AUB Film and Animation alumnus, Richard Elson, directed his first feature film last year and has worked with the likes of Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan.

2015 saw the release of his first feature film, A Christmas Star about a young girl who believes she has the gift to perform miracles.

Richard has also directed the BBC series M.I.High, the documentary Shadow Trade and recently won best short at Sheffield Doc/Fest with 78 Breaths – to name a few.

Richard graduated from AUB in 2001 (then Arts Institute at Bournemouth). We caught up with him to find out more about his career so far…

How did you go about making a name for yourself and getting to work with such high profile actors?

While I was at University I wrote to every director I could find, which was around a hundred. Ten replied and one, Steve Smith, gave me work experience on the show ‘So Graham Norton’.

From there I got a job as an assistant editor and it became one of my routes to where I am now. It taught me a valuable lesson about persistence and the ratio of replies to expect when trying to build contacts.

At the same time, I saw a short film made by a local furniture salesman. It wasn’t very good but had a budget of £30,000 so I quickly offered my services to direct his next film. We made two together, in America and Europe, and an actress who worked on them introduced me to Terry Bamber, a First Assistant Director in the features world.

We’ve worked together a lot since and it was Terry who recommended me for ‘A Christmas Star’. That taught me to embrace any project that came along, as you never know where they’re going to take you.

By the time I was offered ‘Christmas Star’ I’d directed three series of the BBC’s ‘M.I.High’ and worked with some high profile actors as an editor, so had the experience that helped get me the job.”

You started out editing and you’re now directing – what’s the difference between the two and how do they compare?

Editing and directing are both marathons rather than sprints. You’re on a job for more than just the shoot and you need to maintain a passion for the story right up until the end.

As a director you’re fired with adrenaline throughout pre-production and production; it’s an amazing buzz creating a new world with the cast and crew, which you never get as an editor.

When I was editing I loved it when I was based on set as I could feed off that buzz, but it was always an isolated existence. There’s a huge team aware of the challenges on set, whereas the editor often faces their difficulties alone.

What made editing a joy was getting to see all the rushes come in and be the first one to piece the story together, plus you were usually in more comfortable surroundings than the set.

What really excited you about your job and the future?

Primarily it’s creating new worlds and new characters. It’s the best job in the world to dream up relationships and situations with writers and actors, then bring them to life with a crew.

Even if the story is in a very real setting, that still has to be created from scratch. With documentaries, and research, it’s all about discovering those stories and working out how to communicate them to an audience.

There’s also the thrill of problem solving, you’ll plan everything meticulously and then have to throw it all out at a moment’s notice. Often the new way to tell that story will be better than your original plan, as they say – necessity is the mother of invention.

Creating and re-inventing is what makes me excited about the future.

Richard is currently working on his second feature, as well as a TV series based on his short film work.