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From 'INSIDE' to 'FOCUS': A Chat with Director Charlie Vjestica

Please tell us a little about how you became interested in filmmaking. How and where did you learn filmmaking and start this profession? Is INSIDE: Narrative of Our Journey the latest work that you have made?

My love of Film started from a very young age, that’s an answer I’m sure you’ve heard a million times already but it's honestly True. From a young age I fell in love with the blockbusters of my youth, Transformers, Marvel, DC all the expected loves who spent core pieces of his childhood in the 2010's. Since then through academic studies and slow but steady growth in admiration for the art of filmmaking, I’ve ended up with a catalogue of over 2600 Watched movies of a wide variety of dates and genres. It’s become more than a piece of entertainment, its now a part of me and how I wish to share my own ideology and stories with the world.

As of doing this interview, INSIDE: Narrative of Our Journey is our most recent mainline release, however we’ll be releasing a 70 minute featurette soon titled FOCUS, which catalogues a wide variety of unreleased projects accompanied by directors commentary, we hope to release this to commemorate the 2nd anniversary since our Journey as friends and true filmmakers began.

How did the main idea of this project strike you? And how long did it take you to achieve the final script?

The main idea of INSIDE came from our own experience through our 2 years of college studies. We’ve seen so many stories and people change over this period in our lives and the ability to capture this on camera was so beautiful to us, and a piece of the world we live in that isn’t showcased in film as much as it should, not to mention the fascinating world of student and indie filmmakers. You absolute tenacity and dedication we’ve seen through people we’ve worked with and documented for the film is nothing short of mesmerizing. And the idea of showcasing such beautiful stories of growth, change and hope was so striking to us initially, especially when taking into consideration we’ll be able to capture it in an art form that means so much to us.

The script had a around 2 rewrites during pre-production. We originally didn’t want to use narration but after I suggested it in the script we decided to experiment with it (which paid off greatly in the end). Through criticism from client and peers we were given advice in order to make our script the best it could be (some advice given more kindly than others). Our second draft was lengthy and had more grandiose to it as we like to describe, compared to the first draft one thing that was heavily improved was the ending, as our originally draft ended quite abruptly compared to the end product.

Making a film as a joint work with multiple directors is not an easy task. Your film has three directors. Please tell us about the conditions of this collaboration. How did you divide the tasks and what problems did you have at work? Knowing many of these can help inexperienced filmmakers.

One thing that helps greatly with working as a trio is the simple fact that we are all excellent friends. Myself and Beach Darnley have been incredibly close friends for over a decade, a decade in which we’ve shared the same overloading passion for film for nearly as long if not longer. We met Will Grant around 2 years ago and have formed a brother like bond in the years we’ve known one another from our similarities both in personality and aspirations. We also have got quite lucky in the fact that the 3 of us specialize in different things each resulting in a steady workflow. Will has been our D.O.P since our debut project as he’s by far the most skilled at it, while myself and Beach usually take the director and writers role during production at least. I myself have been the central editor for all Legacy Cinema projects as we have collectively agreed as a group I am the most skilled in our department. It’s through these 2 years we’ve been able to find where we are most comfortable working during a production and have found great success through that balance. Another way we make the trio directorial approach work is our respect and approach to ideas we all wish to share, no matter what we will always find a way to create a film that we are all satisfied with, and will try and experiment with Suggestions each of us have for the film, its through the even amount of excellent ideas and contributions to the finished product that we decided to go ahead and share the directorial chair. It’s through these experiences that I’d say to inexperienced filmmakers to grow a relationship with your work partners, as a project will always come out even better if each working cog in the machine shares the same ideology for the finished product, as well as the same tenacity for the art form and respect not only professionally but personally too.

Tell us about the process of casting and working with actors. Wouldn't the fact that one of the filmmakers was in front of the camera as an actor make directing the actors more difficult?

