Where are you based and how did you first get into this line of work?
I live in the West Midlands in the UK and have been making independent films for about 10 years.
Like most independent filmmakers, working with low budgets, I started out by working part time in other lines of work to support myself. I worked at a chocolate shop, a cactus farm and as a runner/assistant on shoots when I could find the work. It took a long time before I was able to work full-time making films. I still make corporate films day to day to fund my independent projects.
How did you come up with the 73 Cows project?
To be honest, I was amazed by Jay’s story when my wife showed me an article about him and his plans. With a story with that much potential, I naturally assumed that somebody else would have already been making a documentary about him and so I didn’t really do anything about it to begin with. It was a good while later that I decided to make contact with Jay and Katja to see if they’d let me tell their story. I have no idea why I waited. I knew that the story had potential and so when the couple said that they’d allow me to make this film I felt really excited about it. I really had a good feeling about it.
What gear/cameras did you use and why?
We mainly shot 73 Cows on the Canon c500 and the 1DC as they have a really cinematic feel to them. We recorded sound on an AKG Blueline Series. Oliver Walton, our cinematographer, and John Roddy, our Sound Designer, really know their way around this kit and I was really happy with the results we achieved.
Did you plan out the story structure from the beginning or did it come out in post?
After meeting with Jay and Katja, I felt I had a really clear idea of where the plot points needed to fall and so I drew up a basic film structure.
As with any documentary though, this structure shifted about a lot. With documentaries I feel like you can only plan out the structure to a certain extent and after that you have to be ready to see your whole plan get turned on its head as you explore the subject and you uncover the story as you film.
What do you do differently from other filmmakers?
I’m not 100% sure what differentiates me whilst I’m very much still learning. One thing that is vital, I feel, is that I don’t like to just turn up with a camera and begin filming. I like to approach a film by wanting to learn about the subject in the first instance, almost trying to forget about the film-making process.
Before turning any cameras on, I try to spend a lot of time with the people in my films, getting to know them and the driving forces behind their actions. With 73 Cows, I went to meet with Jay and Katja a long time before filming them. We ended up talking for hours, getting really deep into their thoughts and feelings. Through this process the story unfolds naturally and your subjects become comfortable with opening up to you.
If you had to go back and do it all again, how would you get a foothold in the business?
I now feel I’m at a stage where my films are finally gaining some traction but I’m definitely not where I want to be just yet so I’m not sure what advice I could give in terms of getting a foothold. But I do know that if could go back to the beginning and start from scratch I’d probably try to be less afraid of making bad films.
Every filmmaker makes bad films as they hone their craft, it’s part of the process, and I’m certainly no exception to that rule. I’ve made some truly terrible low budget films which make me completely cringe to watch now. The important thing is that you don’t let the fear of making bad work get in the way of you even trying. There’s so many films I didn’t make because I worried that I wouldn’t do them justice or that people would laugh at them. If you keep making films, you will get better at making them.
What’s the one secret tip, go-to trick that you use often that takes your work to the next level?
One thing I feel is very important when doing on-camera interviews with the subjects, is that I don’t necessarily go with a script. I prefer to make things as conversation-like as possible and as sincere as possible. This often draws a less rehearsed response from the interviewee and enables them to relax into letting their true characters come across on screen. Sometimes an interviewee will say something they hadn’t even thought of until that moment, but if you script your questions rigidly and don’t allow for natural conversation to develop then you’ll miss out on some of these golden moments.
What has been the hardest part of doing what you do?
The hardest thing for me as an independent filmmaker is getting projects off the ground and trying to get people to believe in them. We had no budget at all for 73 Cows and so it was hard to know exactly where our limitations were until we ran into them.
What is currently the best part of doing what you do?
It’s great to export a finished film, knowing that you’re happy with it and that it’s finally done, but by that point there are no surprises and you’ve already seen the film over and over again. So for me, that best parts are the little surprises along the way like when you get a shot you didn’t expect to get or when a story development emerges that you hadn’t even considered.
What are some of your favorite stories or web videos that you’ve gotten inspired by?
I watched ‘The Last Storm’ by Liam Saint-Pierre recently which is a short film about a storm chaser with a terminal illness trying to chase what could be his last ever storm. It’s a great premise alone. I’d really recommend anyone with a few minutes to spare to watch it. It’s pretty much a perfect short film.
Where can people follow your work?
My website: lockwoodfilm.com