The Limelight Index: Neil Oseman – Director/Cinematographer
So, I came across this blog with this guy who’s made an entire feature film for only 26 grand and posted it online for us all to see, this guy is Neil Oseman. Neil is a British filmmaker battling through the world of independent moviemaking and sharing some truly insightful knowledge on the craft. Featured below is an interview I did with Neil to find out a bit more about him and his approach to making films.
When did you first get interested in filmmaking?
When I was a teenager I had a piece of software called Deluxe Paint that could do very crude animations. One day, one of them got put onto a video for some presentation in school. This got me interested, and I managed to borrow my Granddad’s camcorder and started putting live-action with the animation. The live-action gradually took over.
Which filmmakers/movies influence your work?
The two big influences on me when I was starting out were the Back to the Future films that I still absolutely love and Jurassic Park. I grew up in the age of VHS when cinema attendance was down so my parents never really took me to the cinema. So, going to see Jurassic Park at the cinema had a huge impact on me. I sought out The Making of Jurassic Park, which was the first time that I really had any understanding of how a film was made.
Are there any other books on the subject that stand out to you?
I think the Guerilla filmmaker’s handbooks are essential, I’ve definitely learnt a lot from these. However, they can get a little depressing in places because they constantly hammer home the reality of making films! Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez is also highly influential. I just love to collect books on filmmaking, there’s plenty out there.
Can you tell us more about your feature film ‘Soul Searcher’?
Yeah. Well, firstly the whole thing is online at YouTube now, which is linked via my blog. There is also a making of featurette you can watch too and I recently put up a twenty-minute video that breaks down the finances, what everything was spent on and the various distribution deals.
The film originally started off as a short film that I made in 2000 when I was twenty. A couple of years later I developed this into a feature length script with a friend of mine. We tried approaching TV and film companies for funding, but we didn’t get anywhere. So in the end we just decided to make it on the absolute minimum. I’d had a good year and put two or three grand in, I managed to convince friends and relatives to help us out too and gradually we obtained enough money.
It was a six-week shoot in the autumn of 2003. It was also a night shoot so it was very cold and lots went wrong, which is all covered in the documentary. But, amazingly everyone who worked on it said that they had a really good time!
You must have had good spirit on set?
Yeah I think so. Morale is definitely important. When you work on a low-budget film you really don’t know if it’s going to be any good or not. So, anything you can do to keep people motivated, for example showing people the dailies or letting them see the monitor during the shoot. I cut a trailer halfway through the six weeks of shooting Soul Searcher that was a huge motivator for the crew.
What has led you to specialising in cinematography?
Well I still direct, but I just end up doing more cinematography as it takes a lot less time to work this way than starting up your own project. I’ll be directing a short soon in Nottingham for a writer I work with, so I think after this I’ll decide on what the next step will be for me.
Have you got any big plans for the near future?
Earlier this year, I finished a short called Stop/Eject which is currently doing its film festival circuit. The guy who wrote this is currently working on a feature script that might be a future project. I also have a science fiction piece that was written for me this year, which would be quite a big-budget short. So, lots of different things to be working on!
What’s your approach to crowdfunding?
I used it for Stop/Eject so I’ll probably use it again for future projects. It is difficult and it’s becoming hugely over saturated; you need to have something about your project to really make it stand out. A subject matter that has a strong interest group for example, documentaries tend to be more successful at the moment.
What’s your favourite thing about filmmaking?
I just like creating stuff. It’s in my blood; I need to keep making stuff. I like to be able to take an audience into another world. Reality dramas interest me less as I’m very interested in sci-fi and fantasy elements of the imagination.
Any advice to filmmakers starting out?
It’s so easy now to just go out and make films. Everyone has access to a camera. So teach yourself, but also try and work on other people’s films. Then you’ll be forced to work to the standards they demand, which may raise your game when you go back to doing your own projects. Try and get involved as much as possible, even if it means making tea!
Watch Neil’s feature film below!
Visit Neil’s blog