The Limelight Index: Jonnie Dean – Writer/Director
As a writer and director what first sparked off your real interest in filmmaking?
My Father worked in the film industry as a carpenter on films like ‘Oliver The Musical’ and ‘Cromwell’. He used to tell me his stories about being on set and how they’d shoot certain scenes. This really inspired me and I used to sneak off sometimes to use my father’s camcorder. Then i started writing and shooting mini films as well as starring in them.
I think since primary school i’ve had an interest in making shorts, but i started to finance them myself about seven years ago. I’ve always had the idea of being a Director at the back of my mind, but I get more serious about my passion with every film i make.
Where does your passion for film as a medium originate?
For me, films have always been a family get together, going to the cinema as well as watching a film that suddenly catches your attention on TV. I think when Jurassic Park was released, that was a turning point for me, as I used to constantly read the sleeve notes of the vhs about Steven Speilberg. I remember discussing it and re-playing the scenes with my friends in the playground, that’s when I started to make films.
You’ve had success with your short film Disenchanted, I hear you now have plans to make this into a feature?
Yes definitely, I kept the concept of the idea from the short and made it into a much larger scale. I’m currently still writing the script, which is my first feature screenplay. I kept putting back my desire on writing such a long story, but since the beginning of this year, it’s really developed into something magical.
I am planning to shoot a few scenes of the film next year, as well as developing concept art, posters and storyboards to sell the project. I hope to pitch the project in the summer next year. The project has become my real passion in filmmaking, and I feel when the film gets made, it will greatly benefit children as well as giving them some fantastic entertainment!
You also have a feature documentary in production, ‘Peace: A Child’s Dream’. How did this project come about?
This project really crept up on me. It developed as a small project, but then I met great people like Leon Stuparich (Director of Road To Peace) who saw the potential in the project and made me realise that I could create an exciting take on promoting children’s viewpoints and ideas on World Peace. I was travelling around India in 2012, working on a short documentary, and the idea developed while I was staying in a relaxed retreat in the Himalayas. So, I can give thanks to India for inspiring me to make this project.
Has it been a struggle independently financing your work?
Yes, I’ve worked with very little money, but it has given me the chance to think more creative and to use what resources I have. I wouldn’t recommend using a credit card to pay for a film that you will struggle to pay off, and what i’ve found is if the project has a good cause, like promoting children’s voices, you will certainly find that people are willing to help you out more. I also think if you’re honest with people, they will see the potential in the project and in you as a filmmaker.
I think the industry attracts people that seem to use people for their talent and offer little in return, but if you have a balance, treat collaborators fairly, then you will create good vibes on set as well as when you are promoting the film in the festival run.
Are there any other projects in the works we should know about?
Recently i’ve wanted to create some videos for teaching new filmmakers, or even create a talk show. So i’ll be working on that for now. Also my Father is making a film soon so i’m hoping to help out with the production. However, i’ve got a few more shorts up my sleeve, but we will have to wait and see.
Finally, can you give any parting advice for young filmmakers on the industry?
What i’ve learnt is don’t rush your learning – everyone wants to make a feature straight away. However, if you are serious about it, nurture your idea and let it flow, you will find other projects that will give you a different perspective on your ideas, and yourself.
Also, filmmakers have to naturally keep busy, so try and make some mini films while your working on your writing. Don’t feel bad if you have a bad experience working on set on someone’s film or one of your films. I feel young filmmakers put a time limit on when they should have their big break, don’t worry about the break!
The beauty of film is that your life experience shows in your writing and directing, which gives a certain energy to the film and when you make films collectively, that’s when magic happens!
An interesting perspective. I specifically like what Jonnie is saying about making people vision a cause through your film. I believe that no matter what the circumstances, fiction, non-fiction, horror, romance, if it’s a great story then it deserves to be told. After all, you won’t build an audience if they see no cause. Jonnie also gets at the point that there is no time limit constraint to yourself as a filmmaker (there will be on set mind!), and that you should let the ideas flow and the work will eventually get done. I agree with this to a certain extent, in that you have your whole life to nurture your path as a filmmaker and this should be curated, but I personally feel that their are so many opportunities and great stories out there that you don’t have enough time in your life to possibly fit enough in! But, of course, don’t rush your learning, as Jonnie did mention, but don’t prevent yourself from learning. I say, make films to learn.
View Jonnie’s film page on Vimeo.
Jonnie on Facebook.