Lecturer, multiple short award winning, Dr. Mikey Murray specialises in Film Production and Screenwriting at LSFM. He started the Indie-Lincs film festival “to help independent filmmakers from around the world showcase their films in Lincoln.” Mikey is pictured social networking with students and he posted about the importance of collaboration from teaching to film-making. He’s been on-location directing Game of Thrones actor Kate Dickie on the set of ‘Natalie’. The film is due for release later this year – for now he found time to reflect …
This time 6 years ago I was working a part-time job in the now defunct retail chain, Comet. Why was I doing that? Because it was what I needed to do to at the time to pay the rent and give myself time to continue my vocation as a filmmaker. I did have an evening job teaching screenwriting at a local college too, and that was not only something I enjoyed, but it was also something that allowed me to stay fundamentally connected to the industry. I learned from my first teaching job that film education institutions are effectively industry hubs and therefore it didn’t take me long to apply for a Graduate Teaching Assistant position at Bangor University that would include PhD study in Film Practice. There was really no argument against packing my bags for North Wales as I’ve always believed that if I was willing to move anywhere, it would allow me to progress my career quicker. I’ve now had spells living and working in Scotland, London, Los Angeles and Wales before ending up here, in Lincoln.
Here in Lincoln, I am still doing the two things I love most in this world; making films and teaching others how to do likewise. As my PhD drew close to completion, I applied for and was successful in getting a permanent position here at LSFM as a lecturer and I am so very glad to be here because it is an exciting and creative centre. The University of Lincoln has an exceptional undergraduate programme for those who want to be screenwriters or filmmakers, and certainly one that I would love to have experienced as an undergrad. When I studied for my BA I had nothing like the access to the same high quality equipment, volume of skilled filmmaking staff, or the unrivalled numbers of fellow student filmmakers that LSFM undergrads enjoy.
My advice to students at LSFM who are particularly focused on filmmaking or screenwriting is to view the University environment as part of the industry that you are hoping to crack – not just as a bridge to industry. You are of course in a safe environment here where you can challenge yourself and make creative mistakes, but don’t forget how important it is to build your skills and learn how to articulate your ideas through reference to the more theoretical elements of your field. You must develop an understanding of the UK industry and marketplace before you graduate because that will help you make the difficult jump to getting paid for what you want to do. If screenwriting and filmmaking is what you want to do, then it is vital that you watch British and independent films and British TV in order to understand the industry that you intend to forge a career in. Furthermore, use your time here to do that thing that you want to do; write screenplays that can be shot for little or no money, or shoot films that don’t require lavish sets or unrealistic funding. In many ways, being a student filmmaker is harder than being a professional one because you have to make films that catch the eye with no money to build a profile for yourself. You must rise to the challenge of minimal resources, but remember that you have the facilities and a volume of like-minded students and staff right on your doorstep in LSFM.
In the past five years I have made four short films with micro budgets. These short films have won awards and screened all over the world at various film festivals. Turn On (2014) was written and directed by Mat Owen and produced by Lester Hughes and me.
The short films I’ve been involved with simply could not have happened without collaborating with many of the contacts I’ve made throughout my life, including individuals that I’ve met through universities as both a student and a member of staff. My most recent short film, ‘Natalie’ is currently in post-production and will include post-production collaborations with LSFM staff, Chris Hainstock, David McSherry and Jon Holmes in sound design, music composition and grading respectively. I’ve also been able to work with talented graduates from the school and was delighted to have graduating LSFM student, Tara Clements on my 4 day film shoot in Scotland recently. Being able to work with highly motivated students and staff is the wonderful thing about being a part of this creative hub of people at LSFM. Additionally, I am now working with a co-screenwriter, Jimmy Osborne and I also met him at the University of Lincoln.
Of course, I’d like to dream that I have some brilliant individual talent as a screenwriter and filmmaker, but the truth is that I have only ever made successful work through meeting and working with hugely talented collaborators. I was able to cast Game of Thrones actor, Kate Dickie in my short film recently because my high school friend (who I still work with) was able to put my screenplay in her hands, and I’m now currently in development on a film with Tore Schmidt, the co-producer of The Danish Girl (2015); a classmate of mine from university fourteen years ago.
The single most important piece of advice I can give to any student at LSFM (or elsewhere) who wants a career in film or television is: Always demonstrate how dedicated you are to your field because that will make people want to work with you. Don’t underestimate the importance of ‘Networking’ with the students and staff who are standing beside you during your three years at LSFM. Make strong connections with them, because the relationships you build here will last you a lifetime in the industry.