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By midlandsmovies, Sep 13 2017 10:37AM



Caroline Spence is a producer and screenwriter based in the Midlands and as part of our 'Professional' series we ask Caroline about her roles, experience and advice for readers interested in developing their career in this interesting and varied job.


Background

I am a screenwriter and feature film producer. I came to this profession fairly late in life as compared with other people in the business. Previously, I worked in various administrative roles in so many different industries that I’ve lost count, from law to the defence industry, accounting, finance and the mental health sector. All sounds impressive, but I was predominantly sat in front of a screen typing - always restless, always dreaming of breaking out and doing something else. In a way, this has been an advantage in my current profession – I know business, I know accounts, and I’ve met many people from many different walks of life, and so I have a wealth of inspiration to draw on when scouting for locations or writing new characters.


How Caroline got into film producing

I came to film producing through a series of events. I've been a writer since childhood and went on to write published articles based around natural history, science, and ancient history. In 2004, I was invited to appear on a TV show about international property as a realtor, because the actual realtor didn't want to appear on television! Although I knew little about selling properties abroad (in this case, Spain), I thought it would be a great experience. Unfortunately, when it came to the shoot, I wasn't too impressed by the (unprofessional) behaviour of the film crew. Nevertheless, this odd experience inspired me to write and present my own documentaries.


So, James Smith (director) and I set up Raya Films and we won a number of awards for our documentaries as well as enjoying sell-out theatrical screenings and international broadcast. We moved into commercial work and then experimented with short film, but it wasn't until I started penning screenplays that I knew I'd found my forte: feature film.


Training

I didn’t go to film school or go on any courses relating to the film industry. I learned on the job. As I already had over twenty years’ experience in a variety of industries, communication skills became ingrained in me, and I have become almost OCD with regard to organisation. In my opinion, these are two of the most important attributes to have as a film producer. I studied screenwriting religiously. I read (and continue to read) dozens of Hollywood screenplays. In the early days, I gained many tips from a highly-regarded screenwriting book (sorry, I seriously can’t remember which one!), I studied the screenplay for Ronin (1998) and The Firm (1993) on screen. I’ve been working toward achieving the standard of those two masterpieces ever since.



Experience in the film industry

In terms of feature film, there have been many ups and downs – there are many rogues in this industry and I’ve experienced my fair share of them. One of my first screenplays came to the attention of a sales agent/producer in Hollywood. We had various phone conversations – he loved the screenplay and was interested in working with us on it. Unfortunately, when he learned we hadn’t produced a feature film before he pulled out. This has been a repeated theme. The movers and shakers in the industry liked my screenplays, but with a lack of track record they didn’t take the risk. But the tide slowly tips in your favour if you keep going and build up experience - at last, my work is being taken seriously by established companies.


We came very close a few years ago with a movie set in Spain. I won’t go into detail but I had attached a named actor, a sales agent was coming onboard as executive producer, I had financiers … we were so close. Unfortunately, I brought in a producer to help me on the project who disrupted everything and caused setbacks. The film had to be put on hold. Despite this, I am now back in the driving seat. As a result of this experience, however, I am now very particular who I work with. In hindsight, this ‘producer’ did me the biggest favour ever: made me aware of rogues and the value of due diligence.


The demands from a filmmaker

Through experience, I am very strict on communication and insist people working on my projects tell me what they are going to do and who they are going to talk to before they do it. I’m not super-bitchy about this, just quietly insistent. I feel it’s important for all filmmakers to know exactly what the production team are doing – you, as a filmmaker, have worked hard to build up a solid reputation and good body of work and you can’t afford to be misrepresented to financiers, sales agents, producers or even your potential audience. It could set you back months or years.



Overcoming challenges

Shooting a film is like fighting fires – especially a zero/micro-budget one. Making Do Something, Jake – my debut feature - was tough. We had no budget for this production, so I had to wear many hats. As well as producer/production manager, line producer and screenwriter, I was script supervisor, location manager, sound technician, caterer and part-time driver. Many of our crew willingly doubled up duties as well, and even some actors lent a helping hand, which means a lot in terms of moral support for everyone. So every day was beset with problems or obstacles to overcome.


One of our locations was in a derelict pre-Victorian primary school. James, the director, asked me to prepare what was once a pantry, to shoot one of those scenes, and that meant sweeping up piles and piles of dead wasps. Not often found in the job description for a film producer.


Skills and experience

You need to multi-task and be mentally and physically fit because the whole process of filmmaking can be gruelling – with or without a good budget behind you. You need to be slick on communication. This is imperative, and in this day and age there is no excuse. You need to be able to get out of bed in the morning – if you don’t ‘do’ early mornings, go work in another industry.


You need to be tenacious. You will be knocked back time and time again, but you must bounce right back and turn those knocks, rejections , and criticisms into motivators. As Frank Sinatra said, “The best revenge is massive success.” I also read plenty of advice from other successful directors and industry professionals and take that onboard.


