Nick Jones is an Acton based producer and director, previously an executive at the BBC, Channel Four and FilmFour. He specializes in cinema history and film- related programming and has run a local film club for ten years.
What makes a good film?
I look for all sorts of things in cinema – the experience can be so different from one film to the next. Sometimes it is the plot or narrative that drives the picture, or the performances and script, or it can be the vision expressed through lighting, cinematography and editing. Of course in the best films these are all combined – often with a great score. The combination of picture and music can be such a potent thing.
Should Short Films be different from feature length ones?
Less is more. I like short films that are short – there is such a skill to compressing the action into a few minutes only of running time, the short film is quite different to the feature length picture. Sometimes it’s a single idea being expressed, sometimes a story with a twist at the end or a punchline, sometimes a character study. Favourites are Un Chien Andalou by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, Vincent by Tim Burton, The Big Shave by Martin Scorsese, Wasp by Andrea Arnold. There was an excellent BAFTA winner this year – Learning To Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) – long title – great film!
Any tips for new filmmakers?
Filmmaking is a collaborative activity. You need to communicate your vision to a whole lot of people (unless you are making animation which can be done singlehanded). Script and story are very important – too many films fall down for lack of a proper script. Show don’t tell – film is primarily a visual medium and too many films overexplain things in dialogue. Silent movies show us the way here – The Artist from a few years back proved you don’t need loads of exposition. Editing is key – how the shots are put together and the pace of the film is essential. Keep the running time down – so many modern films are two or three hours long when they don’t need to be more than 90 minutes. Short films show the way here – you can do so much in a very tight time frame.
Share with us some of your favourite films
Here are just a few: The Godfather films, It’s A Wonderful Life, Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Dr Strangelove, Withnail and I, A Matter of Life and Death, The Souvenir, Lost in Translation, Inception, Daisies, Do The Right Thing, Get Out, When Harry Met Sally, Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau version), The Jungle Book, Citizen Kane, La Dolce Vita, The Seven Samurai, The General, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, – I could go on and on!