Q and A with Nick Tree Director of ” This is your time ” His film was winner for “Best Cinematography” & “Best Editing” and nominated for “Best Story” at LFFF2016
Q. How and when did you become interested in filmmaking?
A. I worked in a cinema in my hometown when I was 16 years old, I used to show people to their seats and then on the quiet days I could sneak into the back and watch a film for free. I’ve always been the kind of person who is more excited about the doing than the watching of everything, so I started to play around with cameras at this time and managed to pick up work, initially as a documentary editor and then as a camera operator and later on as a director.
Q. Why make a fashion film?
A. I’m a big fan of fashion photography firstly. There is a real freedom and visual sensibility about the fashion world and so that lends itself perfectly to the medium of moving image. There isn’t anywhere you can’t take a fashion film as long as you are running parallel to the brand and the ethos of that brand, your imagination is your only limit at that point.
Q. What makes fashion film different to other short film genres?
A. I’m not sure that it is much different, it just depends on how you incorporate the fashion brand into the narrative, that is if you’re working with a brand at all. I think you can still tell a sophisticated story in both formats, perhaps a fashion film is visually lead and dialogue can play less of a role which is always fun. With ours we were very much driven by the poem, the narrative and the reality of the talent that we used.
Q. How did you cast this film “This is Your Time”? What were you looking for in your characters?
A. We didn’t really cast, when you watch the film you’ll realise that the cast are all real employees of Reiss, so we just had to do a month-long talent scout within the company itself (across several international departments) and then in some cases, fly the talent over to us for the shoot days. I have my producer Luke East and his fantastic team at Reiss to thank for that.
Q. Do you have friends making movies as well and do you sense competition amongst you. What do you think of their movies?
A. Yeah, I have a few friends and colleagues who are making some fantastic films and music videos at the minute. A lot of us started out working together on projects (and still do) so I wouldn’t say we are competitive. I think we’re very inspiring to each other and driven by one another’s motivation to get out there and film in the cold, to create something better than the last thing that we made – constantly.
Q. What was your original concept for making the film?
A. I met up with Luke from Reiss with a view to making a campaign piece to help recruit new employees. I then went away to come up with some ideas to give this premise some energy. I do tend to come up with a lot of ideas in the middle of the night and on this occasion I found myself sat up in bed at some unknown hour, unable to sleep and started to write a little poem around the idea of motivation, childhood aspirations and the notion of never giving up when you have a chance, all with this project loosely in mind. We then put our heads together and came up with the idea of using real employees from within the company to be our talent. This would fulfil the part of the narrative that shows an inspirational company made up of inspirational talent. It also looked to dispel the myth that everyone in fashion is just interested in fashion, it is more about the people than the garments and we wanted to visualise that. I also was excited about not using models and having a grit to the visuals that you wouldn’t have achieved with models setting unobtainable goals.
Q. What was the biggest challenge for you in the process of making this film?
A. I’d say the biggest challenge was shooting sometimes 3 different people a day in 3 different locations. On such a tight schedule we really had to get the biggest, most impressive and most gruelling movements out of our cast from the first camera set up. We didn’t have time to experiment which I usually like to do on the day. It also meant that there was an added stress of driving kit around between locations and trying to keep on top of an increasingly essential story board, ticking off an impossible amount of shots as we go. This was all made with a ridiculously stripped down crew so I was mostly operating the camera for speed of translation between the storyboard and the getting the shot as quickly as possible. I also had the help of Nigel Crane and Barney Gammond who were fantastic at setting up the underwater shots in particular and the drone shot was captured by the fantastic guys at floating focus. The final challenge came with the music. Myself and Tom Keech went through multiple ideas to come up with this final piece which is a constantly moving, constantly changing score to fit alongside the visuals and hopefully accentuate them. Tom did a great job of interpreting a guide track that I’d set up initially. We then tried a method where by I would speak into a recording microphone, whilst the video played out on his studio screen, exactly what I was hoping would happen. This lead to me shouting words like “big strings here” or “bang, bang, bang and silence”. I have played music with Tom for 10 years and only he would know how to turn these documented ramblings into something wonderful and complimentary.
Q. What are the key elements to making an effective fashion film?
I don’t think there are any key elements, I think you have to do what is right for that particular premise and the fashion brand itself. The key element is just the completion of a project, not letting something fall by the wayside half way through. I think this is true of all forms of creativity, it’s often too easy to get what you want out of the beginning of a project and never finish it, particularly a labour of love. I’ve been guilty of that in the past.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
I would just say, be open to ideas coming from anywhere. Both cinematically, by referencing ideas and people who’s work you enjoy, as well as getting your head away from all the screens and just walking around and jotting down ideas as they arrive. I should probably take that advice on board myself.