Acclaimed director James Webber has over a decade of experience in the film industry. His work as a producer, director, writer, and editor gives him a unique (and thorough!) perspective of the industry and creative process! We were so excited to host James alongside two other standout creatives at our first-ever Zealous Meetup, exploring creative collaborations.
LAB: How hands-on are you, as a director? How involved are you with the writing process, etc.?
JW: I’m usually very hands-on with most aspects of a film, right through from the script (bar one or two exceptions, I’ve always written my own material), to the shoot and post-production. As I’m an editor as well, it means I can make sure the film stays true to the story I’m looking to tell from the first page of the script to the final frame of film. The whole process behind making a film happen is—for the most part—hugely enjoyable, so I like to be part of the experience as much as possible.
LAB: Describe your work with Springhead Film – what is your greatest challenge and strength as a team? What projects do you hope to tackle together?
JW: I think funding is the usual hurdle for most filmmakers and it’s no different for us. Luckily crowdfunding has always worked well for us and we’ve managed to raise some good budgets to make sure our work gets made the way it needs to be. Although it can be fun cutting corners sometimes, you don’t want it to come at the expense of your project.
Our biggest strength is passion. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into every project we’ve collaborated on, so the passion has to be there. Hopefully you can see it on screen!
LAB: You’re known for intimate, dialogue-free visual scenes — how active is this directing choice (or does it come naturally)? What does this choice mean to you as a director and as a viewer?
JW: At the end of the day, I think it all comes down to subconscious personal choice. It certainly isn’t something I go out of my way to achieve, but everyone has their own style which translates onto the screen to varying degrees. I do like directors that have their own style. You know when you’re watching their work because of certain visual motifs or content.
LAB: How has your craft (re: storytelling / style) evolved over time? Are the changes mostly wilful or natural? In what ways are you hoping to grow most in 2017?
JW: When I left film school I wanted to make comedies, but as I’ve gotten older my taste in cinema has changed. I gravitate towards dramatic filmmaking, which you can see in some of the shorts I’ve made over the last few years (such as Driftwood and Soror).
For 2017, I plan to further develop my writing and complete a couple of screenplay projects. I’m also in pre-production on my first feature, Solitude Country, which should be shooting at some point this year.
LAB: Name 3 creatives (non-directors) you admire and why.
Alan Moore (Graphic Novel Writer)
Ever since first reading From Hell I’ve been hooked. Combining social / political commentary, bold, original ideas and a dark sense of humour, Moore is easily one of the greatest graphic novel writers. They haven’t quite nailed a big screen adaptation of Moore’s work yet but I’m still holding out for a faithful version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Ólafur Arnalds (Composer)
I wrote most of the drafts of my first feature to Ólafur’s music. His work feels incredibly intimate and emotional but also epic in scope. It just fires my imagination.
Drew Struzan (Artist)
Back before Netflix and Amazon Prime could deliver films with the click of a button, films depended on artwork to often draw you in, especially in the golden days of video rental shops. Early memories of these trips fired my passion for movie posters. Think of a classic film from the 80’s up to now: Drew Struzan was probably responsible for its poster. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Blade Runner… you name it, he probably did it!
LAB: Could you tell us a bit about Solitude Country? Post-apocalyptic themes are very in vogue – what draws you to them (and how does Solitude Country differ from run-of-the-mill projects like Zombieland, The Walking Dead, etc.)?
JW: First off, Solitude Country is not a zombie film, which certainly helps! Although it’s completely different, The Road is probably the closest comparison to our film. Solitude Country is a human drama about a young woman (Gemma) who loses everything and survives in the wilds of Scotland. One night, two brothers and a female companion arrive, disrupting the carefully-built life Gemma has created for herself. Solitude Country is a genre film, but it really isn’t about genre at all. The characters—rather than the situation—drive the story. It’s a very emotional and, at times, uncomfortable story. I’ve been working on the script for a number of years now—it feels great to finally push ahead and get the film into production.
LAB: In your opinion: best and worst films of 2016 (and why)?
JW: I missed a few films which I suspect would have made this list but here are my favourite films of 2016 (in no particular order):
I think the best way to judge a film isn’t just the immediate effect it has on you, but also if you wake up the next day thinking about it—all the above films have had that effect on me. Overall, I think 2016 was a great year for cinema (getting this list down to ten favourites was tough!).