Filmmaker Interview #29 – Blue Iris Films

I first found out about Blue Iris Films through the excellent coverage they were getting for their short film Boat in the local and national press. After some research I discovered they were an outfit I really should have known about sooner. Based in Edinburgh and working with some of the most talented up and coming directors around, they have an exciting slate of projects and are really making a name for themselves as producers of quality work.

Here we interview the two women behind Blue Iris and find out how they got to where they are now, what drives them and ultimately what’s next.


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

Blue Iris Films is run by Katie Crook and Olivia Gifford. We’re both producers, production managers and coordinators but turn our hand to camera and editing for corporate work.

We currently have a slate of projects across shorts, features and music videos with a wide pool of writer and writer/director talents from Scotland and worldwide. The main two shorts in prep at the moment are a Collabor8te film called Liar written by Rory Alexander Stewart and directed by Martin Smith about two young brothers making up tales about their fathers absence. The second one is an Ideastap funded short called Joyride with writer/director Eva Riley about a mother and son’s journey into a moment of madness.

Feature wise we’re developing a home invasion feature called Persons Unknown with regular collaborator Ben Soper. We also have a serial killer film in with funders with a writer/director from Pakistan called Jibran Khan titled The Man With Everything. And finally a mockumentary about the Eurovision with writer/director David Chidlow and various European co-producers titled Nil Points.

And then last but not least there’s the projects in post, four short films; Boat, Betrayal, Change and Paper Boys and the music video for Canadian folk band Woodpigeon, all of which will be with you very soon!

Watch the subsequent ‘Making Ofs’ for Boat here.

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

Katie – Loving cinema basically. I grew up in a village and the only thing to do was to work through the local video shop so I watched absolutely everything.

Olivia – I watched a lot of films growing up and became more and more interested in DVDs that had behind-the-scenes featurettes on them.  I remember finding it weird my friends weren’t as interested in that part.  But actually it wasn’t until Katie brought me onto my first film job in Edinburgh that I saw production as a career I could start right then and there and work really hard at.

 Have you had to make any sacrifices and how have you coped with that? 

Katie – The only sacrifices I’ve made have been financial ones, not really having holidays that kind of thing and to be honest it doesn’t feel that bad because I’m doing something I really love. I wouldn’t really want to be doing anything else with my life, I like being busy and working hard.

Olivia – I didn’t go into the career I grew up thinking I’d have in Law.  But I was interested in the ethics and institutions that I thought law would let me work in, and my curiosity is satisfied all the time by the business and work processes we develop at Blue Iris, and the stories we get to tell.

What is your ultimate goal/what drives you?

Katie – I want to be producing features and build up Blue Iris as a company so that’s its one of the most well-respected feature making companies in the UK. I care about cinema and what films can say to an audience so would aim to make films that are actually good.

Olivia – I want to keep feeling like I’m working hard, and seeing Blue Iris prosper and entertain people.  Entertainment is the driving thing really, entertaining a group of people on some level means you get to continue making things – you just continue to look at who you’re entertaining, in what way, what they want to do or pay to see it and on what level it’s getting a response.

How do you define success?

Katie – Success is when people come to you because they’ve heard of your company and the way you work and they like what you output.

Olivia – Success is making a difference to a writer/director and a project – being noticed because you don’t do things in the ordinary way.

How do you feel about collaboration?

Katie – I love working with people, especially the writing talent at the beginning and then out on shoot with all of the crew we’ve put together. It’s like a new family every time, but one that you choose rather than are given.

Olivia – We couldn’t work without it.  Collaboration isn’t necessarily two heads trying to answer the same question, I think that’s called something else, but it’s asking someone something, passing on their answer to someone else so they can process it in a way you couldn’t, passing that result on, put it through another few steps and keeping on going like that.  It’s economics!

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

Katie – Not yet but really would like to make some trash cinema or 70s style stuff. I like films with an energy and slight chaos to them. With all of the features we have in development at the moment they’re all genre pieces – so we have a home invasion film, a serial killer film and a mockumentary.