Advice to others

If you’re new to the industry, read as much as you can. Go on YouTube and watch as many ‘how to’ videos as you can, and then get as many screenplays as you can and read those. Whether you’re an actor, producer, director, editor, or clapper loader, it’s important to know all facets of the industry. Watch movies. All genres, from all decades and all nations. Become a movie geek. Study them and learn how to ‘read’ a movie.


After all the reading, watching movies, writing and studying, the only way to get anywhere is to go out and make a film. Thanks to Sean Baker (Tangerine, 2015) it’s now considered cool to shoot a movie on an iPhone, so take whatever you have and go and film something, learn from it, then go do it all again.


I learned invaluable lessons when producing and shooting Do Something, Jake not least about scheduling. Looking back, I realise that the schedule I drew up was incredibly tight - it's amazing we didn't run over-schedule. Full credit to the cast and crew for taking my gruelling demands in their stride. But I only learned this by doing it for real – learning from experience is the only way to progress.


Read about Caroline's latest project Do Somthing, Jake on by clicking here and check out Raya Film's site at https://rayafilms.wordpress.com/


By midlandsmovies, Aug 3 2016 04:49PM

Midlands Feature - Interview with Tom Loone of Do Something Jake


Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Tom Loone, the 22-year old actor who features in the upcoming Midlands film Do Something Jake, about his background and his involvement in this exciting new local project.




Midlands Movies Mike: Hi Tom. I hope you are well. How are things and can you tell us about yourself and how you heard about Do Something, Jake.

Tom Loone: Hi there. Yes, I’d be happy to. I’m Tom Noone and I'm 22 years old and actually still at university at the moment and going into my final year studying Law of all things. I think that surprises people when I tell them, they all assume I'd be studying drama.


MM: Ha ha. Very true. So you are from the Midlands yourself?

TL: Yes, I am a native of the Midlands. I live in Solihull, which is cool because it's so close to Birmingham city centre - I feel like I'm slap bang in the middle of everywhere, which I like a lot.


MM: So true. The Midlands is definitely in the middle of a lot of exciting things I can attest to that! So, how did you hear about ‘Do Something, Jake’?

TL: I heard about it on Casting Call Pro and the premise sounded crazy. I looked up the 'Raya Films' website and knew it was the real deal, so naturally I applied. I didn't hear back for a while so I kinda assumed nothing would come of it - that happens a lot as an actor. Then Caroline messaged me about an audition and I was over the moon. I remember I called my dad and told him.



MM: And where did it go from there?

TL: When I turned up to the second audition I read with Mia, Simon - Jamie was there too. They were so on the ball, line perfect, had tonnes of ideas, we just clicked, had great chemistry instantly. I guess that's when I realised the kind of calibre of actor that'd be involved with the project. Everyone was incredible, cast and crew. I loved working with Ed [Bergtold] too, a really gifted guy. It was so interesting to work with an American actor. He'd say a line in a certain way or do something that I just never would have thought of - I learnt a lot from him.


MM: And were the crew a similar bunch?

TL: They were outstanding - some of the shots these guys captured will blow people's minds. One tracking shot in particular, no spoilers, but it's breathtaking, next level stuff. Caroline and James deserve a lot of credit too - they were really hands on performance-wise, which I love. Without them, none of this would be a reality - it's all down to them, very talented folks. Everyone was a joy to work with, and in that regard the shoot was easy. As an actor I'd never had a challenge as big as this though. After every filming day I'd email James asking if I'd done okay, I think I drove him crazy!


MM: Sounds like a great set atmosphere. Was it?

TL: The cool thing about filming 'Do Something, Jake' is that there weren't any typical days, anything could happen. I'd wake up super early, like 5am, get ready and head to the location. I could never predict what it'd be like - everyday there'd be something crazy happening, but that excited me. Very often I'd have an idea in my head about how something would play out, but then I'd talk it over with the guys, experiment with the other actors, and it'd turn out ten times better, it was a very fun shoot.


MM: Have you worked in the industry long?

TL: Not long at all actually. I'd say about a year and a half. Last year I made the decision that I wanted to get into it. I was just watching so many great films and felt so inspired - I guess I just thought to myself 'I want to do what they do'. I've acted on and off all my life, mostly doing theatre in school. I'd pretty much decided it wasn't something I wanted to do anymore in my teens and shelved it. I feel like I only started properly acting last year when I got into film.


MM: Was the leap difficult for you?

TL: I think film acting is a whole different ball game. I basically started from scratch and taught myself how to do it. I did a short called 'The Forsaken' with 'MegaPixels Productions', that changed everything for me - that's when I got addicted.

MM: Do you like to specialise in any styles of work?

TL: I love all genres. Any opportunity to act in film is exciting for me, regardless of what type it is. That's something that was so cool about 'Do Something, Jake', it's such a mish-mash of ideas, there's comedy in there, drama, thriller, romance, a bit of everything.


