Jamie started his directing career by winning a competition to shoot a TV commercial for Patricia Cornwell’s latest novel at the time, ‘Book of the Dead’. His winning piece was shown on Channel 5.
He then moved onto directing commercials, most noticeably for the BBC. Since then, Jamie’s work has garnered a number of awards, including a Promax for his piece for Tuborg, which he directed and produced. Jamie’s ability to fuse a naturally observed use of camera with striking visuals, coupled with his skill at drawing great performances out from his cast, has established him as an accomplished director within the industry. His commercial for the Make A Wish Foundation and Fairy, starring Sean Bean was incredibly well reviewed. He directed the Dove, Rugby Six Nations commercial in 2015. He has shot spots for Nescafe, ITV Creative and Huawei.
When did you know you wanted to be a director?
I can’t say I’m a kid who went around with my dads Super 8 camera that’s for sure. I don’t even think I knew I wanted to become a director when I was becoming one. I was always very practical when it came to filmmaking, like I was more interested in building a cool spaceship to film in when I started out, than just telling stories. I like the craft and engineering side of filmmaking. Like, how can I make it look like someone is getting shot by a sniper, with what I can get from B&Q? That kind of thing.
When it came to the actual filmmaking process, I came at this with the approach of doing everything myself, as I didn’t know who else could help me really. I would build a set, shoot it on a PD150, that I had borrowed, direct it, edit it, do the sound and music all on my own. The actors were friends and family too. I was too scared to ask for help, so I just figured it out myself. Of course, knowing a little bit about everything came in handy in the end, when becoming a professional director. I think its good to know the craft of filmmaking from every angle, knowing what everyone on your set is doing, but also knowing that they can do it better than you, and trusting to let them get on, without you interfering too much.
Once you knew you wanted to pursue a career as a director, what were your first steps in achieving this goal?
I won a competition when I first started university to direct a commercial for Patricia Cornwell’s latest crime novel Book of the Dead. I shot this little thing in my bedroom using about £5 worth of props. To my surprise I won the comp! I couldn’t believe it. £2500 prize money and my commercial was going to advertise her new book during the show CSI on Channel 5.
I thought I had made it to the big time. Well I hadn’t quite done that, but the company that held the competition asked me if I would like to do some more book commercials. Each week they sent me a new novel with a small budget. My thinking was if I make it for as little as possible and do everything myself, I can make a bit of cash on this. So I had to be super practical and inventive with how I could make the piece look professional, with very little. Each book was often a different genre too; young adult love story, horror, sci-fi, this trained me in telling short stories of all varieties. It was like making a short film with a very different flavour each time.
What obstacles or setbacks did you face in becoming a director?
I’ve been quite lucky that I always jumped from one thing to another. Part of this was just focusing on the next thing ahead. Sometimes having a couple or more things on the go at once. The last thing you want is to have a gap, get bored and unmotivated. If one thing isn’t working jump to something else that you have bubbling. I’m not just talking about paid jobs either. Passion projects and little things you just want to try out, it’s all learning, and then you don’t need to learn on a big expensive job. All the little things I learnt making stupid films with my friends came in handy on the sets of the biggest shows I have since worked on.
I think my biggest obstacle was getting out of the trap of commercials. They pay relatively well but are not often great for the soul. I needed to find a way out and into fiction. To do this I had to turn well paid commercials down and risk making some shorts, with my own savings. But the risk paid off. If you believe in yourself be bold and crack on. I believe in you!
How did you develop your voice and hone your craft?
I went through a period of making TV commercials for a while, but this felt very unsatisfying. Often shooting a script that I didn’t like and being told what to do when it came to every shot. I thought to myself ‘I need to make something of my own, that shows what I can do’. So I used every penny I had saved and went and made two short films.
One was a very straightforward drama that I shot in my grandparents’ house with two actors. I still love that film as it was very personal to me. The other one was a World War 2 fantasy, realism story about a young French boy in Normandy, who makes friends with two American soldiers. With this one I wanted to make a short that had the production value and style of Spielberg. So I poured my heart, soul and cash into it, and gave it my best shot. Still to this day that piece of work gets me professional work. The producers of His Dark Materials saw it and wanted to meet me. Basically what I’m saying is get up and make something that really shows who you are as a filmmaker, it’s worth it every time, don’t wait for funding or a completion, just make it for yourself and give it soul. It will serve you well for your entire career.
How did you get your first break?
My first major break in drama was on a show called Vera for ITV. Again, the producer Letitia Knight saw both of my short films and decided she wanted to meet me. She wanted to work with new directors to try and freshen up the show a bit and she loved what I had done with my shorts. She was very brave and took a chance with me. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I sure wasn’t going to let her down. Again, going back to the shorts, I never released them or entered them into any comps. I just made them, showed them to some agents, got signed and then shared them with producers, they were my business card. Get up and make something that represents you right now!!!
TV Credits: Vera (2016-2017), Stan Lee’s Lucky Man (2017), Next of Kin (2018), Doctor Who (2018), His Dark Materials (2019-2020).