Olivia – I love watching documentaries about subjects you don’t expect to be cinematic.  I’d like to make a series about different factories and offices and warehouses and get down to the forces at play in some huge powerhouses of industry.  Katie and I once spent a long time chatting to an upholsterer who had a lot to say about that industry – not so much in a Mary Portiss – what’s the customer experience way – but how things were slowly changing, for the worse in her opinion.  I don’t know how upholstery works!  Let’s explore it in a trashy thriller with that industry as a back drop.

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?

Katie – It was called ‘The Orchard House’ and it was a thriller set in a retirement home. I made it at university and it was pretty epic. I was DOP and producer on that one. It was great working on location and slowly but surely gaining the trust of the residents. The film ultimately didn’t work out, it was too ambitious and only had a crew of 3 but it taught me a lot.

Olivia – I don’t remember, I used to film out of train and tube windows A LOT.  One of the first films I made myself was a 90 second short called ‘Hector Reprimanded’ for a Depict! Competition.  It was about a boy hiding some books under a tree to stop his brothers fighting over them.  My three brothers starred in it and we drove around filming from the top of my car to get lots of swooping 360 shots.  I whistled the soundtrack and edited it in Windows Movie Maker.

Favourite Filmmaker?

Katie – I would probably say Hitchcock, he knew how to entertain and how to direct actors and the camera and he managed to make subversive mainstream genre films.

Olivia – Michael Haneke makes me cry and wonder, and I like his films a lot for it.

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

Katie – (in no particular order)

  1. Raise Ravens (Cria Cuervos)
  2. Jaws
  3. Vertigo
  4. Suspiria
  5. Dog Day Afternoon

Olivia –

  1. The Man with the Golden Arm
  2. Walkabout
  3. The White Ribbon
  4. Raise Ravens
  5. The Andromeda Strain

These are all films I’d really like to see again soon.

What is the best short film you’ve seen?

Katie – I love Don Herztfeldt’s Rejected, it manages to be emotional on so many levels, making you laugh and feel apprehentious and sad all with animation. Very clever.

Olivia – There were some great shorts at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival: I thought Seb Edwards’ Friday was amazingly accomplished and moving, Joe Carter’s Funtimes made me laugh a lot, and Anna Abrahams’ 7 Peaks in the Black Box Shorts programme was a dreamy but systematic look at 7 of Europe’s highest mountains – really enjoyable and escapist.

 First film you ever saw in the cinema?

Katie – Mine was The Jungle Book with my grandad and baby sister. A good start to a career path towards cinema I reckon. It’s still one of my favourite Disney films.

Olivia – Ooh I don’t remember.  First VHS I remember seeing was the BBC’s 1988 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  Scary and moving, there was a huge sense of dread and cold in those worlds.

A random/funny story of anything you have experienced in the film world?

Katie – On the first short film we produced we had a closed set due to some nudity and the actress was supposed to exit the room via a certain door. Instead caught up ‘in the moment’ she went through a completely different door and entered the dining room where the rest of the crew were on their tea break! Oh well, we tried.

Favourite film related website?

Katie – Metacritic is a good one for getting balanced reviews of films. I suppose I use that the most, although to be honest I don’t really watch trailers or read reviews before a film. I like to go in blind.

Olivia – Vimeo is something I wish I spent more time on – it’s a good resource.

What advice would you give to first time filmmakers?

Katie – Make stuff you believe in and keep going, even if you don’t get recognised by schemes and/or government funds it doesn’t mean your works no good.

Olivia – Try watch everything you make, or help make, a year after you’ve put it to bed a bit.  If you’ve not got any films yet, read the treatments you wrote a year ago, the work emails you were sending a year ago.

Find out more about Blue Iris Films through their website, follow them on Twitter and like their Facebook site.

One Response to Filmmaker Interview #29 – Blue Iris Films

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

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