When we come across editors and filmmakers with lots of obvious talent, we like to do what we can to help them get noticed and recognized for their skill and hard work. And, selfishly, we like to pick their brains for tips, wisdom and cool ideas!
Today, we had a chance to sit down with one of those people – Joshua Kerr.
Josh is a filmmaker, editor and writer with numerous projects under his belt. He is also the co-founder of GetFilm.com, a media production company with some pretty big-name clients.
In today’s conversation, we dive into a wide variety of topics related to film, education and business.
FEP: So, you’re a real busy guy – not only have you produced four short films, but you are also a director and editor. You own a video production company too, but we’ll get to that later. First, tell us a little bit about your background. What was your childhood like? Did you always want to get into filmmaking?
JK: I consider myself a very lucky person, I didn’t have a difficult childhood and I had a great and highly supportive family. If I had to trace my love of filmmaking I would always site one very specific moment, a point where I became conscious that I had found my calling. I was nine years old, being aided by my mum and dad to make a stop-motion clay animation with an 8mm cine camera that belonged to my grandfather. We had made little films before but this was the first one that was my idea and I got that unique feeling that I was bringing things to life.
FEP: You chose to attend an arts-focused school instead of traditional education. Tell us about that experience. What type of projects were you working on?
JK: Film has always been my passion and I had a clear choice between continuing my A-levels (enduring more of the same) or to take control and do what I loved. It was a no-brainer, so I dropped out and went to college to study ‘moving image’. The college experience was one of the best parts of my film education because there was immense freedom to play with equipment, test ideas, make shorts and experiment. One of these ‘experiments’ was a short film about making a cup of coffee. I wanted a simple activity with a built in narrative then enhance it with dramatic lighting and over exaggerated sound effects. The plan was to see what effect these elements would have and at the time I was surprised to end up with what can only be described as a really small scale action film.
The college experience was one of the best parts of my film education because there was immense freedom to play with equipment, test ideas, make shorts and experiment.
I feel that the only way to learn film is to go out and shoot something and when I went to study film production at the university in Bournemouth shooting became a much rarer occurrence because a big emphasis was put on paperwork and process. Call sheets, shot lists, scripts and development were a big part of my studies and while useful it caused great frustration for someone who likes quick setups. If filmmaking is muscle then I didn’t get a lot of exercise. Having said that I did get the opportunity to direct my first short film Adrift, which I am still very grateful for. However, I do wonder how many more films I might have made had I not attended university.
FEP: After graduation, did you jump straight into working on your own projects or were you interning/assisting on others? Where/how did you hone your skills?
JK: I was never very interested in ‘working my way up’, being a runner or production assistant in the hope I will end up in the director’s chair. I’m stubborn in the sense that I simply won’t do jobs I am not passionate about. So my first move after university was to start a video business where I could make films for a living. I have owned and run two video companies to date and created videos for some very large companies while still funding my personal projects in the meantime. I can’t recommend working on commercial projects enough, because there are a lot of them and you really can build up a lot of real-world experience.
I can’t recommend working on commercial projects enough, because there are a lot of them and you really can build up a lot of real-world experience.
FEP: You dabble in screenwriting as well, are you self-taught? If you have any information to share about your process that would be fantastic!
JK: I must admit I have never read a screenwriting book or been taught formally in any way. I have read scripts others have written, which I think is a great way to see how it translates from page to screen. Ultimately if you do it enough you’ll get good at it. If I have a process, it would really start with writing a beat sheet and scenes list. I want to know how the whole story goes and who the characters are before I open the scriptwriting software. I do enjoy sitting and writing for long stretches so I can live in that world for a while. It can be easy to loose track of characters and their emotional state when writing in little chunks.
FEP: Some of your projects are based on scripts entirely written by you, others have a co-writer or feature writer. Can you give us some insight into the differences between them? Which do you prefer when considering using your time and resources bringing a project to life?
JK: I always start by writing a first draft and possibly a second but often collaborate from that point. A friend of mine, Mark Oakley has been a tremendous help in helping me shape the shorts I’ve worked on to date. I love working with people and will always favour collaboration where possible.
FEP: As an editor on many of your projects, tell us a little bit about your background with that aspect. Where did you learn how to edit and how long did it take before you felt confident behind the keyboard?
JK: I have edited for a long as I have been making films. I didn’t always have software either, I used to have to use a VHS player hooked up to a camcorder to put my films together. This would mean playing back the bit that you liked from the camera and pressing record on the VHS player at the same time. Then you would have to cue up the tape for the next shot so it was entirely linear editing. When I finally had some software I was using Final Cut and bit of iMovie. They offer so much freedom and I was no longer sitting for an entire afternoon pressing play and pause for the sake of a one minute video. Keyboard shortcuts all come with time but with all packages like that you can get fast very quickly.
