Charlie Dennis is the definition of adaptable. Collaborative, colourful, and totally optimistic, he is an award-winning young director with credits including Spectre, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. He’s toured with U2, Wolf Alice, and has made rounds on various television series, short films, and commercials (HP/Star Wars promos, eBay’s 2015 Christmas campaign, Little Mix charity promo, and many others).
Charlie is not only director, but an editor, cameraman, and sound designer. His wide skill set is a massive advantage in an industry as fast-paced and fluid as film. Together with cinematographer Tomas Frigstad, Charlie works as Forturian, a high-end film production company with a strong foundation in narrative filmmaking. Whether high-end ads, fashion films, viral videos, corporate or documentary, they connect with an audience at any scale and see not only the horizon, but beyond it.
LAB: Describe your directing style in 5 words or less.
CD: Adaptive and aesthetically pleasing.
LAB: You’ve described your work as “cinematic storytelling” — say more! How does narrative shape your work?
CD: It’s usually the focus of my work (commercials and film) — without it, I find I usually forget rather easily. If I approach a story by pulling it out of a basic, mundane scenario, it becomes far easier to string together the structure of the commercial or film, even if it is a small, simple promo.
LAB: Favourite project / shoot so far? Why?
CD: It’ll have to be one of my short films — Deep Pan Fury. It was an action film, and I love doing set-pieces. Working with the stunt choreographer to create intense and powerful action sequences is something I’ll never get bored of.
LAB: Is there any skill you wish you had (that you’ve not developed yet)? What is it and why do you think it’d be useful to you?
CD: Potentially the ability to draw well — I find storyboards really useful, but I’m absolutely terrible at drawing, so I tend not to use them. It can sometimes be difficult to me to put across in words what I’m imagining. Being a good painter or artist would make my life so much easier sometimes!
LAB: How long have you worked with Forturian? How does your partnership with Tomas enhance your craft? Under what circumstances do you prefer to work solo?
CD: We work together very well; he usually understands exactly what I want without me having to tell him, and he brings exciting cinematography to the table which sits perfectly in line with what I’m looking for.
LAB: Did you always want to pursue a film career? Why or why not?
CD: No, not always — I used to want to be a pilot in the RAF! I’ve always loved film, and it’s always been my passion, but I didn’t considered it to be a career until I was around 17.
LAB: Do you have a shooting preference? (Feature-length, short film, TV, adverts, etc.) Why?
CD: Commercials are great for me because of the creativity you can get across in such a short, intense period, and as my attention span is so very very low, I can put all my energy and creativity into it without getting bored. With feature films, it requires an incredibly strict headspace for a long period of time, which is incredibly rewarding but draining. I haven’t directed my own feature yet, however I’ve worked on many, and it’s an enormous commitment.
LAB: If you could give advice to any young, aspiring directors, what would it be? (Another way to answer this: What advice would you give to your younger self?)
CD: I still consider myself to be a young aspiring director, so any advice I give should be to myself also! At the moment, I’m thinking, breathing, and living film, constantly trying to find the next exciting opportunity and keep myself updated with all the latest work, art movements, feature films, directors, etc. I’ll finish a day on set and use my evenings to blast out a load of emails to producers, scriptwriters and actors I’d like to work with for a next potential short film. It’s a hard process, but the personal payout is so worth it.