Monthly Archives: March 2016

#3. Viewfinder

VF SIG IMAGE[1][1]My name is Matt Ford and I run a social enterprise called Viewfinder that creatively develops young people. We explore relevant social and personal issues through creative mediums like film, theatre and drama and have worked with various councils, youth offending services, youth organisations, charities and third party organisations. Our most recent work has been a film highlighting Child Sexual Exploitation that is being used in Secondary Schools nationwide and a series of short video clips exploring the notion of Restorative Justice with young people in Luton.

I am also a professional Writer with a Masters in Creative Writing from Birmingham City University, and I have written and directed two of my own short films. ‘Losing Innocence’ was screened at the L.A. Indie Film Festival 2013 and the Southern California Creative & Innovative Film Festival 2014, and ‘Redundant’ has just been entered on to the 2016/2017 festival circuit.

Is there much enthusiasm for the arts from young people in the region (Midlands)?

The young people that we work with all seem to love the opportunity to do anything creative. The arts offer such a great release, and they can be so positive and engaging, that young people tend to respond really well to any activity or project that stimulates them creatively or that lets them explore their own talents and passions. It is such a departure from a traditional classroom environment and it comes with such a sense of freedom, that I think it really speaks to young people more than most, and that enthusiasm, that exuberance that you simply can’t fake, is what enables them to be some of the most creative people that I know.

What do you find is the biggest problem for those young people that aspire to pursue a career in film/drama?

I think it can boil down to two main things, money and experience. The fact is, they don’t know where to get it and how much of it they need. Acting and drama has always, unfortunately, come with a stigma attached to it, one that it is a waste of time, that it won’t earn them a living and that they’d be better off learning to be an electrician or whatever. Now, there’s nothing wrong with learning trades or being academic, in fact we encourage it as much as possible, but many young people feel that it’s one or the other. They don’t know where to go to get involved, they don’t know where to go to learn and gain the confidence to audition, and they don’t realise how many options they actually have to be creative without hindering their futures. Things are definitely better now than they were when I was younger for example, but I still feel that creativity and a persons wish to purse it is sometimes under-nourished. Particularly under a Tory Government, but that’s a whole other interview.

What advice would you give to a young person wanting to explore film/drama?

Nowadays, things are so much more accessible than they used to be. Films are being made on iphones, and online platforms like YouTube and Vimeo can launch careers and sustain ideas. In a few years, TV will be as retro as Vinyl! My advice to any young person wanting to explore it is just that, explore it. Write a script, make a film on your phone, borrow a camera, share your creativity online, be proud of the mistakes you make and learn from them. The more you do something, the better you’ll become at it. My first film was littered with mistakes and the things I make now still are…but that’s the beauty of the process. The opportunities you have to create and share something are amazing. It’s really a beautiful thing and I’d say just dive right in. Embrace it and fall in love with it.

What advice would you give to the parents of that young person?

Encourage and support them. I was lucky to have really supportive parents who indulged me as I explored all sorts of things, music, writing, drama, film…they were great by just being there and showing an interest, even when I was a typical moody teenager pretending I didn’t want them to. It really helps, just knowing that your ideas are of some sort of value to somebody, it allows you to push ahead and develop. Support, in any form, is the most vital of things for anybody, not just a creative.

How do you nurture talent?

Talent is as individual as the person who possesses it, so ways of nurturing it need to be individual too. One person may need to be constantly motivated whilst another may need more patience. It all depends who they are and what they need. It’s one of the things that makes what I do so interesting, the need to be so adaptable and empathetic to so many different people. It teaches you a lot about yourself, as well as the craft of directing. Across the board though, one of the most important things is to let them know that they have your support and your time. It’s important to make them feel comfortable and safe in expressing themselves and stepping out of their comfort zone to realise their potential, and you can only do that by trying to understand them as an individual.

How do you measure success with those showing aspirations/interests in the creative field?

I have always felt that the only true measure of success is happiness. None of us can ask for anything else and so if somebody is happy striving to find the ending to a story, or struggling to get noticed with their short films, or trying to find somebody to take a chance on them…then they are already a success. It is so difficult to break into the arts and takes luck as well as talent, so there is no point judging your success by what an industry determines, it will always change, but happiness is the one constant. Having a dream to aspire to should make you happy.

Are there many opportunities for young people to gain on-set experience in the region (Midlands)?

I work extensively with Daniel Alexander, a multi-award winning film maker who also happens to be one of the nicest and most humble people I know. His company ( is always providing opportunities on numerous productions and as a matter of fact, they have just released an open call for creative people in all fields to get involved with an upcoming project called “Film Ward”.
I am always looking to work with different young people on all sorts of creative projects and there are numerous drama organisations and film makers looking for help, it is just a case of searching (Facebook is always a good bet) and putting yourself out there. Obviously, for young people I would always say do your homework on the individuals you are hoping to work with, and that’s why it’s so important to have the support, and protection, of parents/guardians, but everybody I have worked with is so accommodating and enthusiastic about getting young people involved.

