Giles Alderson and Dom Lenoir chatted to Brighton-based director and screenwriter Jamie Patterson. Jamie chatted to us about making his first film, getting into the film industry, his advice to his younger self, and what he has learned while making films.
How it All Started
“My childhood was films, basically. I remember all I would do is watch films. They’re some of my favourite memories as a kid – non-stop, every day. And this wasn’t just in my childhood, even when I was 18, I wasn’t going out on a Saturday night with my friends. A highlight of my week was going to the Video Box, where I worked, and me and my mum and my dad would watch a movie.”
Jamie loved films. “James Bond was my thing. I would watch Bond movies non-stop. And I would just get lost in these worlds and these films.”
When he was about 13 or 14 he started understanding the role of the director, the storyteller. And although he had a lot of ideas at school, his stories would ‘start off as one thing. And then it’s about three or four other things. I think still to this day, I’m very much like that.”
“I was watching stuff like Kevin Smith’s Clerks or Rodriguez’ El Mariachi and Reservoir Dogs. And I remember seeing Clerks and going I think I can do something similar to that.
It was one of those things where I was like I’ve seen enough movies. I think I know how to do it. All I gotta do is write something.”
Jamie also did a 10-week film course at Brighton Film School – “the film school’s incredible now, but at the time, we had one mini DV camera between 20 of us and the oldest editing software out there. It was very old fashioned, but I met some great people there.”
Getting Onto Set
After leaving film school, Jamie got offered a job as “a runner on this movie called Dummy, which Aaron Taylor Johnson was in.”
“When I got the job on Dummy, I was good friends with the line producer. And she went on to do another project, and like so many things in this industry, if you get on with someone and you do a good job, they want you on the next thing. So off of that one job, I think I got six jobs. Granted, none of them paid.”
During this time, he was also writing Swimming in Circles, he was a clapper loader, a third AD, second AD and a first. “I was doing whatever I could, based on people recommending me.”
Making His First Feature
After finishing the script, he did a local casting, shot in his mate’s house and another friend, Ted, did his sound. “We bought a mic from Maplin – put it on the end of a mop, gaffered it on, straight into the camera.”
He said there was “no faffing about. I shot it, I’d never done that before, I’m not really a camera dude. We shot the whole movie in four days. It was inspired by Clerks, again. And it was just about an unlikely friendship. I’m fascinated by this idea of unlikely friendships, bromances, romances.”
“The film took me two and a bit years to edit it because it was the first feature I’d ever edited. It was awful. It’s got snippets which I’ve used later – shots or ideas. But it’s a complete mess of a movie. But you know what? It is a finished feature film.”
Jamie says that for him, filmmaking is about problem-solving. “You make mistakes on every film you do. The key thing is to try not to make the same mistakes twice. So, for me, it was such a great learning process to be like, I’ve made this film. It’s shit. But I did it. I think it’s important that I acknowledge it and I own it. I’m still very proud of it. I tried just as hard on that film as I have on my last film. It’s just I’m a better filmmaker now.”
Advice to his Younger Self
He said that his mistakes usually happened when his “decisions were driven or motivated by pure excitement.”
“I remember when we signed City of Dreamers, we originally signed a distribution deal with a company, but the only reason we signed with them was one: they were the only person who asked for the film. But two: they had just put a movie out with Paul Gross. And I was like that’s it, he’s the greatest actor of all time.
And that was a learning experience because they didn’t pay for the film upfront. They did such a bad job and they were such crooks. We ended up having to buy the movie back for three grand. And I remember I lost my absolute rag on that. So I would say, when you’re starting out, it is really easy to get swept up in it all. And I think that’s part of the fun of it.”
You can listen to the rest of our brilliant podcast with Jamie here.