We’ve worked alongside Clare Richards for over a decade. She’s prolific, talented and inspiration to so many artists we know.
When was it you started developing an interest in filmmaking?
I think watching documentaries about other countries on TV when I was a teenager pulled me into wanting to make them myself. It was something about the shared human experience no matter where in the world you are that resonated with me and being able to learn so much about individual experiences that had me hooked.
Do you remember the very first paid job you did?
My first paid job was working as a question researcher for Bob’s Monkhouse’s Wipeout! It’s no longer around and a bit of a throwback daytime quiz programme but I had to make sure all the questions were 100% correct.
So it involved a lot of fact checking and I loved it. Through this experience I also met the person who was to give me my second paid job in TV who is still a friend today.
In your more than 10 years of experience of making documentaries touching on usually sensitive and delicate subjects, how do you prepare on filming uncomfortable situations?
I think knowing the subject matter as well as possible is the first step. This usually involves reading a lot of background material but then meeting people in similar situations or experts in the field incredibly important too. Gathering as much as info from as many different scources as possible helps you understand what to expect, what not to expect, what duty of care protocols need to be in place, how long it might take to chart narrative. Spending time getting to know the people you are filming obviously goes a long way and is the most important relationship in the whole process.
What are you working on right now? i.e anything you fancy plugging 😉
I’ve just finished making a programme about people who found love during lockdown. It’s for Channel 4 and it’s a lovely warm film about human connection and how lockdown has changed our attitudes to love and relationships. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have had some work since it’s been so scarce. Making something that’s uplifting and positive is a slight departure for me too!
So what kinds of commissions do you currently do and enjoy?
I’ve made films on all sorts of subjects in all sorts of places. I think the common thread is difficult access and sensitive documentary stories but I enjoy anything that has a compelling narrative, anything that is feels of the moment and anything that gives a platform to a voice that hasn’t been heard before.
What part of the process do you enjoy the most (shooting, editing, research, etc) and why?
Honestly I enjoy all of it. I love getting out there and filming, meeting different people, being in different places. I love getting a feeling for a film and developing how I want to it to look. But I also love the moment when you get to an edit and start looking back at the rushes and shaping the story. I get a buzz at all stages.
Among your works, which one is your favourite? why?
My two most recent films before the documentary I’ve just made for C4 are really up there for me. One was a film about a family in Newport filmed over 3 years. The idea was to make a longform documentary series, similar in concept to Boyhood. The ambition was also to give directors a chance at some real authorship so no house style. This was incredibly liberating and I’m really proud of the film I made.
Filming over 3 years gave you the chance to really develop relationships and chart narratives in a way you don’t normally get the time to do. But I also made a film about Tony Slattery and mental health recently and I’m incredibly proud of that film too. I worked with Tony to make a documentary about Bipolar that really didn’t hold back. it looked at addiction, possible reasons for it and the effect this has on your mental health over years and years. It effected me greatly and had an overwhelming response from people who watched it. So I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to make it.
What is the most difficult part of being an independent filmmaker/artist for you?
I think it’s an incredibly difficult time for the industry at the moment. Work is scarce and broadcasters are troubled in lots of ways. So getting any work isn’t easy. I think developing your own voice in a broadcast TV landscape can be difficult too. Sometimes making documentaries for TV means that the form is very familiar and breaking away from that is hard work. That’s why the independent sector feels a lot freer and more creative in lots of ways so I’d love to do more work in those spaces.