I have edited for a long as I have been making films. I didn’t always have software either, I used to have to use a VHS player hooked up to a camcorder to put my films together.
FEP: So, there’s always the eternal debate about which software is best…which program are you using and why do you prefer it?
JK: It’s crazy how emotive this subject is, it’s up there with do you prefer digital or film. I currently use Premiere Pro and it is buggy as hell. I used Avid during university but found it so horrendous to use that if I ever see an Avid suite I may have perform an exorcism on it. Nothing quite comes close to my old Final Cut 7 but we do all have to move on I think.
FEP: Along with your short film Notice you have others to your credit such as Adrift, Head In A Box and Director’s Cut. What is it about this format that appeals to you? Have you considered (or had the opportunity for) longer format work?
JK: I have been meaning to transition to a longer format for ages. All of my next projects are features and unless my plans change, Notice might be my last serious short for a while. That said I do always enjoy making episodes of The Signal and Cook Bot because they’re quick and fun to watch.
FEP: Yes, so you also created a review series for YouTube called The Signal. Very different type of project and genre from your other work! How did you come up with the idea and what drives you to keep creating content for the channel?
JK: I love The Signal because it is mouldable. It started it as a very straight off-the-cuff movie review show with my friends George and Winona Sharpe. But a show-per-week for the better part of a year was quite a challenge (especially live). So now we are taking it in a whole new direction. The new series is a lot harder to make because we are setting it in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi world inspired by some of the cheesiest science fiction movies ever made. But I don’t think I have ever seen a genre based movie review show before and we get to have a lot of fun with it. I am driven to make these videos and the Cook Bot series because to me they represent the freedom to grab a camera and just make something. This ability is easy to loose sight of the more you progress a film career.
FEP: One very interesting fact is that your primary occupation is owner/operator of a media production company called GetFilm. When and how did that start?
JK: I started it with friend called Rob Earnshaw who believed in me enough to help get the company started and has continued to help me very step of the way, without him the company would not exist. We have been running it together for five years so I am really proud of the team we have built over that time.
FEP: Did you find it difficult getting your business off the ground in the early days?
JK: During that time, it was really just me sitting in an office with a laptop and tons of anxiety over whether there will be enough consistent work to pay the bills, so a lot of time goes into finding and securing clients. As the company grows so does your confidence in the business and its vision. One good thing about the early stages of the company is that when you are not busy finding work you have a lot more breathing room to learn the intricacies of running the business before it gets too busy.
FEP: You hire other filmmakers to work with some clients on your behalf. What specific qualities do you look for during the hiring process? At what point (if at all) are you reviewing their work and/or stepping in to make changes?
JK: At this stage all of the film work is done by freelancers and I have taken a more managerial role in the company. Early on I set out a style guide for the company so filmmakers had a blueprint for our house style to keep our videos distinctive. Nowadays the production team overseas the filmmakers and makes sure they are putting our style into practice. I sometimes get creatively involved in certain productions when I feel my assistance is necessary but that is quite rare.
Early on when I was filming the promotional and corporate work at GetFilm, I found it to be a great proving ground for filmmaking, trying out techniques and styles.
FEP: Some of the work your company does (such as promo/event/corporate videos) is quite a contrast from your personal projects. Do you find that the two ever influence each other? If so, how?
JK: Early on when I was filming the promotional and corporate work at GetFilm, I found it to be a great proving ground for filmmaking, trying out techniques and styles. It certainly has informed my work, for instance a lot of the office dialogue in Notice is influenced by being in a corporate environment. My new film includes some parody adverts and corporate videos so as much as I would like to say they are very different I do bring the corporate angle with me.
FEP: Do you find that owning your own production company makes it easier to get your personal projects off the ground? I’m sure it’s difficult splitting your time, but are there any benefits such as professional connections you’ve made or having resources like equipment already in place?
JK: Certainly in terms of equipment and resources but there as always there are challenges of time and money. I will say that running a business has a lot of transferrable skills to producing and directing. Both require the ability to build strong relationships with others to get something produced as well as getting used to picking up the phone for a cold call. So if anything it has been most useful in developing my skills personally.
FEP: Finally, where you do see yourself in 10 years? Would you like to step back from the business side of things and fully focus on filmmaking or will it always be a passion/hobby for you?
JK: I really feel I am getting to the point now where I may be spending more time working on my creative ventures than working as an entrepreneur. I have a lot of stories to tell and really hope that over the next ten years I can at least get a few of them out into the world. With that said I don’t think I will be able to fully let go and I’m sure there are other business ventures to come too.
FEP: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, Josh! Do you have a website or contact method you’d like to leave for people who want to learn more about your latest short film Notice, check out your other work, or simply get in touch?
JK: Yes, see below!
Official Notice Website: https://www.joshuamkerr.com/notice-bts
Josh’s Vimeo Page: https://vimeo.com/joshuamkerr
For business inquiries or new project proposals, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.