the Harry Potter editors, who had connected with directors before they got their big break, she decided to try to meet, and work with, as many directors as she could. “I was editing TV shows for my day job. And then on weekends and evenings, I was editing short films and trying to meet directors, offering my services, but it didn’t work out.

A lot of the directors that I worked with would make one short and then never make anything else. I can’t hang my dream of working in films on someone else’s success. So I thought I’m going to make a short film myself, which I did with my dog. And it won 30 grand to make another film with the BFI.”

The Journey to Make that First Feature

For Giles it was devastating. He spoke to a lot of producers, many of whom were very unpleasant and promised things that they had no intention of following through on. “For 10 years, I was trying to be a filmmaker, reading the books of the people who’d made it… but there was always that gap, between someone making a short and being an Oscar winner.”

He spent a lot of time banging on doors, writing, trying to improve his shorts and reel, updating his website and meeting with producers to try to get his project off the ground. 

To make money he did adverts. “I met this guy, on one of the adverts, Julian Kostov who said ‘I do films at Nu Boyana Studios in Bulgaria, I’ve starred in some films in Bulgaria. And we got chatting and became really good friends.

I said, I’ve got this project called The Dare and he said send it to me and I’ll send it to get evaluated by the studio in Bulgaria. A month later, this evaluation came back, an incredible evaluation”, but they didn’t want to make the film right now.

“It was a genre piece, I knew the horror market, there was this buzz. It was marketable.”

A few people who were interested, including a guy who said that he’d put in £100K, to make the film. Although Giles didn’t trust the producer, he was also desperate to make his film and reached out to Nu Boyana Studios to tell them about the deal that he’d been offered in the UK.

They told him to fly to Bulgaria the next day to pitch to the exec. He quickly raised money to fly to Bulgaria, prepared with his pitch, storyboards, decks and mood reels and after a brilliant meeting and look around the studio, Yariv (Lerner) told Giles that they would meet in London a month later.

“A month passed but nothing really moves forward. I sat down with him and his producer, Julian and I and pitched it again. We had a laugh and we talk, and eventually, he says let’s make a movie.”

Jennifer’s agent sent her the script of Rose, and she thought at the time that it would be a “good first feature. It’s one location, three cast members, very achievable and a low budget. Maybe someone will give me that amount of money to make a film.”

Matt Stokoe, the writer, and Jennifer had a similar idea of how they’d make the film. While working on the script, Sophie Rundle became involved. She had been working with Matt on Jamestown and saw him writing the script. After finding the rest of their cast, they hired a line producer, for a day, to work out the budget.

The line producer approximated a basic budget to be around £400K, but after applying for funding, the team were only able to access £200K. Instead of letting it hinder their plans, or “waiting around to try and raise another 200 grand, they found a location in Wales and we shot it for 200 grand.”

Finding Agents

“It’s funny because after I made the BFI short, I had loads of meetings with agents and none of them wanted to sign me. A lot of my friends were getting agents and taking their foot off the gas and nothing was happening for them.”

Inside of focusing on getting signed, Jennifer hustled – making her shorts, “talk to people that I’m editing for to see if they need a director. And then I got a phone call from this guy.”

Rob from Artist Partnership reached out after seeing Jennifer’s IMDb profile, connected to Katherine Ryan (who had a tiny role in Acoustic Kitty), and asked for a meeting.

Giles, on the other hand, got his agent “recently because of contract stuff. I’m not necessarily saying they’re good or bad, but I find my own work. I always have. And that is the best way to think about it. If you rely on anyone to find you work, you’re already done for, it’s already over, it’s just not going to happen. They’ve got too many people on their books.”

Their Last Words of Advice

Jennifer: “Don’t give up and don’t stop.”

Giles: “Trust in yourself and what you’re doing. Believe in you, more than anyone else. 

And find the right people. If they’re not the right people. Let them go. I don’t think there’s any secret formula. There’s not one path. You are your own secret weapon. You are what will make your film happen or not. No one else. And if you take that on board and go, I’m going to make this happen. It will happen. Just believe in it and do it.

You can listen to more advice from Giles and Jennifer here.

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