As a newcomer to the Manto family I have been asked a lot how I came to be apart of a film production company. The answer isn’t as conventional as you might think.
So I’ll start with a bit of a rewind. On Christmas of 2001, my parents bought me my first drum kit. and that was all it took for me to fall in love with playing music. That said, I guess my first induction into the world of music was when I was ten years old, after receiving a copy of Ejay in a cereal packet. However, the less said about that early foray the better.
I got to high school and, in need of any kind of musical outlet, I joined the brass band. Not exactly the coolest start to high school, but I needed to smash drums as much as possible, and the idea of doing it in place of an English/Maths lesson here made it irresistible. Soon after that, I was head hunted by friends in the year above to join their band and through a number or line up changes we became my first band, Multi-coloured Darkness. Epic name right? Maybe I should have gone to a few more of those English lessons.
Through my time at Wardle High School I played for seven high school music department bands, (mainly so I could get out of the classroom), but I also squeezed in time to play in a few rock bands. We gigged, we practiced, we gigged some more. I then took three A Levels in Media Studies, Music and Music Technology. And so, after leaving sixth form with a powerful reluctance to get any kind of “real” job, I opened up a recording studio.
After a couple of years, my recording studio started to build up a bit of momentum, leading me towards opportunities to record artists such as Max Raptor, Gideon Conn and the comedian Dave Spikey of Phoenix Nights fame. By this point, I wasn’t playing in a band anymore, and quite frankly, I was getting a little bit jealous of recording other people’s music all the time.
This is when I brushed off my Ejay skills and started to write my own material under the name The Collective. Again, my first attempts weren’t something I was hugely proud of, but they gave me a good platform to try something new – making music videos. A friend of mine that worked for Sony kindly lent me a camera over Christmas, and thanks to a bit of good old friend pestering through the holiday season, I managed to get some nice looking footage and cut it together into a music video, using a copy of Adobe Premiere Pro that I…. err…. definitely acquired via totally legal and legitimate means.
My friend and everyone who saw it were, much to my surprise, really impressed. And that’s where it started – the video bug had bitten me
I had always had a fascination for the technical side to cinema and storytelling through the medium of the moving image, but the insight always seemed unattainable – like something that belonged to rich people in Hollywood and London. But here I had produced something that looked nice, with determination and pinch of skill (oh, and the internet. Lots and lots of internet).
So I carried on the process of writing a track then shooting and editing an accompanying video. I started to get better, researching different techniques I had seen other filmmakers use. Also, because I was working on a whopping budget of £0.00, I learnt how to be ultra-resourceful on set. I’ve heard many filmmakers say that the best way to learn how to make a film is to make a film – well, it somehow worked for me.
Eventually, due to a bunch of reasons that aren’t that fun to explain – recession anyone? – I was forced to close my recording studio. I put plans in motion and got a stop-gap job at an insurance company. But I was still creating. I was still playing in three bands, and I was still obsessed with video production. I spent every evening and weekend of my two and a half years at the insurance company filming and editing video, writing music, volunteering at production companies and building my skill set until I deemed myself ready for a professional role within the industry.
So I started applying. And applying. And applying some more. Apparently, roles within production companies are hard to get. Like, really hard. I was starting to suspect that my lack of formal education in the industry was holding me back, despite my years of hands-on experience in video and other creative disciplines.
And then I spotted a job listing for a camera op / editor at Manto Films in Leeds.
You have to bear in mind, this had been a long journey for me. I was a self-taught filmmaker without formal qualifications in the discipline. This job is a bit of a dream come true really. Before I joined up here, I was a guy who loved making videos driving a van for an insurance company. Now, thanks to Manto, I make videos for a living.
If there is any advice I could give to someone who is in a position like I was, here it is – whatever you want to do, however many times someone tells you how competitive your dream job is, you need to sustain your obsession with it. Immerse yourself in it. When you’re driving a company van up the M62 for what feels like the thousandth time, daydream, draw storyboards in your head, be productive and use your time wisely, as time is one of the most valuable things you will ever have on your hands.
The rest is history. I make videos for a living with some cool people. And the coffee isn’t bad either. Overall, I really can’t complain.