Do you receive much support from local colleges/universities?

It depends what we try and do. We have a great relationship with Birmingham City University, in particular their head of Psychology Professor Craig Jackson, and he has been amazingly supportive in everything that we do but it is more hit and miss with mainstream schools. Our main source of support comes from youth clubs, youth offending services, councils and young people themselves. Sometimes, their word of mouth is by far the most effective form of support and bringing people on board. We also work with 3rd party organisations like Recre8- a drama based psychology company ( whom we work with all the time. They are great as they have so much experience and so many networks and are really passionate about creative work with young people.

How influential is lure of celebrity to young people?

I can’t say it isn’t influential, but I’m not sure how much of a lure it is and how much of a part it plays in getting young people involved in things like acting and film. I once heard it said that art is not art unless it’s shared, so I guess it could be argued that celebrity exposure is the pinnacle for any artist, but I don’t think it’s important at the most fundamental level. I think that young people get involved for fun and they keep on with it because they enjoy it. That’s the main thing, for anybody doing anything, the enjoyment. When that stops, then there’s something wrong. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think young people saw the adulation, attention and lifestyles that celebrities have and maybe on some level were motivated by it, or even desired it for themselves, it’s only natural. I genuinely think though that the overriding reason for them expressing themselves creatively and for continuing to do so, is for the love of it.

Are there any young filmmakers/actors that you think we should keep an eye on?

Every time I work on something I find myself blown away by the talent, commitment and sheer energy of the young people I am lucky enough to work alongside. There is so much potential out there, so much desire to work and create and share that it is criminal how underexplored the region is. Recently, I wrote and directed a film about Child Sexual Exploitation that was developed alongside Recre8 and Birmingham City Council, and the three leads in that were quite simply outstanding. Nakiece Brade, has recently graduated from Birmingham City University with her degree in performing arts, Curtis Wright is a multi-talented young man who is currently working on his own social enterprise as well as acting and Georgia Neath, is a stunning young actor who is now represented by Actors Own Management. They are all beautiful people with genuine talent and the work they did would make any actor proud. I know that they are all actively working to get more exposure and they deserve it, so I would recommend all three of them to anybody.

Viewfinder Twitter account.

You can view the trailer for the film, ‘Bait’, here

You can view the trailer for ‘losing Innocence” here:

Films Seen By Outward This Week

Casting Announcement – Junction 6

Casting Announcement Shelley Draper We’re pleased to announce Shelley Draper has agreed to play the role of Jane in Junction 6.

Shelley is experienced in film, theatre and commercials. She recently appeared on stage in Troublesome People, playing the lead in the 2015 Sainsbury’s Red Nose Day commercial and the award winning short film The End.

We’re looking forward to working with Shelley and we’re confident she’ll do a great job in bringing Jane to life.

Below is a link to Shelley’s IMDB page.

More casting announcements will be made soon!

Films Seen By Outward This Week

#2. Lauren Hatchard – Filmmaker

Lauren Hatchard

Lauren Hatchard

My name is Lauren Hatchard and I am a freelance filmmaker based in Birmingham. I love the variety of work that I get as a freelancer; from camera assisting in Thailand, editing in Milan, making short films in Ireland and organising hundreds of extras on a Bollywood feature film, every week is different. My background in fine art and photography is what uncovered my passion for visual storytelling, my degree in ‘Advertising & Commercial Film Production’ taught me the craft of the production process and my film industry experience has taught me that I love collaborating with likeminded others.


1. What films inspired you to pursue a career in film?

When I was young I remember watching behind the scenes documentaries on both ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Star Wars’ and I just remember being fascinated by all the work that goes on behind the camera. I am a huge fan of Michel Gondry and have lost count of the amount of times I have watched ‘Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind’. Gondry’s playful and innovative style of filmmaking has influenced my own short films and music videos. I love his use of in-camera trickery, it reminds me of when I was young and I used to make ‘magic videos’ with my sisters – making objects appear and disappear like magic!

2. What films/filmmakers inspire you today?

I have been very inspired by filmmaker and Birmingham’s Electric Cinema owner, Tom Lawes. He recently completed his feature film ‘Monochrome’ which I had the pleasure of working on. Tom approached ‘Monochrome’ as a complete auteur and had a handle over every element of the film, from writing the script through to composing the soundtrack. Not only does he have a real focused vision for what he is making but he also collaborates with a small crew of like-minded individuals who he can trust in and develop. The six weeks on Monochrome were like six weeks with a family, it was such a fun and creative atmosphere and everyone was driven by Tom’s passion and vision. It is this style of filmmaking that I love and is the reason I got into filmmaking.

