I'm delighted to be able to bring you an interview with the wonderful Keri Collins, no relation.
Keri is a BAFTA Cymru nominated director. He has written and directed a number of short films for the BBC, and has directed for US network PBS .
He recently directed the feature comedy, 'Convenience' starring Vicky McClure (This is England), Ray Panthaki (Ali G In da House/28 Days Later), Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions/The Dictator/Utopia) and Verne Troyer (Austin Powers/Dr Parnassus)
Keri's last short film 'FUNDAY' was described by Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) as "Deliciously melancholic"; was an official selection at the Raindance Film Festival 2011; was acquired for distribution by Shorts International and nominated for a BAFTA Cymru award for Best Short film.
In 2008, Keri was mentored by Sir Kenneth Branagh after being selected for the prestigious Guiding Lights scheme.
One of my favourite things about Keri's insight is his philosophical and realistic approach to the highs and lows we all go through. He carries a lot of wisdom and he's a very inspirational guy. It's so important to remember that filmmaking isn't just about its technical execution. It's also about dealing with the emotional baggage, knock backs and despondency and making the most of the highest highs when they come too.
Please enjoy Keri's interview and join me in thanking him for devoting his time to us:
you can see more about Keri and his work at his official website:http://www.kericollins.co.uk/
What is your role/career in the film industry?
What are you working on at the moment?
Post-production on my debut feature comedy CONVENIENCE starring Vicky McClure (This is England) and Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions/Utopia).
Developing two new features, one of which set for production early 2014, as well as directing for TV.
What started your interest in film?
I recently found a school report from when I was 11 years old, and it had a note to my parents that said, 'Keri has expressed an interest in making films and television, can you please encourage him to do something more realistic' - thankfully they ignored that advice!
I don't actually remember what first made me want to make films, but I was brought up watching classic BBC sitcoms like Blackadder/Young Ones, plus every Carry On film ever made and anything by Monty Python, so I think it stems from wanting to make comedy originally, and that progressed into film.
I was also obsessed with US 1980s comedies - I don't think there's ever been a better era for film in any country - so many hits and so many classics that have stood the test of time.
What was your first job in the industry?
I didn't do the 'start as a runner and work up from there' route. Until recently I always had unrelated day jobs in offices (ironically something that has now inspired a TV show I'm currently developing with a major prod co). So I just made my own films, self-funded, over and over, learnt from my mistakes that way.
My first proper paid industry job though was as a writer, when one of my scripts was commissioned by BBC Wales to be made into a short film.
What is your favourite British Film? Why?
I know it's not cool to say this, but I love the rom coms that Richard Curtis/Working Title created in the 90s/00s. Those movies elevated British cinema from being famous mainly for dark, gritty social realism, and showed the world that we can also make Hollywood movies.
However my favourite British film of all time is probably The Life of Brian; run closely by Withnail and I and The Holy Grail. The comedy is so acutely observed and so perfectly pitched.
Very recently, Svengali is a hilarious, upbeat British comedy, one of the best in many years.
Favourite film of any nation?
Impossible to pick one, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is definitely up there as one of my favourite movies ever. If there is a better observed and more unique exploration of love, and the psychology of love, then I haven't seen it. My next feature is a unique look at love, but more within a comedy realm than Eternal Sunshine.
Lost In Translation, for me, is also one of the most perfect movies ever made. The casting, the pacing, the location, even the camera is so unobtrusive.
Another favourite is a Norwegian film called Elling, which was nominated for Best Foreign language Oscar in early 00s. It's about two guys leaving a psychiatric ward and sharing a flat together as they try to reintegrate into society. It's so sweet and funny and brilliantly observed.
Amelie as nothing has come close to being as sweet and stylish as that for years.
The Raid, although I could never make a film like that, it's the most brilliant action movie I've ever seen. Gareth Evans created a violent ballet that really is an astonishing cinematic achievement.
Which filmmakers or films have influenced your career?
John Hughes definitely inspired me into always wanting to make hopeful films. It's hard to be really overtly positive nowadays as people can be very cynical, and you can be accused of being cheesy.
So I've always said that I'll never end a film on a downbeat note. No matter what the film is about, I'll always want the characters to have at the very least, a glimmer of hope at the end.
Judd Apatow is also a huge influence, he made commercial comedies edgy again, and they are just so simple; they're just about real life and real characters.
Visually, I simply love Wes Anderson, it's tough to stand out as an auteur these days, and he is most certainly that.
From the UK though, it has to be Danny Boyle - to be as diverse as he has been in his career, you have to be something special.
So inspirational films are: Amelie, Eternal Sunshine, Ferris Bueller, Trainspotting, American Beauty and Anchorman.
Did any key individuals mentor or support and guide you when you first embarked on your career?
I didn't have any industry support in the early days of my career as I simply didn't know anyone. I lived in Wales and come from a family where nobody else had ever worked in the film industry.
However, in 2008-09, I was incredibly fortunate to be selected for the prestigious Guiding Lights mentoring scheme, run by the then UKFC, and Lighthouse Arts; which saw me being mentored by the wonderful Kenneth Branagh.
Which film would you have loved to have worked on?
I wish I'd made Anchorman, the most brilliant comedy of recent years and must have been so much fun to make.
What's the first film you ever saw?
I think it was ET, in the cinema, and I was about 4 and hid behind the seat for the whole film!
Who's your favourite director?
Danny Boyle, Michel Gondry, John Hughes, Judd Apatow
What's your favourite line or scene from a film? Why?
Too hard to select one but some of my favourites are:
The scene at the end of Eternal Sunshine where Clem and Joel have just met, seemingly for the first time, unaware that they had already been together and had erased their memories. Then they listen to the audio tapes of why they wanted to erase each other from their minds the last time.
