HND Film & Television student Kieran McLaughlin has already worked on a variety of features, one of which recently had its debut on Prime video. Kieran talks about his film making journey and his hopes for the future as he works toward completing his HND.
When did you take up film making?
My interest in filmmaking began back in 2017 when I went on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Summer School. This was a great introductory course to film theory and the process of making a film from pre-production to distribution. I went on to be a part of the GMAC Film Summer School in 2019 when I directed the film. This was a great opportunity to develop core hard and soft skills whilst furthering my knowledge of the craft.
My journey with GMAC Film continued through the BFI Academy which was an intensive weekly course spanning six months. The course was more in-depth about the theory behind film and the process of developing a script for screen. The Academy concluded with a one-day shoot using a RED cinema camera and a final premiere after the film was edited. For this, I was one of the producers. Both the Summer School and BFI Academy films were screened at the FANS Youth Film Festival in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
I’m still involved with GMAC Film through their Youth Team and the Moving Image Arts course. MIA is an Irish qualification which I currently study. The course explores the classical Hollywood style, Russian montage and Expressionism whilst working towards creating a short film.
Concurrent to the BFI Academy, I studied a HNC in TV Production with NCLAN. This was an extremely positive year which I look fondly back on as it set me up for making the next steps into the industry. I learned about shooting for different genres, lighting, developing ideas and undertaking bigger projects without a huge cast or crew. Following on from the success of the HNC, I now am at the tail end of the HND. My time has been spent creating content and planning for the future. On the course, I have created a documentary exploring sartorialism, an area of fashion/style which I fit into. Now, I am working on my showreel, editing it together and creating a website. These are very exciting times!
What equipment do you use?
Over the last few months, I have started to invest in equipment that will allow me to shoot more professional content and hopefully start earning for the work I do. After spending a lot of time researching, I settled on the Black Magic Pocket 6K Cinema Camera as this was a good entry level camera that looks professional and will allow me to achieve higher quality work.
To pair with the camera I have invested in some lenses: a Sigma 18-35mm F1.8, a Sigma 50-100mm F1.8 and a modified Helios 44-2 58mm F2. I made the decision to pick up matching zoom lenses, firstly for visual continuity and for the focal length coverage. Having two zooms which cover the main focal ranges that I will need for my work saves time on set, space in storage instead of having to swap between multiple prime lenses and carry them all, and most importantly, money. I decided to pick up a wireless focal puller in the form of the Nucleus Nano.
The goal for my camera rig is portability, efficiency and control. I am able to rig the system up to be paired with a bigger camera crew or keep the system simple for solo shooting. The rig can be set up to go between sticks and handheld with the quick release of the tripod plate. I continue to research, development my knowledge, understanding and skills in the camera department so I can self-shoot and also hold in-depth conversations with any DPs that I work with.
For audio, I use a ZOOM H4N Pro audio recorder paired with a Rode NTG-2 boom microphone. My long term plan would be to own my own cinema camera such as a RED MONSTRO 8K or an ARRI ALEXA as these are professional cameras used on high end productions.
However, despite all this equipment, it is important to note that it is ultimately not as important as the story. Substance over style! I initially started out using the Lumix G7 camera which has helped get me to where I am now, shooting most of my short films and my documentary on it. This demonstrates that you do not need any fancy or expensive equipment to make films.
Tell us a little about “Cavendish” and how that came about?
A Scottish boarding school tucked away in the Highlands. Prefects for house parents. Peers who are more like siblings. High standards of disciple and excellence. Cavendish is everything English newcomer Gracie Bennett needs and nothing she wants, except to play on their football team. Talent got her there but clashing against the new normal may well cost her the season.
Cavendish started as a showreel scene written by actor Maddy Bryce and quickly turned into a YouTube series. What was to be episode three at the time was in pre-production when I was recruited as a colourist and second editor. About a month later, I was promoted to producer for the series just before we began transitioning from YouTube to Prime video. During the transition we merged the first two short instalments into one nineteen minute, re-edited and re-coloured the episode featuring a new intro sequence that we travelled up to Loch Earn to shoot. Cavendish is currently sitting at a nice 55k rating on IMDB out of 7.5 million, which puts us in the top 1% of titles in their database. We are hopefully shooting the next episode in April with the biggest cast and crew yet.
Which Directors or Producers inspire you?
My primary directorial influence would be John Cassavetes. I see parallels in his work exploring class divide, existentialism, love, greed and the human condition with the films that I want to make and the stories I wish to tell. I like his documentary style of shooting which feels organic and fluid; it draws audiences into the story and focuses attention on characters which drive the stories. His versatility between bigger budget and indie filmmaking is something which I aspire to do.
Bong Joon-ho is another big influence. His films tend to cover a wide variety of genres and stories but they are connected through the similar themes such as class divide and good vs evil. His films are character driven too and he often makes social commentary on the world without favouring a particular side. This ambiguity demonstrates that the world is often grey and there can often be no moral high ground. This is something which I hope to explore in my own films.
A big influence in terms of producers would be Jed Mercurio who primarily is involved in British television. His versatility as a writer, director and producer is something which I hope to develop myself. With a basis in drama, he has produced series’ like Line Of Duty, Bodyguard, and the upcoming Bloodlands.
Your course finishes in June this year, have you made any future plans?
Firstly, I have been spending a lot of time creating content, thinking about self-promotion and how I can market myself as a freelancer. I aim to set up as a sole trader and try to break into the industry. Over the past few years, I have undertaken various courses which have provided good experience and networking opportunities. I intend to continue this by looking for workshops, apprenticeships, training schemes and by working on my own projects. The intention is to continue developing my skillset in the many facets of filmmaking so I can be versatile, adaptability and widen the opportunities available to me.
Out with looking to make a beginning in the industry, I have reapplied to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Having previously applied, I have been able to take positives away from each application, learn and develop myself and recognise areas for improvement. I have spent the last year focusing on this and hope to be successful in my application this time.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
In five years’ time I hope to be established as a freelancer, making my own content and working as a director and producer in the industry. My aim is to continue building up IMDB credits, growing my business and working on bigger scale productions. In order to get to this stage, I need to continue making a variety of content such as short films, commercial work, and social media content. Amazon Prime is a great platform to get my work out there as well as uploading to YouTube and Vimeo. I also plan on submitting any short films I direct or produce to film festivals as this can be a great way to secure future funding, make money, network and create opportunities.
Kieran McLaughlin Instagram
Watch Kieran’s documentary on Sartorialism and read a little about the background to making it.