The main people we documented in the film was a stroke of luck really, the student productions we followed were passion projects of very close friends of ours, who out of the many productions being made by our peers and friends at the time seemed to be the most interesting in terms of narrative, as well as having the most vibrant filming locations which of course we relied on to deliver us excellent places to shoot too. The cast and crew of the sets we were on expanded upon that interesting narrative in ways we could never imagine by delivering such insightful and amazing answers to the questions we provided them. In terms of having directors in front of the camera it never really came across as a challenge. One of my personal idols is Clint Eastwood, a filmmaker who both directs and acts in his own films, I’d never compare myself to such a legend in film, but I’ve grown to admire his approach to filmmaking in this sense which made me more comfortable to step in front of the camera. Not to mention our years of acting experience before our switch to work behind the camera, which made it even more comfortable to act in both roles. It was also less of a challenge cause a lot of moments where we did step in front of the camera was done during mine and Beach’s work on the set of a close friends film we were working on and documenting. A film called ‘Happy Families’ by our great friends Milly Elwell and Liam Goodwin (who have recently joined us at Legacy Cinema), it was this personal connection which made us feel like the camera for our film wasn’t even there at times, which was the exact emotion and tone we wanted to capture in the film for ourselves and the rest of the people within the documentary.

Making an independent film is one of the hardest things to do in cinema, especially when it comes to budget. Please tell us about your production conditions.

As student filmmakers, we work with a budget of relatively nothing. The budget of INSIDE was roughly about £100 and most of that was through travel expenses. We are lucky enough to have a large plethora of equipment at our disposal through college and personally owed apparatus. Which made production very simply in terms of equipment and budgeting. In the coming future, we’ll be working with much higher budgets as we step into our University years which will increase the production value of our work exponentially. INSIDE had one of the smoothest productions we’ve ever had with little to no problems, the biggest of which came during the interview with Charlotte Lea and Tom Brindley-Carter, where we suffered issues with the audio recording equipment (which has become an unfortunate staple at Legacy Cinema). However this was solved quickly as we rerecorded the dialogue again a few weeks into post production. Apart from that our production days were very smooth and wholesome to say the least.

At what stage did you have more freedom of action? Shooting stage or post-production stage? Please tell us about your editing process as well.

The Post Production stage is what we regard as the stage where our freedom came, as it’s where we experimented with the countless ideas and suggestions shared throughout production up until this point. This is where ideas such as the super 8 style and the use of narration came into play, there was around 8 hours of footage for us to play around and experiment which made editing exciting and enjoyable. One of the most interesting inclusions suggested to me during editing was inclusion of the montage in act 3, showcasing countless of pieces of student work from our own to many others we had the pleasure of getting hold of to showcase. As the editor of the film I dedicated a lot of time to editing it. There was a few days during the 2 week editing process that I spent 7-8 hours a day editing, not only through dedication to the film, but honest love and joy I got out of editing, something about it was so therapeutic and wholesome to me, editing together this story so long in the making, after all the doubts we had and watching it turn into something which excelled each and every one of our expectations.

What effect do you think film festivals, governments and private institutions have on the work of young filmmakers?

Film Festivals I think are an excellent way to get your work out there, INSIDE has been shown in over 11 countries and climbing through so many festivals, and the opportunities that have come our way from it is incredible. Magazine interviews, Amazon Prime Distribution deals, podcast appearances it’s amazing. We’ve been especially excited to appear in the Roma Cinephile Magazine and we were over the moon upon hearing about it. The amount of opportunity available at festivals through the thousands out there on sites like FilmFreeway is one of the best directions you can take as an indie filmmaker I think.

Have facilities such as digital tools facilitated filmmaking for young filmmakers?

The amount of content available to young filmmakers on digital platforms now is amazing, even though I believe its harder for young filmmakers to make it big in the industry now more than ever, I do still think that the amounts of platforms and digital tools available to create and showcase your work in today’s world is nothing short of amazing. And if its there for you to use and you truly want to create media to your hearts desire, then in today’s world there’s really nothing to stop you.

What lessons did you learn from making INSIDE: Narrative of Our Journey that can help you further in the future?

The biggest lesson we’ve learnt as a group throughout this project is self confidence. In early pitches and showcases of our ideas and hopes for the film, we were met with a lot of harsh criticism, and not helpful criticism at that. Mostly just doubts and hopelessness in our ability, being told the film would never do well and it would be received negatively. Those people could not be more wrong, as we’ve had the most delightful response to INSIDE, and we’ve received the most amazing opportunities from it. This has been a lesson in self confidence, in your ability and ideas, and that if you’re passionate about something, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t see it out to the very end regardless of who says otherwise.

Please tell us about your next project if possible. Will you make another film as a joint effort?

All 3 of us will be moving to the same University late this year, where we’ll be working with bigger budgets with better equipment on even larger scales. We have so many ideas we hope to bring to life in this coming future, ones that weren’t possible on the scale we had during our college years. Whatever happens, its an absolute certainty there will be many more Legacy Cinema Productions in the future that are bigger and better than we could ever imagine.


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