National Film and Television School Director Graduate Lewis Arnold On His Encounters Experiences Old And New

Last year we had Lewis Arnold's film 'Charlie Says' screened in competition, this year he returns to give words of wisdom to budding film-makers at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) open day on Friday 18th September.

Here, he answers some questions on his rise to success, and what anybody wishing to attend the NFTS might expect from the experience!

Lewis’ meteoric rise to success started at the NFTS Graduation Show in 2013 where he was signed by United Agents and shortly afterwards he was commissioned to direct two episodes of the Channel 4 TV series Misfits’.

This was closely followed by commissions to direct the first four episodes of hits TV series Banana – described by Digital Spy as “…a balance of violence and wit, joy and pain, darkness and light.” He recently directed two episodes of the sci-fi series ‘Humans’ – also for Channel 4 – which were described as “…an incredible episode, highlighting the best of the show while nobly demonstrating the on-screen and off-screen talent.”

Here Lewis Arnold talks about his links with Encounters and how the NFTS’ two-year MA in Directing Fiction prepared him for the real world.

Q: how did it feel to have your film screened at Encounters? Is this festival important or inspiring for up and coming filmmakers?

Encounters is an incredible festival with great prestige and it’s always a honour to screen your work, whatever the festival. We felt really fortunate to screen at Encounters as the other selected short films where superb. For me personally it had been something I’d wanted to do since studying at the University of Gloucestershire, so that was also nice.

I think as an up and coming filmmaker a short film says a lot about you as a director and it’s important to get it out there to audiences home and abroad. Encounters is a highly regarded festival with lots of industry professionals in attendance, so yes I think it’s important for filmmakers to get their work screened at these kinds of festivals.

Q; how did your experiences studying at the NFTS prepare you for the real world. How did it feel on the first day you stepped onto the television set to film Misfits, so soon out of the NFTS?

The NFTS is an incredible place where you’re constantly learning off industry professionals but also from your peers, who are all incredibly talented and motivated individuals.

The main pull for a director is that it enables you to really find your voice as filmmaker, by giving you the opportunity to make four films back to back, learning and growing off each experience.

For me it gave me a set of tools and skills, that I felt I confident I could rely on when I needed to, in the real World. I think these skills, coupled with the experience I had as a 1st assistant director on music videos and commercials, mean’t that I felt ready to get to work but I was still incredibly nervous going into ‘Misfits’ as it was such a big leap.

Q: Do you think television directing has become an important route for film makers to get into the business? Is it more accessible to new directors?

I think that directors from both film and television can now more easily step from one medium to the other, with auteurs like Shane Meadows stepping into television drama and TV directors like Alan Taylor moving into much bigger studio films. I think this is as the quality of Television drama is extremely high at the moment both in the UK and across the Atlantic, so I don’t think people see TV as a step toward making a feature film anymore. It’s a place where they can express themselves just as much as they would within the medium of film. You can see this shift in the fact that some series are now being directed by one voice, one vision, for example Toby Haynes directed all 7 episodes of ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’. I’m not sure if it is anymore accessible to new directors but it feels like there is so much out there right now, meaning that there are more chances coming along, waiting to be grabbed by new talent.

Q: How is directing for TV different to film?

I think the main difference between both processes, is time. Within TV, the schedule across pre production, production and post is much tighter then within the film industry. On ‘Misfits‘ I had to prep, shoot and edit two hours of television, which was the same amount of time I made Charlie Says in, which was a short film of only twenty minutes.

There is also the element of control. In film, especially independent cinema, as a director you’re given more individual control throughout the process, where as within TV you’re working alongside producers and executives who you make decisions with, generally as a collective. This means sometimes you can be creatively outvoted and have to make choices that you don’t necessarily agree with.

Q: What do you hope to work on in the future? Where do you see yourself?

I think Television right is in an extremely exciting place, with lots of great writers working within the medium, so I’m hoping to continue working on well written drama within Television, whilst also developing my own projects and working towards my first feature film.

In the distant future I’d love to direct a huge comic book movie, as I have a huge appetite for comic books and still read and buy a lot of graphic novels today. I’m basically a huge geek, but geek is in at the moment, I think?

Q: what advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a filmmakers/ director?

It’s a cliche you hear all the time but you have to keep making stuff. I know so many people who get caught in the trap of running or becoming an A.D with the ambition of working their way up the ladder. I think this is a great idea as you gain experience but you have to also find time to keep making films and developing your voice and this is where some people fall down. If you want to direct, write or edit, whatever it is, you have to be doing it as much as possible, even if you don’t share you’re work, as this is where you learn and develop.


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