Where are you based and how did you first get into this line of work?
We both met at Uni doing a TV production course. The course itself wasn’t really as insightful as we’d imagined, so a group of us just got together and made stuff. In fact, most of us from that original gang are still working on projects together. After that we kinda went our separate ways, I went to work in a post house for feature film and Dan went into a production company.
A little while later we ended up working together again. Dan lured that whole group from uni into one production company and we churned out corporate and branded content for a few years. Again, at the time we weren’t making incredible films but boy, did we learn a hell of a lot there. It was the first time we’d been handed full projects with big clients and even bigger responsibilities. We’ve come from a background of doing a bit of everything which I think gives us a nice rounded perspective of what’s going on during production. We both know how the sausage got made, y’know?
Anyway, a few more years apart from one another, going our separate ways and making loads more films, we finally both went freelance. We’d been helping each other out on our respective projects with creative development, post production or just a wall to bounce ideas off. We realised pretty quickly that the partnership of styles and execution was really working, and now here we are.
How did you get the Ultra Man project?
To be honest, it wasn’t much of a pitch. Me and Dan sat down one day in a coffee shop in Peckham and thought ‘wouldn’t it be nice to make an athlete profile kinda film?’. We’d made a lot of mini docs for various brands over the years and we love filming sports so it made sense to make something of this format.
Dan met Robbie a long time ago working on a project for Men’s Health so he dropped him a line to see if he was interested. Robbie is such a great guy, he’s super enthusiastic and generally seems to be up for anything, he was on board straight away!
Hamish, our DOP, is one of the original group of mates we used to work with. We wrote up a small treatment with some storyboards and shot lists, sent it over and convinced him it was gonna be great fun.
We funded the whole thing ourselves. It wasn’t too expensive to make really, we called in a lot of favours and other than that it just cost us a lot of our own time.
What gear/cameras did you use and why?
We shot Ultra Man on the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro, a set of Sigma zooms and the drone stuff was captured on the Mavic Pro. Our DOP, Hamish, had very recently bought this new setup so all of us were keen to see what it could do.
We knew it was going to need to be a very agile shoot, running behind Robbie and climbing around the trails with him, so a set of zooms and minimal kit were preferable. We all get hot over a nice set of primes and an Alexa but it’s important to remember what’s going to be best for the production in hand.
We don’t really have an ‘essential’ kit list although I think on every shoot there’s an easyrig. It’s just become a key part of the style we like to film in. We like trying out new toys and we do have our favourites but honestly, we love it when you can keep the process as natural and free flowing as possible. Sometimes all these extra toys can really slow things down. Not to say there isn’t a time and place for a technocrane or a russian arm if you’ve got the budget.
Did you plan out the story structure from the beginning or did it come out in post?
Yes indeed! It’s funny because you work so hard to make something seem so natural that people don’t realise it was all planned out from the start.
We didn’t want to create a typical documentary, we knew we’d only have a few days of Robbie’s time so we basically scripted and story-boarded the whole film before hand. The script we shared back and forth with Robbie, we knew exactly the topics we wanted him to talk about but we wanted it to come out in his own words, with natural delivery. The boards we mainly stuck to as well but as soon as we arrived in Chamonix, Robbie said “You wanna go see the Dam from Goldeneye?” so there are quite a few shots that just came about from Robbie’s knowledge of the place.
What do you do differently from other filmmakers?
It’s hard to stand out in this industry. I think our partnership means we bring a merging of two styles to our film-making. Dan is very well organised, he has a great understanding of narrative and a good eye for composition. I’m constantly writing concepts and working on creative so is very good at that initial spark. He’s got a more artsy approach to film-making. We like to think we make high concept actuality.
If you had to go back and do it all again, how would you get a foothold in the business?
I think we’d just make a load of our own stuff. Not worrying too much about the outcome, just get out there and film.
Josh: On a personal note I also think I’d save all my 90’s clothes and Pokemon cards because now I’d be on-trend and rich!
What’s the one secret tip go-trick that you use often that takes your work to the next level?
I don’t think we have a single trick or secret. You’re always learning and developing and so your style is evolving as well. Our methods change during production depending what suits the project. On a technical level, I guess we realised pretty early on that sound design is key! Our friend Rob Ashton who did the sound for Ultra Man is brilliant, we think his work elevates the film to a whole other place that without it, would have felt bland.
What is currently the hardest part of doing what you do?
We’re pretty sure everyone out there suffers in the down time between work. We’re freelance and we generally keep ourselves quite busy but when a quiet spell hits you, it’s tough to get motivated and snap out of it. When it’s busy we talk about all the films we’re going to make when we get a week off, then that week comes unexpectedly and you end up panicking about the next project! Other than that, I think we’re very fortunate to be working in a creative industry with a shed load of passionate people!
What is currently the best part of doing what you do?
Is it alright if we make a list for this one? We both get a bit over excited about what we do and it’s for so many reasons. Here’s a few:
- Meeting weird and wonderful people in places you’d never normally go.
- Playing with cameras and new tech.
- Working with one another.
- When you get booked a hotel and it’s got a pool.
- When we spend whole afternoons coming up with concepts and stories that make each other laugh.
- The buzz of being on set.
- Getting paid to make films.
- Having a Monday off if you fancy it.
What are some of your favorite stories, web videos that you’ve gotten inspired by?
We’re big fans of the Autobahn guys, whatever they make is brilliant. A director called Miles Jay made a film about an american football player, Fletcher Cleaves, a long time ago. That knocked us off our seats the first time we watched it. It’s such a heartbreaking story and beautifully told through strong imagery with very little dialogue.
Where can people follow your work?
I think our Vimeo is the best place to keep up with what we’re doing. We upload the finished articles to there. We’re trying to be more proactive on our Instagram and give people more bits and bobs from our onset experiences and all that. But to be honest, we’re often so engrossed in the action that we almost always forget to take photos. That’s gonna be something we do differently though this year, even if it’s just for us to look back on stuff that happened, that’d be nice.