1. Your film is about insects in a post-apocalyptic world – where does your inspiration come from? My inspiration usually starts from character or history, something visually striking or profound, and I build a story from there, but in the case of ‘Invertebrate’, it was a flash of inspiration under pressure… I was in a pitch meeting with the local branch of the now defunct UK Film council (Northern Film & Media- thankfully NFM are still here) where I had been asked to provide several film ideas for their annual short film scheme. They didn’t like any of my pitches, but still seemed keen to work with me, and they asked me if I had anything else- I made up the concept of ‘Invertebrate’ on the spot- and they said yes! (The enormity of what I had let myself in for hit later) To be fair, some of the ideas behind the film I had been playing with for years. I am a Director of Photography, and I had always wanted to shoot miniatures, -a whole film comprised of practical special effects. I didn’t even want to use compositing tools, so the characters in the film had to be small too, hence the insects. I knew that I would have to film hundreds of hours to be able to build a story around the natural behavior of the insects, and that became the real challenge, -to create a narrative and to anthropomorphise the insects, to give them drama that we can empathise with, from the 19TB of footage I shot in the months of filming. The ‘Post-apocalyptic’ element came from experimenting with different aesthetics during the pre production- I didn’t want to make a film that could be misconstrued as documentary, so I asked the questions, ‘what would look the coolest in miniature? How can I explain why we have 6’ mantises in New York?’ 2. If the end of the world was coming like in your film, what would you do with your last 24 hours? If I knew it was coming? I’d like to think that I would set up a human defense league against our insect overlords, knowing their weaknesses, and lack of cognitive strategies. However their instinctive organisation against us would probably mean they would farm us like aphids, humanity doomed until the robot uprising that would surely come next. I’d probably hole up with my family in a bunker, and make a documentary in the meantime though… 3. What’s happened to Invertebrate since April 2011? We hear it’s in contention for a BAFTA?! Yes it is- no need to get excited yet though. Right now, it’s eligible so BAFTA members can vote for the film, but there’s a long way to go yet! The long list will be announced in December, so if we’re on that list, we’ve done incredibly well. It will be interesting to see how BAFTA respond to the film- so far it has been successful in North and South America, in Europe and Eastern countries, but our UK premier won’t be happening until January 2012, and that’s not through lack of trying! 4. What got you started in filmmaking in the first place? I started out first studying then trying to make a living out of fine art- I would spend sometimes weeks on a painting, until I discovered the immediacy of creating photographic images that would tell the story I was trying to communicate instantly, literally painting with light. I decided then that Filmmaking was truly what I wanted to do. I went back to the beginning, and gained experience by first making cups of tea on various sets, then slowly worked my way up through the camera department, all the while making my own personal projects. 5. What are your plans for the future? You’ve recently been linked to “Interview with a Hitman” and “The Man Inside”, can you tell us a bit about these projects? I still consider myself a Director of Photography first, -the films I’ve produced, written and directed have been almost by accident- projects I would like to see made, or get off the ground (So I could shoot them!). Both “The Man Inside” and “Interview With A Hitman” were projects set to shoot in London with a producer I’m working with on another feature film I’m producing next year. I made it possible for him to bring the films up to the North East of England, where it’s very film friendly. I provided some of the crew, facilities and contacts, and acted as 2nd Unit DoP and main unit focus puller on the films. Both will be released in cinemas next year. 6. Have you got any plans to write and direct another film, like you did with “Inverterbate”? What can we expect? Absolutely! Next year I’m booked to be the DoP on three feature films, which will keep me very busy, but I’m always developing new films. I hope to get a feature film financed by the end of next year that I’ve written and will direct, called ‘Blackstone’- it’s a completely different genre to Invertebrate, (It will have real actors!) –a period piece concerning the advent of technology on a community of industrial workers. You can expect it to be a little left field of course… I’ll keep you in the loop! 7. How did you find out about ÉCU in the first place? ÉCU was the first film festival I applied for with Invertebrate. With my withoutabox account newly set up, I looked for festivals that firstly appealed to me as a filmmaker, and that would hopefully embrace the kind of film I had made. The ÉCU seemed to fit the bill perfectly. 8. What was it like to have your film screened at ÉCU? The ÉCU more than lived up to my expectations, -not only was I greeted by a team of friendly enthusiastic people, filmmakers, audience and staff, I was made to feel welcome, and part of their family. They have championed my film internationally, and much of the success the film has had, I think I can attribute to their tireless efforts. A wonderful experience! 9. Finally, what would you say to anyone thinking of submitting to ÉCU? Just do it! What have you got to lose? You can be assured that the ÉCU team has your best interests at heart, a festival created for the right reasons. As Scott Hillier is fond of saying, to be a filmmaker is brave- to lay it all out and have others judge you on it is braver still. Do something you can be proud of today.
ÉCU Alumni: Interview with James McAleer
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