It Follows Me Around

Ben Liam Jones

How did you get into directing?
I got chucked out of school and at that time my mum was a mature student studying Multimedia at Southend college. It meant I had to go to classes with her, which was great as I got play around with the equipment. There a lecturer showed me his short film, and that was it. Knowing someone who actually made a film took something that I thought was impossible for someone like me, and made it possible. After that I headed to film school wanting to direct.

Years later that lecturer (Stuart Fenegan) produced Moon by Duncan Jones, which become a further source of inspiration.

What is your most recent project?
Apart from a few commercials that I’m making through the Mustard Film Company, I have a few short films in the works. One is being written by Matt Fitch and Mark Lewis, the creatives behind the Guardian’s brilliant “3 Little Pigs” advert, which has been an awards hit over the past year. The other I hope to write with Andrew Hunter, whom I collaborated with on the Physical Abuse Awareness film for ChildLine.

What is the best part of being a director?
I love collaborating with good people. The buzz you get from someone who suggests, or does something, that takes your initial idea to a higher level keeps me going. But without doubt the best thing is the feeling you get when you’ve made something you’re proud of. For me there is no better feeling than meeting your own expectations.

What is the worst part of being a director?
The first time you enter the edit room. You are so far away from the final piece you’re still not sure if you’ve made something good, or not. I always have that moment of self doubt, it turns my stomach every time.

What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
My focus, quite simply, is to keep making content that creatively simulates me. At the moment commercials are fulfilling that requirement.

I want to continue making work with strong narratives and performances, but I’m also interested in taking on comedy scripts as I don’t want to be pigeon holed in what I can do as a director.

Ultimately I want to make more award-winning work so I’ll hopefully get the opportunities, like the very best commercials directors, to work all over the world.

Who is your favorite director and why?
Impossible to pick one. I love Scorsese, he was the one that made me want to make films originally. At the moment I’m loving Aronofsky. I was very instictlive in my approach, I’ve never watched a director’s piece of work and been consciously influenced by their style. I just got on with it. I then saw The Wrestler and Black Swan, I instantly recognized them as a style of filmmaking I was trying to make. Since then I’ve looked back and discovered directors like John Cassavetes who have that same naturalistic approach.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
It’s either Goodfellas or Trainspotting, both for the same reasons. Great character pieces that move along at a frantic pace, without any boring moments. The use of music in both are also brilliant. But as an Englishman I’ll go with Trainspotting on this occasion.

Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I was brought up by a single mother on Canvey Island in Essex, UK.

I’ve been a pizza delivery driver, supermarket self stacker, barman, building labour and a cable TV engineer. I got my break in production working as a runner before getting a job as a promo producer, which is essentially editing trailers for TV shows.

Given the stories and characters I want to show on screen, I like to think my background has given me a good apprenticeship in becoming a successful director.