Lockdown has proved a fertile and exacting creative space for Joe Lander of BlueSub media. The Cornwall-based BlueSub team took the opportunity to give themselves a film challenge.
“We produce a film every week, if we can,” Joe told D&CFilm in the midst of lockdown. The drive behind the demanding schedule is ‘to keep the audience alive, keep spirits up, and keep me in the loop,’ said film student Joe.
BlueSub began when Joe noticed the number of actors and directors who start their own production company. Being in secondary school at the time, his ambition wasn’t taken seriously.
“My friends laughed at me, and I’ve always had the mentality that if people laugh at me, I progress even more,” said Joe.
So far that seems to be working out. Now at Truro college studying film, Joe and his team have a heap load of experience producing all kinds of film styles, on top of the usual college requirements.
Drama and comedy
“We’re trying everything to see what sticks and what works with us,” said Joe. “Dramas and comedies are the two big categories at the moment. Each week we try not to repeat a genre. We find people will remember the comedies but the dramas get a lot of views and allow us to make people think. And that’s what I wanted out of filmmaking – to make people think.”
An example is their film Fishing.
“That was all about the issues around catfishing online,” said Joe. Not all their dramas are issue-led. “In the filmathon we have The Kidnapper. It’s about a policeman who is struggling to differentiate between his home life and his work life.”
Making so many films in lockdown hasn’t been easy.
“It has been really, really hard,” said Joe. “But I enjoy challenges. We’re limited to location – we can’t leave the house, especially as we live with three vulnerable people.”
With a limited cast and limited location, mixing it up became important.
“What really helped was the isolation film challenge. It gave us some inspiration on how you can make the most of our limitations,” said Joe.
Writing has been the biggest issue Joe faced. He and his dad shared writing duties, which eased the pressure, and a routine helped ensure the production schedule.
“Thursday we’ll both read through the scripts together. Fridays tend to be sending out the finished version on a group chat to everyone. Saturdays are shooting and Sundays are editing,” said Joe.
“The schedule means I’ve got two weeks to come up with another idea. Setting small daily deadlines helps. It stops that second-guessing – you just go with what you’ve got.”
Joe’s real joy lies behind the camera.
“Directing is where I feel I excel,” he said. “I can see a film in my head. I take a lot of inspiration from Quentin Tarantino. He said in one of his interviews that he will watch a film before he makes it.” That approach is something that Joe emulates.
“You see the film and you know what it’s going to look like. It’s all about planning and blocking. I love the atmosphere that a film set has – being the one in charge with the sense of a team around you. Watching actors perform a script they’ve only been given 24 hours ago is incredible to see. That’s why it’s my favourite part of filmmaking – it’s very much a moving thing. Directing is a team effort and being able to sit behind a camera and watch things come alive in front of you is a phenomenal experience.”
Joe also mentions Kevin Smith, Adam Sandler and Jim Cary as inspirations.
“They are very versatile in the way they work. And I love the aspect of taking a genre and flipping it on its head,” he said.
Has Joe spotted a change in his directing?
“I think you learn a lot from college, but I learn the most by doing things. Having to put a film out every week has allowed me to work to a deadline: to go through the cycle of filmmaking and identify bits of that cycle that aren’t working and find new ways of solving them. In college you’ll spend about three to four months working on a project, so you’ll only do that sequence about three or four times. But in isolation, writing, directing, editing, and looping it back over and over again has allowed me to pick apart those small bits. After two weeks, I rewatch the films with fresh eyes to see what needed fixing – often you don’t notice the mistakes at the time.”
That learning process has been extended to publicity.
“If we put out a trailer, that gives us two or three days to make the film while we’re hyping it up. The views on a video if we just put it out are a lot lower than if we make a trailer and promote it first.”
The core of BlueSub team are Joe, Dan Jose, Mai Gallagher, Larry Morris, and Joe’s dad, Terry. They have regular meetings over Discord, discussing the films, their ideas and plans.
“Our priority is focusing on festivals and putting the brand out as much as we can. We’re supposed to have made a short film called Murder Anonymous – it’s a crime drama – but due to the virus we had to cancel. The college has allowed us to redo everything in the autumn.”
On top of the weekly films, BlueSub had a documentary about its first year out in March. And Joe’s looking forward to the short which will mark the end of his college career – a year on from when we chatted.
“We started a Go Fund Me campaign for the film in the autumn,” said Joe. “All of the money will be spent in charity shops to get the clothes and props for the film, so effectively you’re not only donating to students at Truro college – it all goes to help local charities.”