BA (Hons) Film Production graduates, Nick Rowland, Simon Bysshe and Andrew Fletcher, reunited for the BBC’s recent crime drama series, ‘Hard Sun’.
We caught up with the three BA (Hons) Film Production alumni as they reflected on their time working on the hit BBC series.
Nick was hired to direct two episodes of ‘Hard Sun’. He chatted with us about his time on the series and his projects since leaving AUB.
How did you find your time at AUB and what have you been up to since leaving?
AUB was amazing. I remember when I almost didn’t apply because I thought I wasn’t experienced enough, so it was a bit daunting to begin with. Then all of my best friends ended up being there and it was great.
When I left AUB in 2012 and then did a Masters at the National Film and Television School where one of my films got a short film BAFTA nomination. This then launched me into TV directing. My first directing job was for a television show called ‘Cuffs’ for BBC One, followed by ‘Ripper Street’ for BBC Two, and then ‘Hard Sun’ last year. I’m now working on my first feature film.
Was directing always the route you wanted to go down?
Yes, I was quite clear that I wanted to focus on directing, I was very single-minded about it from memory. Directing can be a difficult thing to do – intimidating and quite competitive. I figured that if I wanted to do it I would have to throw everything at it, rather than dip my toe in the water. You have to push yourself hard.
How did you get your first directing job?
I signed with an agent who had seen my AUB Graduation film, they then put me in touch with Tiger Aspects Productions. They liked my work and had a new project coming up that required a Director. I would say [getting a job as a Director] is down to your work, interviewing well, and showing that you understand the project and the best way to approach it from a directing perspective. If you’ve been to film school it shows there is baseline knowledge which helps to get that first job.
What challenges do you face as a Director? Is it nerve-wracking?
With directing there is no time to be nervous because there is so much going on. However, as a young Director, you perhaps have to prove yourself and earn people’s trust a bit more. Mostly, I have found that people are massively supportive. All of your heads of department and producers all want you to do a good job as it’s in everyone’s best interest. I mostly feel very supported and they do a good job of taking away as much pressure as possible so that I can focus on the job.
Can you tell us more about your first feature film?
It’s an adaptation of a short story. I have been working on the script for about four years now. It’s coming up to 10 years since I applied to AUB, so about a decade to get the first film complete. I definitely feel anxious about getting it right. Myself and my writing partner have developed with the assistance of Film 4 and Michael Fassbender’s production company, DMC. We will be making it this year, though we are not quite in pre-production yet.
You directed two episodes of the recently aired BBC show, ‘Hard Sun’, how did this opportunity arise?
I got sent the scripts through my agent and I think my episodes of Ripper Street went down quite well. I met the producers, and Neil Cross, the writer, and discussed my interpretation of it and what I thought they were looking for. I had the option of doing a few different things because there were many elements to it – action sequences, special effects and emotional scenes. I felt I could learn a lot from doing this project, and I did. I used a lot of equipment that I hadn’t used before it was a good learning experience.
During ‘Hard Sun’, you worked alongside fellow AUB Film graduates, Simon Bysshe and Andrew Fletcher. Did you know you would be working with them?
I didn’t know Simon was involved until he came over and introduced himself during the read through, but I had heard great things about him from Alan Cridford, our sound tutor at AUB, so I knew I was safe hands. I actually requested that Andrew join the production as he is one of the best Steadicam and Camera Operators that I have ever come across.
There were several other AUB graduates also involved in the production. Toni Nordi, BA (Hons) Film Production, Lauren Kilcar, BA (Hons) Costume and Performance Design, and Alex Finlayson who assisted the camera team for a day.
What piece of advice could you give aspiring Directors.
It all comes down to the work you do, that should come before anything else. As long as your work is good quality, it should speak for itself. For me, it’s always come down to work. Spend as much time you can learning your craft and absorbing as much information as possible – that’s the best way forward.
Andrew was a Steadicam operator on two episodes of the BBC ‘Hard Sun’ series. He talks to us about his role and other projects he’s worked on since graduating from AUB.
How did you get your ‘Hard Sun’ role? Did you know there would be other AUB Film Alumni on the project?
I got the job on ‘Hard Sun’ via various recommendations from crew that had already been signed up, notably from the Key Grip. It was great to work with Nick again, a lovely reunion and it was also a nice surprise to meet Simon on the production too.
Was it nice to work with other AUB Alumni?
It is of course great because you immediately know that you’re working alongside someone who is of the same high calibre you’d expect from a graduate of AUB. It is also nice to reminisce about our student days.
Do you ever find yourself working with other AUB Alumni on projects?
I wouldn’t be the only one to say that its commonplace to work alongside AUB Alumni in the industry. I would say my main AUB collaborator is Adam Scarth who is a fantastic DP and whom I work with often.
What have you done since graduating in 2012? Are there any projects that stand out?
Every year brings in a job that takes me another step higher on the ladder to wherever that may be going, which I hope will be to operating the A camera on the big feature films and TV shows. I camera operated on a movie called ‘Teen Spirit’ last year. It will be exciting to see how people react to it as it was fantastic fun to work on. We did some incredible camera work on it.
How do you find you get most of your work?
I get all my recommendations from the vast network of people that I have met along the way. Making sure you meet DP’s, Directors and forging friendships with them will make them want to have you on their set.
Working with your friends is what it’s all about, as long as your competent. Respect is never given and always earned, so I always try to remain impressionable and professional no matter what job I am on.
Is there a particular type of project that you like working on more than others?
I like working on films the most because there is a real soul at the heart of them. This makes everyone working on the film passionate about making it the best it can be.
How did you find your time at AUB? Was becoming a Camera Operator always the route you wanted to go down?
My time at AUB was incredibly valuable and essential in jump starting my career. Being surrounded by people with similar goals and dreams allows you to discover what route you want to take.
I came to AUB wanting to be an Editor, but during our projects when we alternated roles, I would always be most comfortable framing and moving the camera. I would always receive positive feedback, so I stuck with it.
Finally, what’s your one piece of advice for the next generation of creatives?
It’s so important to find a specialism your happy with, and just to stick with it. If you keep changing your specialism, or you do too many, you will struggle to gain a reputation for that particular role. And that’s what leads to building consistent work.
Simon was Production Sound Mixer on six episodes of ‘Hard Sun’, he has also worked on the film ‘The Hurt Locker’ and the series ‘Peaky Blinders’. He is currently working on BBC Drama, ‘The Informer’, due out this year. He had this to say about his time on the ‘Hard Sun’ production.
How did you get the opportunity to work on ‘Hard Sun’?
The opportunity arose after working with the producer for ‘In The Dark’ a BBC drama in Manchester. The producer and I got on well, and he felt I had produced some great quality sound for it and asked if I would be interested in ‘Hard Sun’.
How did you find it working on ‘Hard Sun’?
It was a really tough and intense shoot with some really tricky scenes. It was set in London so the locations were really noisy. There was a lot of dynamic dialogue going from whispers to loud screams back to whispers, which made it challenging.
There were often two cameras so they had to make concessions for them both, this was making the sound difficult. The atmosphere was very realistic but made it challenging to incorporate all of it with the actor’s speech.
Did you know you would be working with other AUB Graduates?
I hadn’t met Nick or Andy prior to this but it was nice to have an AUB Crew together. I knew of Nick however, having seen his final year project, ‘Dancing in the Ashes’. We’ve since kept in touch and will no doubt come across each other again on future projects.