Norfolk-born filmmaker Josh Trett studied film and moving image production in at the Norwich University of the Arts, before co-founding Trett Studios with his brother Matthew. Since then, he has Directed a number of award-winning shorts, including Above the Fold, Do you know how Christmas trees are grown? and The Black Shuck. He spoke to Indy Film Library about the pros and cons of independent filmmaking, and how he has learned from “fucking up” throughout his journey.
What are the best things about independent filmmaking?
The main positive is the creative freedom it lends, which studios, executives and films with higher budgets do not get. This is why you often see Hollywood Directors return to indie filmmaking – Joss Whedon creating Much Ado About Nothing after Avengers. Independent filmmaking is great for up-and-coming filmmakers to find their feet and develop a sense of style.
For a first-time filmmaker looking to start their inaugural project, what are the key first steps?
Don’t get tied down with worrying about a lack of resources. For a first-time-project you can’t worry about the risks the film should be used as training to make mistakes – and then fuck up 10 or 20 more times. I often have people messaging me asking what camera or what editing software to use for their first time and the short answer is just “whatever you have access to.” Smartphone cameras and free editing software are fine. The cheapest off-the-shelf computer is 10 times faster than what was used to render the effects of Jurassic Park.
How do you deal with cast and crew as an independent Director? What limitations are there?
I somewhat envy independent filmmakers that manage to get such a quantitative cast and crew. When you’re relying on people’s time for favours or free, they can drop out at a moment’s notice. It’s something I really consider before starting a project. I generally write and produce my films to have as little cast and crew members as possible, mainly due to budget restraints. Scheduling is key – I need to shoot as much in as little time as possible. My last project was filmed over a weekend and an evening. I think the priority is to make sure everyone involved knows what is expected from them from day one.
Do your ideas often out-strip your resources? How do you cope with that?
This is something I have struggled with, but am getting better at. I try to use restraints to force further creativity and not the other way around. If you try and tell a large-scale story on a small-scale budget, it’s not guaranteed to work. At the end of the day, a majority of the audience do not care how much money the film cost to produce, and it’s the story they want. It’s better to try and tell a strong smaller-scale plot for less money than compromise the narrative by outstretching resources.
What support mechanisms have you benefitted from in order to keep making films?
Film festivals and other screening events have been great for showcasing my work. With the proliferation of online video content, there is a lot of noise. It’s a nice change to have work screened to a room full of engaged people. Film festivals are also great for not only meeting other filmmakers, but getting a sense of what films are out there and which ones have success in the festival circuit.
Taking criticism on-board can be difficult – how have you handled reviews over the years?
It’s difficult and it doesn’t get that much easier. With any piece of art there are going to be people who love it and some that hate it. I think knowing what feedback to take on-board and what feedback to ignore is important.
Has your filmmaking changed as a result? If so, how?
It’s hard to say for certain if my filmmaking has changed due to criticism. As proud as I am of my work, I am also aware of its flaws – I try to reflect on what worked and what didn’t.
What advice would you give other filmmakers when it comes to receiving feedback?
Know what feedback to respond to and what feedback to ignore. It would be too easy to tell you to shrug off the bad stuff, but that won’t help anyone progress. I’m not sure taking all feedback on-board will necessarily mould you into a better filmmaker – I think that’s where being your own critic and relying on reflection can be a great tool.
Trett Films’ The Black Shuck is available to view now on Amazon Prime.