3. Do you think there’s a healthy filmmaking scene within the region?

I have always been advised to move to London, but I have resisted. Whilst developing my career, Birmingham has been a fantastic base as I continue to grow my network of contacts in the area. I have been fortunate to work on four fairly big feature films over the past year, all intended for theatrical distribution, all being shot within Birmingham and Midlands locations including The Girl With All The Gifts. It’s great to be involved with films in which the story is actually set in Birmingham, much like Justin Edgar’s film ‘The Marker’ (in post-production). I think the Birmingham crew that I have had the pleasure of working with are all really hard working and personable people, a lot of whom I would now describe as good friends. I am proud to be one of the Brummie crew when a new film comes to the area. I can certainly see that there is an increase in films being shot in the region and I am excited to see what else comes our way.

4. You have been very successful in the camera department; do you have any desires to direct?

I have been fortunate with my experience in the camera department so far and I am very grateful to those who have believed in me and given me opportunities to learn and develop new skills along the way. I have also enjoyed directing short films, music videos, documentaries and most recently self-shooting as EPK Director (behind the scenes interviews etc.), but I would say I am most happy when I have a camera in my hands. There’s a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the director, but I think if I had a story I was really passionate about telling and a crew I really trusted then I can see this as something to aspire towards chasing in the future.

Lauren Hatchard 1

5. What do you look for in a script?

I want to be grabbed straight away, the first paragraph can completely set the tone and either hook you or lose you. Sometimes I sneakily read the last line too, just to see where we end up, but the main bulk of the story is the journey we follow to get to that last frame. It’s an interesting, believable and likeable character that will make you want to follow this journey with them. I like to read a script from an audience’s point of view and I like to imagine what we will be seeing on the cinema screen as I am reading it. I personally love scripts that transport the viewer to another realm, not necessarily fantasy but an imaginative concept that plays with the creative medium of film to tell its story. Also, it would be great to see more scripts that can pass the Bechtel test and are a bit less formulaic and predictable.

6. What does the term ‘zero budget filmmaking’ mean to you?

There is always a cost involved making films. My experience of zero budget filmmaking has still put me out of pocket; it just means that there isn’t any budget to pay a crew. However, it’s a great way of starting out and making films for your portfolio. I made a music video for under £100, managed to get a location for free, enlist the help of five experienced visual effects artists and also roped in some creative friends to make some costumes, props and to do make-up for a sci-fi. You have to think on your toes and utilise your contacts and connections to get what you want, guerrilla style. I have also taken part in various film competitions, that will involve getting people together over a weekend and you have to beg, borrow and steal everything you can in a short space of time. It makes you a great problem solver and fast decision maker under pressure, which are great skills for being on any set.

7. What aspects do you look for in a no pay project to compensate for the absence of a working wage?

I tend to shy away from no pay projects now, as sadly the bills wont pay themselves. However, at the start of my career I was looking to get as much work experience as possible in order to get my name out there and make new contacts. It certainly has to be beneficial in helping the old CV, but most importantly it has to be a pleasant experience. If there is no pay then the crew should be treated with upmost respect, that means reasonable and agreed working hours, no over running, offering travel expenses or lift share options and lots and lots of nice food. Having decent food on shoots can completely lift the spirits of the crew, look after your crew and they will come back again tomorrow.

8. Do you think zero budget filmmaking can help burgeoning filmmakers achieve discipline that perhaps film school doesn’t teach?

I did a really good degree course and was able to hone the craft of guerrilla filmmaking as well as the professional production process. As a student you have to work with the resources you have to hand and hustle your way into negotiating what you want with locations etc. Also as a student, the chances are that you wont have any budget and all the crew are fellow students wanting to get experience, so it’s similar to zero budget filmmaking. However, for those who can’t afford film school or if higher education hasn’t worked out for them, I think that the best way to learn about making films, is to get out there and make them!

Lauren Hatchard - Birmingham filmmaker

9. What advice would you give to someone starting out in filmmaking?

I could go on for quite a while here but I will try and keep it brief. Get some kit, gather a crew and go and shoot! If you’re still at school or college you could join us at ACT2CAM – the film production company for young people that offers summer residential film camps for hands on filmmaking experience Enter a film challenge with some friends and shoot a short film. I can strongly recommend the Offline Film Festival in Ireland – you can have your script prepared and rehearsed in advance, but within 60 hours you are given kit and have to shoot and edit and hand in your short film and see it screened at the end of the weekend on the big screen to be judged for prizes. It’s all too easy to sit on ideas, but by entering a timed challenge it forces you to make a film and whether it’s a masterpiece or not, you will have learned so much. Also making mistakes is ok. Make your mistakes and learn from them. Test out equipment and also test out your ideas by pitching them to people. But also learn from others, ask to shadow professionals or do some work experience, or perhaps get on a trainee scheme – it’s an industry of creative collaboration and working with people.

You can find Lauren on Vimeo, Facebook,  Twitter and IMDB