MM: And any particular favourite films?

TL: I tend to gravitate more towards smaller, character based stuff, movies that are original, charismatic. I love the film 'Her', 'Drive', and I can't wait to see 'The Light Between Oceans' later this year and 'Nocturnal Animals'. But I love big popcorn flicks too - all these super hero films are great! I have too many favourite actors to mention, but I guess I have my select few ('The Power Four'): Joaquín Phoenix, Michael Fassbender, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ryan Gosling. If I can be a fraction as talented as they are, I'll be happy - they are my heroes.


MM: Acting can be a tough industry. Are there any hurdles you’ve overcome? Anything you’re particularly proud of?

TL; I think the biggest hurdle I've had is being comfortable with myself, feeling natural, reigning everything in and making things subtle. Film picks up everything. When I first started out I'd watch my short films back and think 'wow, I'm really over the top here, I need to dial it back'. Achievements? That's a tricky one, I like to think the best is yet to come. I guess if I had to pick one thing, it'd be being named 'Actor Of The Week' on Casting Call Pro in May this year - I was really proud of that.


MM: Thanks Tom. What are your next plans?

TL: I can't wait to see 'Do Something, Jake', I really do think we've made something special here - everyone's been so dedicated and hardworking. I know Caroline and James have been slaving away in post-production too, it's really going to catch a lot of people off guard. It's such a fun time. In terms of future projects, I filmed a short film with a team called 'Medusa Digital' earlier in the year called 'Fate'. I'm really proud of it, and it'll be out later this year, and I'm also involved with a new adaptation of 'Wuthering Heights' and a short film called 'Chloe' by Rebecca Harris-Smith. I'm lucky to get to work with such cool people.


MM: Finally, I ask this of everyone - do you have any advice for people looking to start out in the industry (as an actor)?

TL: I'm not sure if I'm qualified to give out advice, but I guess I think If I could offer one tip to actors, it'd be to be yourself. Ironically. Nobody on the planet can do what you do. Embrace that and run with it, then I think only good things can happen.


MM: Thanks Tom. It’s been an absolute blast talking to you and all the best with the film.

TL: Thank you too. It's been a pleasure.


You can find out more about ‘Do Something, Jake” at Raya Films http://www.rayafilms.com


Top and bottom photos courtesy of James Smith. Middle photo by Mike Mafrici




By midlandsmovies, Jul 22 2016 01:12PM




New Loughborough shot feature releases first teaser trailer for Do Something Jake.


Shot in the heart of the Midlands new film ‘Do Something, Jake’ from Raya Films is an ambitious feature created partly in the north of Leicestershire. Midlands Movies Mike looks at this new film, and its accompanying ‘making of’ as it attempts to ‘do something’ different in the crime thriller genre.


Made on a zero budget, ‘Do Something, Jake’ was directed by James Smith who went to De Montfort University in Leicester. During its production, filmmaker Mike Mafrici followed the progress of the film, from its auditions right through to the final day of filming giving an insight into its creation.


The film also stars young up-and-coming talent from the Midlands and the documentary provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes understanding into the world of indie film-making. The movie itself showcases Jamie Alderson, Tom Loone, Mia Mills and U.S. actor, Ed Bergtold who are all looking forward to seeing not only the feature movie, but this collaborative 'making-of' that runs alongside too.


The production finally wrapped in November 2015 and sourced a mix of skilled and enthusiastic university graduates, professional filmmakers and the support of local businesses and organisations to get the project to the screen.


Now very much in post-production, the film boasts an original orchestral score by composer Nikolas Labrinakos and the filmmakers hope local interest leads to international attention as they market to agents and distributors in the USA.


Mixing noir, criminal menace, comedy and simmering romantic desire, the film tells the story of an unemployed introvert who struggles to learn to read and write. When the woman he secretly loves is threatened he then has to use all his ingenuity to assist her in her time of need.


‘Do Something, Jake’ also hopes to bring an expansive concept to a zero-budget production with slick US-style scripting and dialogue being worked into this uniquely British film. Shot in sumptuous locations, the film crosses genres and uses everything from video games culture to the design of contemporary crime thrillers.


The filmmakers have been influenced by the stalker flicks of ‘Nightcrawler’ (Dan Gilroy, 2014) and the edgy character study of ‘One Hour Photo’ (Mark Romanek, 2002). With a dash of Cohen-esque humour thrown in too, Raya Films are hopeful their new feature will deliver an original movie with international appeal.


"I'm excited to see the completed documentary," explains producer and screenwriter, Caroline Spence. "Mike is such a talented young guy and he's made a great job of editing this tantalising teaser for us”.


She continues, “The cast and crew have invested so much of their time and energy into this whole project and they're buzzing to see the finished feature”.


For more information and further trailers readers can follow on social media below:


Twitter: @DoSomethingJake

Website: www.rayafilms.com

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4856996


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