Filmmaker Interview #11 – Lewis Carmichael

I met Lewis Carmichael eight years ago at Stevenson College where we were both on the Television Production course. Lewis instantly stood out as someone obsessed with film. Highly intelligent, he held equal worth for both philosophy and science wanting to know the meaning behind stories while also curious as to how they were made technically and he’s never really changed.

It was clear to everyone bar Lewis that he would embark on a career in editing and post production. While most students were out drinking or talking about making films Lewis was researching and teaching himself software, he had so many ideas that he needed to know how to visually create them and that’s exactly what he did. He has the patience of a saint and can sit for hours learning how to do something, then perfecting it, add to that his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and it actually makes me sick.

Lewis currently lives in Glasgow and hails from the West Lothian town of Broxburn. He’s a very talented guy who will do great things, I’m sure of it.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on?

For the last two and a bit years since leaving uni I’ve been working as an Editor on a large variety of projects as a freelancer (or just for free). Before this I was at Napier University where I wrote and directed my own short films. I didn’t ever pursue editing or post-production at uni and even after graduation I didn’t know what I wanted to do but people were always coming to me or recommending me for editing/post-production jobs so I guess I fell into it. I currently work at BBC Scotland as a Post Production Operator (kind of a cross between a tape operator and edit assistant).

Who/what inspired you to embark on a career in Filmmaking?

I’m not really sure there is a single catalyst, but as a kid I was always mesmerized by American movies such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, etc, fantasy cinema and spectacle, films that transported you to another world. My parents were always keen on watching films too, and took me to see all the latest blockbusters at the cinema as I grew up. When I was at school I helped run a movie review website with my brother which felt like a productive way to use my spare time and delve deeper into my love of cinema, as well as learning the technical side of web development (this was the year 2000, so was a bit simpler back then). I never pursued the journalism angle, but a college course taster of filmmaking gave me the bug when I was 17 and haven’t looked back since.

What is your ultimate goal/what drives you?

My ultimate goal is to write and direct a feature, but I think most people in this industry have that goal. It used to be my primary focus, but I’ll be honest and say that at this moment in time it’s a pipe-dream and I’m just taking things as they come. That isn’t apathy speaking, but rather a realisation that right now I haven’t enough to say to the world until I mature as a filmmaker and as a human being. My student projects scratched the itch I had about writing/directing my own films, and I know I’ll know when I’m ready to present something bigger and earth-shatteringly profound… or maybe just something people will enjoy.

How do you define success?

Pissing into the toilet bowl without spillage is success. Right now I define success as having people want to work with you. I think that says a lot. It’s such a subjective thing, I mean look at Uwe Boll! You can call him a lot of things but you wouldn’t call him a failure as he’s doing something and doing it prolifically.  I’m sure he doesn’t deem himself a failure. I guess on the grand scheme of things it’s defined by people wanting to watch your work.

How do you feel about collaboration?

It’s the way to go. Finding a good team of people that are on a similar wavelength takes a longtime but once it’s there magic can happen. Especially when it comes to editing, one person’s perspective just isn’t enough, that’s my experience anyway, and you can apply that to the whole filmmaking process. But I do believe every film needs a single voice that can override all others, a film needs a single director (with a few exceptions), otherwise the message could be lost with too much democracy. So it’s a balancing act.

Do you have a niche or genre that you specialise in?

I wouldn’t say specialize, but I do seem to lean towards sci-fi, partly because it’s an easy way to explore philosophy with metaphors, etc, present big ideas that interest me without using dialogue. And I don’t think there has been enough Scottish Sci-Fi.

What was the title of your first film (Your first first film, not the one you are happy to call your first film) and can you tell us a bit about it?

I think it was called Under Pressure and it was about a student pulling an all-nighter to finish a piece of coursework. Shot on S-VHS if I remember and edited on a linear system. Can’t remember much more than that, which probably says a lot.

Favourite Filmmaker?

Tough one. My favourite recent filmmaker is definitely Christopher Nolan.

All-time top 5 movies (as of this date, we all know it changes daily)?

  1. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
  2. 2001 A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  3. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (SergioLeone, 1966)
  4. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
  5. The Rock (Michael Bay, 1996)

What is the best short film you’ve seen?

Not really a short film, but this is amazing. Knowing that this can be done on technology that won’t break the bank is just scary. I’mg etting into timelapse photography, being a major fan of films like Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka, so I’ve seen a lot of these recently. For me, a lot of the ideas I like to explore come from just looking at our natural surroundings, and this is a pretty effective way of doing that.

Favourite film related website?

There are so many, but this one is a good one to expand your post-production skills and allow your imagination and ideas to run riot. Some would say concentrating on a good script is a better use of time, but sometimes a more expansive knowledge of what you can do with the (fairly cheap) technology of today can help some of your ideas mature.

What advice would you give to first time filmmakers?

It depends on if you know what you want to do. If you want to write/direct, be the auteur then just do it. Go wild. You won’t know what kind of a filmmaker you are until you’ve made a few short films. It’s as much a learning experience as it is an exploration of yourself. If you want to go into camera or editing or production design, etc, then start studying those roles, get involved with student productions, build experience and contacts, look out for work placements and be prepared to work hard for very little money until you catch a break. It’s a hugely competitive industry but there are opportunities out there.

Thanks Lewis. I am looking forward to the time when you realise your dream of making a feature as I know it will be something that has had years of work put behind it. If Gareth Edwards was Scottish I think his name would be Lewis Carmichael.

You can view other (old) videos from Lewis on Youtube and Vimeo.

One Response to Filmmaker Interview #11 – Lewis Carmichael

  1. Pingback: No Excuses, Just Shoot – Advice for First-Time Filmmakers «

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