Interview with Filmmakers Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe

It is many people’s dream to make a film, but in the majority of cases this is not something that is ever fulfilled. For most, the idea is dismissed as being too difficult or not financially viable, instead accepting the reality that they will never be the new Tarantino or Scorsese. However, for young filmmakers Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe, the opposite seems to be the case. As their first feature film Black Pond hits cinemas this month, The Student caught up with the pair to ask them how they did it.

Having met at university, where they wrote and directed plays and comedy together, they both had a passion to make a film but struggled to fit in the time required around their current day jobs. Despite this hindrance, in 2009 they made a short called Gokiburi (Cockroach) which was set in Japan and made using only a script, reflector board and prosumer camera. As Sharpe recalls, “making the short film basically just showed us that the only way to learn how to make a film is to make a film.”

The short proved to be a success, with a production company offering them £50,000 to make a feature. Unfortunately, this fell through but didn’t deter the pair who decided to fund the film themselves. “Some of it was money we saved up from our day jobs, and the rest we raised by writing hundreds of letters and emails – trying to raise our target of £20,000. When we ended up going over budget by £5,000, we took time off during editing to do some paid work, and were able to cover the extra,” says Kingsley.

Evidently a lot of determination and hard work was required to get the project off the ground, yet this in turn opened up a considerable amount of possibilities that wouldn’t have been available had they received funds from a production company. As Kingsley notes, “it can be hard working with a small budget, but in a lot of ways it forced us to be more creative. Restrictions can be helpful. Also the more money you have to make a film, the less creative freedom you have. So although we had very little money, we had total creative freedom.”

Black Pond is loosely based on a play they wrote at university with a couple of friends, but had to be changed considerably due to its inclusion of burning castles and helicopters which would have been too expensive for a first feature. Sharpe, who wrote the screenplay, comments, “we decided to take the core characters from the play and to tell a story with a more manageable plot. What we ended up with was quite unexpected in a way. But it’s a funny thing because you don’t actually have very much control over how a story plays out. You need to have the discipline to throw away the ideas that are bad or unrealistic, but it’s not like you can force yourself to have a good idea. You kind of just have to wait for the ideas to arrive in their own time. It’s about getting yourself out the way I think.”

As a means of saving money, the pair have been distributing the film themselves, organising their own screenings and dealing with the cinemas directly. This way they have been able to make sure that every penny made from the release can go straight back to their investors. Surprisingly, this method has been working, as Kingsley comments, “we’ve never done anything like this before, but it seems to be going well so far. All of our London screenings sold out, and this week in Edinburgh is the second week on our tour of British cities.”

It seems clear that their success boils down to a strong desire to achieve what they want. They represent the average Joes who get to high places through sheer determination. As Sharpe aptly points out, “we only really broke into film by making a film. Neither of us went to film school, and we didn’t meet any filmmakers or get anywhere with proper film funding organisations.” For those willing to try and get into the movie industry, Kinsley’s advice is simple, “first find a job that leaves you some free time and then fill that free time by making films. Anyone can talk about being a filmmaker but the only way to prove you can do it is by showing people the films you’ve made. Equipment has never been so cheap. As long as you have good ideas and are motivated enough to make them happen, you’ll get there eventually.”

With the world’s first low budget epic comedy blockbuster in the making, it is clear that Sharpe and Kingsley are on their way up. Their passion is nothing short of admirable and the results they achieve impressive, it is surely only a matter of time before they become household British names.

Black Pond will be showing at the Cameo from November 25th – December 1st.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Nov 22nd 2011.

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