The films of Ashley Wing, from South Devon, and Clayton Fussell, from Cornwall -who together make Cottage Industry Films -feature large at Two Short Nights and the View from Here film festivals. We thought we’d get in touch to find out about them as filmmakers.
Ashley and Clayton are quite prolific filmmakers, with titles such as Between the Lines, Poppies, Hard Day’s Knight behind them, and a West End premiere beckoning. We figured it would be good to hear from them and pick their brains in a week of coverage.
How did you get into films?
Clay: The thing I love the most is trying to understand why people are the way they are, and I think, in a convoluted way, my love of cinema stems from that. I first experienced filmmaking as an actor, but was immediately fascinated with the craft of filmmaking and how you can use it to create a complete world inside the lens. As I spent more and more time in front of the camera I became more and more interested in writing and from that I decided I needed to have a go at directing.
Ash: I love going to the movies., I’ve been obsessed ever since my first cinema experience back in 1985 with Back to the Future.
I always had a very strong urge to make films, but thought it to be an unrealistic dream. Instead I took up writing fantasy novels and a few scripts.
It wasn’t until I went camping with some friends the idea became a possibility, when one of them had brought along a digital camera. Two months later I bought my own and shot some family videos and began testing out the editing process. I was hooked and I started to write stories, take classes and read as much as I could about filmmaking. It was essentially making the movies I wanted to see at the cinema.
How did you meeting and why did you decide to collaborate?
Clay: We met at the Metropolitan Film School at Ealing Studios. Ash was doing a film course and I was an actor in the short film he was involved in. When Ash decided to make Between The Lines he contacted me to audition for the film and over the course of making that film we struck up a friendship which evolved into our collaboration
Ash: I remember taking a one-day short film workshop at Ealing Studios, it was in preparation for my first short film. Clayton was one of the actors assigned to our group. A week after I sent him an email asking to audition for Between the Lines. We continued to work together ever since.
How easy is it to collaborate on a film?
Clay: It’s actually much easier than it should be. Directing especially is generally seen as a one-person job, but working together and having to make sure we are both on the same page with things, forces us to discuss and plan in great detail, which I think is an invaluable discipline.
Ash: Filmmaking is all about collaboration. If you can’t collaborate you won’t have a film, a coherent one anyway. Co-directing with Clay was actually something that came very naturally. We first tested the water with a three-minute short called OMG. We got along really well and it made us realise we could work together without damaging the ideas we were creating. It always great to bounce ideas off one another and take the story to places you usually wouldn’t going it alone.
What’s your favourite aspect of filmmaking -for example, writing, directing, acting or editing?
Clay: I get different things out of the different stages. Writing is a huge buzz, especially when you get that killer idea and you really see the story emerge and the characters develop. The nature of being on set, especially in short films, makes directing more of an adrenalin rush than writing and I love working with actors. Post production can get quite tedious as it’s very easy for months to pass with nothing happening and it can get frustrating, so it’s vital to keep up the pressure and momentum, but when it’s finished the sense of achievement is fantastic.
Ash: All aspects of filmmaking are great. You create the idea, you make the idea and then give birth to it. Pre and Post is delightful because throughout you’re shaping the vision. There are three distinct moments that I wouldn’t change for the world. Completion of the script, the shoot and the premiere.
What’s the biggest challenge of making a film?
Clay: Getting a good idea is the biggest challenge. Everything stems from that. Without a good story with interesting characters doing interesting things, you are doomed.
Ash: Coming up with a balanced concept that works on all levels. By this I mean an idea you love, an idea the investors will love and then an idea the audience will love. But, ultimately you have to make the movie YOU want to.
How would you describe your approach to each project?
Clay: At the heart of every film has to be a great story, so for me it all flows from the script. Take as much time as it takes to get the script perfect. Never compromise on the script, it’s the only stage of the process you will have the luxury of not having to compromise.
Ash: Every solid building has, good, strong foundations and it’s no different with filmmaking. Create a great script -it’s the cheapest part of the process costing you only your time. Without that the entire film will collapse. Once there’s a decent script everything else comes together.
Our approach to starting a project is always the same, write from the heart and then rewrite from the head. Over and over and over again.
What’s been your biggest disappointment in filmmaking?
Clay: It is sometimes frustrating feeling that, to get attention, you have to create something controversial or gimmicky, purely to stand out in the crowd. I guess in some ways it’s understandable with so many film around all vying for attention, but I think it can be dangerous as it tends to then be more about the number of YouTube views you have rather than creating a strong narrative, or actually having something genuine to say.
Ash: I’m disappointed in the bureaucracy of it all. You’ll find yourself having to please all these people who might fund your film. It surprises me that an investor is willing to give the artist the money but then change the vision for the story, not always with the best of intentions.
The worst thing I’ve heard recently is a company trying to change the title of a film in fear that the audience wouldn’t get it. I think there are times when we shouldn’t be afraid of actually having an intelligent audience.
What’s been the unexpected bonus from your films -emotionally or creatively?
Clay: Before I started making films I never realised what a huge creative rush there is in seeing your idea realised. From writing a load of words on some paper to organising a whole group of people to give up their time to help realise something that until that point is just an idea is just amazing.
Ash: We always create a story the way we see fit. Completion on that process is rewarding in many ways. We don’t make films for any other reason, so when we receive an award; it’s an unexpected bonus.
What are your three favourite films, and why
Clay: That’s one of those impossible questions to answer, but three that stand out for me are Fargo, Being John Malkovich, and Human Traffic. Fargo because it makes you laugh vomit, being John Malkovich because it’s such a brilliant idea, and Human Traffic because it’s so beautifully British (well, Welsh ish) and it has a superbly well observed script and acting.
Ash: I can’t pick three out of this bunch! Alien, The Thing, The Mist, Jaws, Blade Runner, The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, Funny Games, Time of the Wolf, A Man Escaped, The Good The Bad and The Ugly and Pan’s Labyrinth.
I like films that put ordinary everyday people in extraordinary circumstances. It’s interesting to see how people react when put under pressure or taken out of their comfort zone. I also have a soft spot for some of the older 80s horror movies as well as the earlier (pre 90s) summer blockbusters.
Stay tuned to D+CFilm for more from the filmmaking pair along with a week-full of top filmmaking tips from Ashley Wing and Clayton Fussell.
â€¢ Catch Ashley Wing and Clayton Fussell on the D+CFilm Show, episode 3
(image: Clayton Fussell and Ashley Wing)
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