My first conversation is with Ted; a filmmaker and director. His company Just Trekis a film production company with an adventurous streak and a love for sharing real life stories.
On getting into filmmaking…. I used to go on a lot of adventures, and still do, and one time my mate bought a little GoPro and we started making films. I was always really interested in watching little adventure documentary films, and it was around the time that I was also getting into political journalism, being a presenter and getting production experience. All these things collided at University and I realised I really enjoyed the process of making films and shorts about adventures and news stories. One of the most positive experiences of my career, and how I really got into filmmaking, was some of my (now) friends had set up a film festival for young filmmakers where you travel from London to Budapest and you make a film along the way. All the films are then screened in Budapest and there are prizes and awards. I did it straight after finishing University, after having never really done anything like that before, and we won a prize. On the way home I was thinking maybe I should just do thisand that’s what kicked me into gear. I set up my company and went for it.
On creativity… I grew up thinking I wasn’t particularly creative; My sister always did more creative subjects: art and graphics because she was good at drawing, and I was post holed into History and Science.
I definitely now consider myself a creative person. But it took me a while to realise there are different types of creativity, that it isn’t black and white. Just because someone isn’t Type A creative i.e: they can draw, there are other ways of accessing creativity and thinking about it. I did a lot of drama in High School, which is just a different form of creativity. I also believe it’s a skill; with my job, learning how to use a camera is 100% a skill, as is directing and learning how to put a story together. You’re not born with that skill; you learn it over time. I think part of the journey is learning you never quite create what’s in your head, but lots of trying and practicing and failing will get you close. If you got there really easily it would be quite boring because you’re missing out on the fun bit of learning how to do things. One thing I don’t like is when people close off the idea that you either have the ‘gift’ or you don’t. I just don’t think it’s true. You can teach and learn this stuff. The most important thing in my career is resilience; repeatedly trying hard and not taking no for an answer more than ‘natural ability’. It’s taken me a long time to work on it.
I think there are people who feel they don’t have the capacity to be creative when they definitely do and it’s just about giving them the chance to do that. I’ve seen friends of mine who have wanted to come on trips up to the highlands with me, and they’ll start getting into it and kicking into a gear they never knew they had and they’ll start creating stuff. I love seeing that. I really believe anyone can be a filmmaker. I’m entirely self-taught and my career has been built on me having a lot of different work experiences. I’m really passionate to show people that, and I’m keen to show people that it’s not just something only a few people can do, you can do this if you wanted. I love that.
On what’s next… I’m currently working on a documentary; I did a lot of research with a proposal and a trailer and now I’m looking for funding. It’s an interesting process for me because I don’t have those traditional TV credits, so I don’t know how long it will take to get picked up and if it would be as quick as a traditional production company. I’m trying to grow my company to be a full on Doc company rather than the commercial stuff. In 10 years I want to be solely focused on documentaries; I love spending a long time on a project going into the nuts and bolts of it.
On having a creative career and running a company… With business there is an element of patience, stuff doesn’t just happen overnight. You’ve got to let it build over time and be happy with the progress as it’s happening. I think the great thing about having a creative career and running a company is that you can immerse yourself in the business side, and then when you’re tired of that you can immerse yourself in the creative side to make yourself feel better. It’s swings and roundabouts. It’s all a balance. If you surrender yourself to it, it balances itself our naturally.
On being driven and mind-set… I’ve always been quite a driven person, and up until a few years ago that’s how I would have defined myself; more driven than creative. Almost realising I have a knack for creativity and being a creative person came after I became a filmmaker. When I set up my company, it was as much about setting up a company and building a business, which I found really interesting, fun, challenging and exciting, as it was the pursuit of capturing nice and beautiful things. It makes me really happy that I can achieve even through elements of diversity. I have a lung disease which was diagnosed whilst I was at University, and for a couple of years put a downer on my life. Then one day I woke up and thought fuck it. I’m not going to let this define me and I switched from being a negative person to a positive person. Part of my drive comes from proving to myself things I thought I couldn’t do. I’ve just been dealt a little bit of a shit hand, but what has been cool is turning the negative thoughts into positive ones. It’s so powerful. I’ve built a lifestyle around me and my business has benefited from that. Once you convince yourself that you can do something big you can do almost everything. I find that to be one of the most powerful mind-sets in life. Freelancing and owning your own business is about managing expectations. Thinking about every positive as a win and celebrating every win regardless of how big or small. It all sounds a bit postcard positivity, but then perhaps we need that.
On Edinburgh… I love Edinburgh. I went to University here. I love how well formed it is; it’s the perfect size. It’s nice to dip in and out and all my friends are still here.
Some advice… Just go do. Just do it. I know it’s all advertising slogans, but the name of my company is Just Trek and that came from going out and doing things. It’s part of an ethos that has dictated my life for quite a while. I find that if you’re proactive in what you want to do and repeatedly do it you’ll get better. What you give out comes back in abundance. Then as a side bar; know your worth. If you want to make a film for free absolutely go and make a film for free. But don’t ever worry about asking for money because what we do is absolutely worth money. It’s not the only reason it exists, but it could allow you to exist by doing that. Know your worth.