The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is a mixed discipline conservatoire that covers a wide spectrum of training in the arts. One aspect is Film Studies and Digital TV and one of the friends I made last year, Michael Ferns, is just about to release a short film called ‘A Cold Day in June’ after graduating in 2012. He promised me an interview for my blog so even though he’s busy in London I nagged, scratch that, reminded him politely to tell me more about what he’s been up to:
What is your educational background Michael?
I went to Balfron High School, to the west of Stirling, you leave school after just 6 years, instead of the seven years you have in England, the Scottish system is a little bit different, so I started at the RCS age 17 and I was there for three years, then I graduated with a BA in Digital Film and Television. I really enjoyed my time at the RCS the place is great, the contacts you make there are great, the cross curricular collaboration is good.
Who were your favourite people to work with: singers, actors, dancers?
Talking to you Charlotte I’m going to have to say singers 🙂 but it depends what for, music videos: I enjoy creating videos with singers and bands and of course with my films with actors obviously. I met Billy Boyd when he contacted me after seeing and liking my website. it was a dream come true as he was a star of one of my favourite film franchises of all time Lord of the Rings (he played the part of Pippin Took). He wanted a music video to ‘Please Stay’, we started the first video which was a basic concept just at the end of my 3rd year before I graduated; we used a lot of people from my class. He was really happy with that. We did the second video with him on location in Penrith in the North of England and in Glasgow called ‘The Clown’ which was rather more ambitious than the first. We filmed it in November. It involved sinking Billy Boyd in a boat into a freezing cold loch.
Were you in the water or were you dry?
I wasn’t dry it was pouring down with rain, but I wasn’t actually in the water, it was a very arduous experience.
Can you see the music video on-line?
Yes , I will send you the link.
Here it is, well worth watching, a message that not everyone you know with a smile is happy:
Congratulations for your BAFTA how did you win and what were you awarded for?
When I was 17 we got funding from the Lottery and The Co-op to make a period feature film called ‘Kirk’ based on the Scottish Legend of this Reverend in the 1600’s who believed fairies lived on the top of the hill of the Parish where he lived, everyone in the village thought he was crazy. He wrote a book called ‘The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies’ published in 1691 it’s still available now. The film was based on his writings, his wife thought he was crazy too. He died on the top of the hill and loads of people believe he was taken by the fairies and we made the film based on his story, it was very low budget, everyone was doing stuff for free. We won the best feature film at the Manchester Film Festival and I won the best Director at the BAFTA New Talent awards 2010.
Wow that’s impressive. Were you nominated or did you put yourself forward?
We were nominated. There were three nominees that year. We had no idea we’d won.
Did you get a red carpet treatment?
Yes there was a red carpet actually and there is even an embarrassing acceptance speech on line somewhere. I don’t particularly enjoy being in front of the camera. I certainly wouldn’t want to act. I would love to be able to sing but I can’t, I would love to be able to do that but as my singer friend Lawrence will testify its not my area of expertise.
Ahh but do you enjoy your own singing? Could I tempt you to do me a Vox-pop to go with this interview?
Maybe totally alone singing to myself, but no I wouldn’t want to inflict it on too many people at once. I’m quite good at auto-tuning software though so I could get you a polished version later 🙂 .
So what’s next for you and what are your hopes for the future?
Having moved to London I’ve signed with a commercial agent to make tv commercials but I’d love to make big budget feature films, like Lord of the Rings or Jurassic Park, something big and impressive.
So what is the definition of a ‘feature film’?
What everyone would consider a film at the Cinema, the bigger the budget the better something with heart, not really Transformers for me as I like films where you care for the people in the movie?
What are you favourite Top movies?
Lord of the Rings Trilogy, so many but those are my two favourites.
Did you like the Hobbit?
I didn’t really like the Hobbit, maybe because my friend Billy isn’t in that one. I don’t know, it was ok I thought it lacked a bit of heart. It was a big CGI spectacular but I missed the funny characters. It was good for what it was but it wasn’t what Lord of the Rings was.
I agree with you on the Hobbit.
How many people are normally on your production team?
On the latest couple of short films and adverts its normally about 20 to 25 and I would say it depends on the cast number on top of that and if there are children you need chaperones.
Have you swapped into other roles or do you stick to the directing?
Not on set but I edit a lot of stuff and work as an editor but I don’t really get involved in sound, lighting on the set. You can get editing work for experience and earnings whilst you’re waiting for directing opportunities.
What made you decide to get involved in this line of training/work?
It was from my Grandfather who was the Director of the Scottish Film Council and he set up the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Edinburgh Film House, he was the youngest director of the Edinburgh Film Festival, he had a camera and stuff he could give me and he knew a lot of contacts although many of them have passed away now. I think through his knowledge I was exposed to it and I got the bug when I was about 12 getting family to act in home videos for me, you know it went from there.
Do you ever write stories for yourself?
Generally if you’re a Director – you’re a director and you work with writers, my latest short film I wrote myself with my partner Lawrence Smith, we shot it three weeks ago and that’s being edited at the moment, I have a trailer for it you can link to. It’s called ‘A Cold Day in June’. Its set over an hour (the film is twenty minutes long) following a tragic accident where a young girl falls off the end of a pier and drowns and the aftermath of that. There are two sisters, the mother and her sister who is visiting, who suspect the younger son of potentially being involved, the mother worried that her husband who is the boys stepfather will blame the son because it’s not his son and it’s his daughter that has died. So it’s about her in this horrible moment thinking about what to tell her husband.
Sounds very hard hitting
So are you planning on filming any opera singers one day soon?
I’d absolutely love to collaborate with Charlotte Hoather on her first epic music video.
Ah that would be cool, awesome.
On the top of a hilltop or something.
Definitely this is starting to come together, maybe involve dance as well if it’s going to be epic!
Fabulous Michael, thanks so much for this interview I bet your fingers are itching to edit this piece after you read it 🙂 .
Hmmm I best not suggest a Ruselka’s ‘Song to the Moon’ video as he seems to like submerging people waist deep into freezing cold lochs. I think I’ll re-learn Summertime 🙂