Graduated – 1989
A Geordie by birth, Adrian now resides in Camden Town where he can be found riding his bicycle relentlessly around Regents Park, in his floating office on a 70ft narrow boat next to London Zoo or in some corner of the world shooting his latest exploit. His filmmaking career began during his placement in the working arena of design for television.
He made his first short film ‘Pase Adelante’ a ten-minute study of the Maya. The film was quickly picked up by the BBC and screened on BBC 2 in 1992 and at 26 years of age Adrian was signed to Ridley Scott’s production company in London where he has directed a plethora of international work, his clients include BMW, Speedo, Guinness, Unicef, BBC, UBS, Lee Jeans, Allianz, Renault, Toyota, The Times, NHS, The U.A.E. Armed Forces, Rolex… the list goes on. View his work here.
The Disciples of Design Q&A
How and where did you secure your first job?
From a red phone box outside the office of ‘English Markell Pockett’ on Kingly Street in Soho. I got an interview there and then, and I walked across the street and did my placement with them (and shared the same jacket with my old mate Pero Trivunovic who wore it for his interview the same day at ‘Lambie Nairn’).
Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
The whole placement idea was very attractive to me along with the recent history of the course; students were getting on from Preston and doing great things. It seemed to me more vocational and more flexible than comparative courses.
The idea driven perspective at Preston, and the diversity of ways we were asked to express ourselves, allowed me to breathe and eventually discover a whole other medium in film.
Your career path moved into film quite early. Was that a conscious decision and could you tell us a little about that?
There was a point where I found myself in the darkroom for most of my time, and rather than doing corporate identities or highly crafted kerning of letters, I was making pictures for my projects or making pictures for other students projects. There were a couple of guys in the year above who were doing really cool stuff with animations and Rota scoping and making things move. I was attracted to that.
So when I went for my placement I went for one of those ‘designer-directors’ type of companies. They were designers but using the moving image, doing title sequences and maps and all sorts of things with the very beginnings of CGI, even shooting their own stuff. During my time there I bought my first movie camera, a Braun Nizo 6080 with a nice 11 to 1 lens, and I was off to Guatemala where I shot my first film. That was it. I was hooked.
How has the film industry changed over the years in your experience?
In so many exciting ways, with technological developments, the speed at which we can operate these days is so much faster. It is currently an amazing time now, the film industry is buzzing and everything is possible and everyone is connected. Nowadays there are often many more players and processes that just didn’t exist when I started shooting, and that the craft of making the commercial was left to the agency creatives and the director to a large degree.
You have to be a good manager and feed off the tsunami of information that now comes at you. You have to incorporate the values that everyone wants, from health and safety to research groups and client whims, but you make sure you hold
onto the idea. I used to get a call to go round to an agency for a meeting about a script. They would send it round, and I’d read it. If the meeting went well I would get the job and we’d be shooting. Now most of my meetings are on conference calls with as many as 12 people on the line on various continents, then I write a treatment and pull together a pitch.
Where do you get your inspiration from? How important is collaboration in the film making process?
God knows where my inspiration comes from? Sometimes on my bike, often in my office, often as a gift through conversation, meetings or circumstance, even from my kids. They are particularly astute when commenting on casting sessions. One of the great things about directing is that a big aspect of your role is in managing various creative departments; writing, editing, lighting, production design, fashion/wardrobe, model making, CGI, etc.
I like to think that I will be inspired by the heads of all these departments during the process of making a film. Collaboration starts off small at the start of a project with just you and your producer or your writer, and then slowly gathers… until when you shoot you might be collaborating with 200 people or more.
Would you have done anything differently at University?
I would have made a film about flamenco, a love story with a tragic and violent twist of family, civil conflict and honour, set in Preston on the banks of the canal circa 1860, shot for nowt with all the characters that were there with me back then, their high spirits and gusto for life.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Everything really! But the best is the momentum of being on a project. From the first script ideas, to the build up, to the location scouting and the initial shoot.
All the preparation and creation, the shoot itself and getting the job done, to the final exasperating truth of what you have done in the editing room. It’s a fantastic process involving so many inspiring people in which every step needs nurturing all the way to the end.
What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Raw enthusiasm mostly and the ability to question everything? I think to be a really good director you have to find a knack to inspire people to do things.
You have a whole team working with you on many levels and it is up to you to set the energy for the job. I have a good energy on set, and always set the best example possible for the job at hand.
What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
Many naked things, I have been naked in many unusual places both professionally and unprofessionally. But I guess that’s not unusual when you consider the wild partying reputation we had as students back in Preston in 1988.
My job takes me to so many interesting places and puts me into circumstances and gets me into so many unusual situations.
What is it like working out of an office on a barge in Camden?
It's hell in here, when I’m here I’m just working to get out on the next project. I think that’s why I couldn’t be a graphic designer; I just couldn’t sit still for long enough. No but really it’s very nice as you might imagine, a great place to think and read, research, draw, write, meet, make music, edit films, watch movies, drink, eat cheese and be merry.
What advice would you give to our students?
Number one, you need to love what you do! The thing is that you are at the beginning and that is the best place to be. There is no better time than now to really express yourself freely before the world of commerce and work comes knocking. It’s all about ideas and finding your way to fit in and do your thing. When you go for a job, give it your all and make yourself indispensable so when it comes time for you to leave, they need you.
I work on a project-by-project basis so the big deal is… I don’t just get my projects I have to pitch for them like anyone else. Things have not changed for me since the red phone box and my first interview for a job, every pitch for a project is
often its biggest undertaking, and we don’t win half of what we dream up. So if you believe in yourself and are up for hard graft maybe you will be the one I lose my next pitch to!
Killing Lincoln - RSA Films
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