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Posted 08.05.18

Graduate Q&A with filmmaker Joe Winstone

By Kat Peberdy

Demonstrating the breadth of skills gained from our BA (Hons) Film programme, graduate Joe Winstone is working in London for Pixipixel and Rida North studio while preparing to study for a qualification that will allow him to work on production sets as a specialist lighting technician.

We caught up with Joe to talk about where his talent for film has taken him since finishing his studies at Plymouth College of Art in 2016 and his plans for the future...

What have you been up to since graduating?

After graduating I mainly spent the first six months trying to get work in London. I’ve been working as a lighting technician for Pixipixel - a camera and lighting hire company who have provided kit for clients shooting for Vogue, Dazed & Confused and GQ. Last year they expanded into providing lighting for feature films and TV dramas.

Alongside working at Pixipixel, I also work at Rida North Studio, assisting with shoots. It's interesting working there and seeing the different approaches each photographer has, as well as seeing how large some shoots can get in terms of sets and equipment.

What projects are you currently working on?

I'm currently quite busy at work, whilst also getting ready to do the BS7909 course, which will enable me to work on set as a lighting technician; I need to know about electrical safety for temporary installations such as concerts, film or photography shoots and public events.  

I’m also developing a few ideas at the moment that all seem to be quite diverse in concept and format. The first being a multimedia project, exploring the use of minimalism and maximalism within composition.

Whenever I find an artist's work that I like, I always wonder how different the project might have been with a bigger budget/approach to making it or the opposite. The aim for this project would be to have an installation showing two still images or short clips alongside each other, both with the same subject/concept except one would follow the minimalist approach in terms of composition and production value alongside one with the opposite approach.

Most of these ideas for future projects would hopefully take a long term approach to the production. My intention would be to try and make these projects in parts sporadically over months or even years, rather than in a much shorter time period, just to see how the concept and my intentions may change with regards to the project itself, due to what I have experienced over time during production.

"Plymouth College of Art completely changed my perspective on filmmaking" – Joe Winstone, BA (Hons) Film graduate

Another project I'm working on is a documentary that would be shot over a long period of time, showing young people from various cultures all over the world and times in their lives that are considered an important part of their adolescence that might have a big effect on their future. That part of our life is always portrayed as impactful and unforgettable, but a lot of the time it's only shown through Hollywood films about high school. It'd be interesting to see how similar or different each person's experience may or may not be.

I think at the moment what I have made is mainly considering composition and experimenting with it, however the plan has always been to branch out with regards to what artistic mediums I will work with as well as trying to be more ambitious concept wise.

It sounds like you’ve got a lot of passion for those projects - where do you get your inspiration from?

A lot of inspiration comes from my surroundings more than anything else, especially when you're somewhere like London or Plymouth. They’re both very different, but have so many great locations and people that constantly feed your ideas. It seems like there will never be a lack of material for projects, however if I ever do run out of ideas, I'll just make a prequel to Sharknado.

What do you enjoy most about being a filmmaker?

The spontaneity of filmmaking is a lot of fun and encourages you to be experimental with your work. It's rare that you'll make a film without collaborating with people from all backgrounds and professions in various ways. I also appreciate that filmmaking is a lot more accessible now, you don’t have to work with large crews and hire equipment. Anyone can be creative and make a film, and it can immediately go on the internet for millions to see.

And so what are the main things you took from your time at the college?

Plymouth College of Art completely changed my perspective on filmmaking, I’d never considered going to an arts institution until I came for the interview. As soon as you walk into the college you feel ready to make something.

The facilities are amazing and are constantly being updated with the newest technology. One of my favourite aspects of the college is how they promote student work, there are screenings and exhibitions all year round that are also great for networking with other creatives.

Still image from Joe Winstone's film Elements of the Frame

What are your greatest achievements so far?

My graduate film is the project where I really took the biggest step so far, it has shaped how I want to approach a lot of my personal projects from now on. I shot on Super 16mm which looked great visually, whilst also adding some interesting challenges in terms of timing and precision.

Surprisingly, I also enjoyed not knowing what the exposed film would look like until after shooting. I felt it changed the writing as well as the visuals in terms of being more deliberate with everything you do and avoiding anything that's not necessary to what the film is trying to say.

What motivates you to keep making films?

Almost anything is a good motivation for work. Technology, culture and our own personal experiences change every day, so there is constant inspiration, plus you always get the feeling that there's room for improvement in your own work.

Do you have any advice for other emerging filmmakers?

The best advice anyone gave to me was be prepared for a few detours before getting to where you want to be. Giving yourself time to work on smaller personal projects in between professional work can be a nice break, as well as a good chance to be more experimental.

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