There's such a brilliant irony in a couple who have just met, having to listen to each other's worst points, because you know that armed with that info, they will probably be able to overcome all that shit next time around.
"60% of the time, it works every time... It's got bits of real panther in it." Anchorman
"It's like that old joke, 'Doc my brother's crazy, he thinks he's a chicken. I'd turn him in, but I need the eggs'... I guess that's how I feel about relationships now; they're irrational and crazy and absurd, but we keep going through it, because most of us... need the eggs." Annie Hall
Favourite screen kiss? Why?
I don't think the screen kiss has the same weight as it used to, but I love the simple kiss between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannsen at the end of Lost In Translation - it's not a romantic kiss, but it's so full of love and emotion.
Who's your favourite screen hero/villain? Why?
I prefer anti-heroes/flawed heroes like Lester Burnham. Normal guys with normal flaws and problems, but doing something radical about them.
My favourite villains are normally people in positions of authority (not sure what that says about me!) like Lumbergh (Office Space) and Edward Rooney (Ferris Bueller).
Favourite actor's performance?
So hard to choose just one as there have been so many over the years but in recent years, Gosling and Williams in Blue Valentine, and Carrey in Eternal Sunshine.
Funniest moment on film?
The scene in Holy Grail where Arthur asks the peasants who lives in the castle and receives a political diatribe, "Who made you King then? I didn't vote for you. Just because some watery tart threw a scimitar at you is no basis for a system of governance."
The scene in Life of Brian where the followers split into two factions, following the water gourd or the sandal. Its just such a brilliant observation on how easily a religion can divide into different denominations.
Favourite last line to a film?
The unheard whisper in the ear in Lost in Translation - so brilliant to resist the temptation of giving the audience a soppy line of dialogue, but leaving it so ambivalent.
Most shocking scene in a film?
I don't really watch gruesome films or horrors, they're just not my thing. However, I did watch Funny Games and found the whole thing just so monumentally depressing, without a single redeeming moment of hope in it. That kind of cinema is just not my thing at all, although obviously has its place and has its fans.
What films would you recommend to people that they probably haven't seen?
I'm not very good at finding unusual films that nobody else has seen as my tastes are pretty mainstream. Elling is one for sure. Svengali is not out yet, but everyone should see it, it will become a cult classic.
Most moving scene, moments, films?
The scene I mentioned in question 12, from Eternal Sunshine. Where Joel asks Clem to wait, as she's about to walk away for good, and she says he will grow to hate her, and he just says, 'Okay' accepting it, but still willing to be with her. Beautiful.
The end of Blue Valentine, where Ryan Gosling walks away and his little kid is trying to stop him. Breaks my heart every time.
My best advice regarding fending off despondency:
You have to be positive. It's the most important thing in your career, and in life in general. Stay positive no matter what happens. People like to work with positive, enthusiastic people, it can be infectious and can give you the edge. If you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
Be prepared to take the rough with the smooth, this is an industry of euphoric highs and crippling lows - no matter how grounded and level headed you are as a person, there will be good times and bad times, so you have to be prepared to deal with both extremes. So, even if you are feeling like it's all hopeless and you want to give up, you have to believe and know that something great could be around the corner.
Have a life outside of your film work. I know a few people who have forsaken lovers/family/friends/hobbies/fun in the name of making films, and some of them can be a little bitter when things don't go their way, because they don't have anywhere to escape to, and anyone to escape with. Living your life is important, it doesn't make you any less committed to your career.
Guiding Lights is obviously now a very well established, prestigious scheme for mentoring the new generation of film talent. It's a phenomenally exciting scheme and helped me out a huge amount. It provided me with lots of very practical information on things like pitching, the business of filmmaking in this country in particular and some great connections with prod companies and industry figures.
Obviously being mentored by Kenneth Branagh was just truly fantastic; he is such a gentleman, and was incredibly supportive despite being in the middle of directing THOR at the time. He read and watched some of my work, gave me feedback and general support with questions and things.
One of the best things with Guiding Lights though, was meeting the other filmmakers, my peers - it was kind of like being back at university - a bunch of very talented, handpicked filmmakers in various disciplines. I have worked with a number of them since, and am working with one of them on my next feature.
Living in Wales
Like I said previously, you have to have a life outside of film, I find that much easier to do by not living in London. I love London, but there are too many distractions, I'd never get any writing done if I lived there! Living in Wales helps me clear my head and work.
However, Wales has an absolutely brilliant independent film industry. There are some hugely talented filmmakers just getting on with things and making films and not letting their non-London location be a hindrance. In fact, most use it to their advantage. I want to shoot as much as I can in Wales, Cardiff is a beautiful, cool, vibrant city that is just not featured in films. It's always doubling up as London, and never just shown as Cardiff.
My next feature is a rom-com set in Cardiff, so I hope to help make it a place that people want to shoot in.
I guess my main advice would be, wherever you live, you have to find your network of peers, find like-minded people and make stuff with them. You will figure out who you like working with and who you don't, but it's all about just continuing to make films.
There is absolutely no reason why you can't have a career if you aren't based out of London - as long as you are prepared to travel to London a lot for meetings!
Guiding Lights is a scheme that encourages you to be pro-active and continue to work for yourself.
I come from a family where nobody else has made films before me, so I have always found it tough getting through the doors of the people that matter. That is where Guiding Lights really helped, and then subsequently, where having an agent really helped. However, it's still all on you to make connections, make good work and get that work out there.
There is a lot of nepotism in the industry, but some of those people are actually really good and would have probably made it anyway, some of those people are terrible and despite their connections, won't make it. Knowing the right people will only take you so far, you still have to be good at what you do!