Jamie Scott Beal is a Kent-based filmmaker who in 2015 won the Folkestone 52 Hour Film Challenge. We caught up with him recently to chat about the challenge, his winning short The Replacement and the filmmaking process.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into filmmaking.
I grew up in East Kent where I still live with my amazing (and very supportive) wife and two crazy children. I balance my filmmaking with my career as a freelance designer and fuelling my love of all things 80s – namely my synth pop addiction.
Films have been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up my weekends and holidays were filled with the fantasy and sci-fi films of the 80s. Fridays were always a day of excitement for me as I knew my Dad would visit the VHS store on his way home from work. There would always be a family film for us kids and a 15/18 for my parents – but straight away I would pester him to let me watch the other movie. While my school friends were watching cartoons, I was watching the likes of Aliens and Robocop. My eagerness to watch films way above my age did catch me out – I didn’t sleep properly for a week after watching A Nightmare on Elm Street! The older I got the more movies I watched. Throughout secondary school my best friend and I would rent as many VHS tapes as we could and spend the entire weekend watching movies. We were in the video store so often that eventually the owner let us rent titles without an adult present and would sometimes throw a couple in for free which really opened the flood gates for us to watch all sorts, from high end blockbusters to the over the top action of the 80s, the independent trashy horror and sci-fi movies of the 80s and 90s and everything in between.
I knew I wanted to make films while I was at Secondary School, but the perfectionist in me was always worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it well and so it was something I never really spoke about, so I was a late starter compared to most and it wasn’t until 2012 that I finally decided it was time for me to become a filmmaker. I set about gathering as much technical info as I could to compliment the years of watching movies but fairly quickly realised that I was focussing too much on the technical elements instead of actually making anything so I packed all my filmmaking books away, deleted the 100s of bookmarks on filming tutorials I had saved and began planning my first short. Was it coincidence that the 52hr Film Challenge was launched around the same time? I still wonder…..
We saw The Replacement as a recent Hellfire Short Film Night. For those who haven’t yet seen it, can you give us a brief synopsis?
The Replacement centres on a young girl who is abducted and replaced with a robotic counterpart by the government. Yes, I wanted to utilise the government secrecy and conspiracy angle, but I also wanted to pose the question – what if the government were forced to do something that would be deemed as terrible by the public, but which was for our own good and for our own survival?
Congratulations on winning the Folkestone 52 Hour Film Challenge with The Replacement, what was it like to write, shoot, edit and submit a film in such a short time?
It was a great experience as it really dropped me in at the deep end. I was forced to put in to practice all that I had learned while coping with and controlling my demand for perfection. It was also a great exercise in planning and time allocation which is a primary factor in film production. Each stage of the production process was given a strict allocation of time and it was only in areas where I had time left over that I would allow myself to develop that particular part further.
The Replacement is beautifully shot, what camera did you use and what is your preferred editing software?
I shot on the film on a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, used the Adobe Suite for post production and used DaVinci Resolve for some of the grading. Whilst the Pocket Camera is great to shoot with, the look and feel of the shots in The Replacement were equally determined by the lighting and composition choices at the time. I had a very clear picture of what I wanted to create in the final film.
What is your favourite part of the film-making process?
That’s a tough question to answer as I generally enjoy the entire process, but if I had to choose I would say the blocking and the visual design of each shot. Film is a visual medium first and foremost. I love emerging myself in the visual element and always try to ensure I am telling the story the most visual way possible from both an on screen action and a visual perspective. When planning a shot I always start with the basic blocking, once I’m happy with that, I ask myself what more I can do to make the shot more visually appealing without it being detrimental to the story.
And while we’re on that subject what is your least favourite part of the film-making process?
Although I don’t really have a least favourite part, the initial treatment/scriptwriting feels the most alien. I come from a freehand art and design background, so the idea of sitting down to create something through writing rather than in a visual way feels somewhat unnatural.
What makes a great film for you and who in the industry inspires you?
I’m incredibly visual person in both what I strive to create and what I like to watch. I try to see the best in any film, but the a truly great film experience would encompass stunning visuals and a great use of light and composition to compliment the performances of the actors and tell the story. I find myself inspired more by particular films rather than individuals, but I am drawn to the works of Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle, Luc Besson and Stanley Kubrick. Of course I still have a soft spot for the stop motion monster movies I grew up with.
What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker?
Don’t do what I did – I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to do justice to my love of film that I wasted years finding reasons to not make films. Grab whatever equipment you can and just make films. When starting out, making films can feel like quite a lonely exercise. When I made The Replacement it was just myself and my daughter as the two primary characters, but it created enough of an impact that I now meet and work with other filmmakers on a regular basis. Learn only what you need to technically and don’t get bogged down by gear and technology. By all means be inspired by others and experiment, but don’t make films in the style of another filmmaker as you could hamper your creativity – let your own style come through naturally and forge your own journey. Most importantly tell a story – no matter how simple. I’ve seen so many films by first time filmmakers that look and sound great, but they fail to tell a story.
What film projects are you currently working on?
I have just set-up my own production company – Replacement Pictures and am in the process of writing an outer-space survival feature entitled Centurion which I am aiming to shoot towards the end of this year. My plan is to use this micro budget production as an ‘investment showcase’ for The Haunted which is a psychological horror which I have been developing with a friend and which I will be shooting early next year.
And finally, if we want to see more of your work where do we look?
My short films and info on my feature projects can be found at www.replacementstudios.com
You can watch the award-winning short The Replacement here: