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Ask a Member: Filmmaking with Ed Cartledge

3rd April, 2018
Ed Cartledge

We recently got together with our member Ed Cartledge to hear about his work as managing director and owner of Sort Of...Films Ltd and to get his top tips on how aspiring filmmakers can get started.

Who are you and what do you do?

It's always difficult to decide exactly what my 'job title' is. Since graduating in 2002, I've primarily been a professional 'maker' of film and video content. In some cases, I've contributed to the production of a film or video as some kind of crew member (camera operator, producer, editor, director, assistant director, writer or any combination of the above). In other cases, I've overseen entire projects single-handedly, if that's what the budget/client required. In other cases still, I've initiated and made films of my own design - primarily short-form documentaries with an experimental edge to them. I'm the managing director and owner of Sort Of...Films Ltd, a small video production agency based in Netheredge and when I'm not shooting or directing content for our films (or doing the same as a freelancer for other agencies), I'm running the day to day affairs of the business alongside my staff members Matt Vegeris (production co-ordinator) and Jamie (editor) and our team of regular freelancers.

What do you think makes a good video?

There are many different kinds of video and different aspects are more important depending on what kind of video it is. For some (such as a glossy promo video for a large company), aesthetics and technical precision can be very important as the company may be concerned that they project an image of being precise, detail-focused, up to date etc. For others (such as a fundraising video for a charity), generating and delivering an emotive story which features relatable characters may be key. But it's safe to say that whoever the client and whatever the subject matter, a great video is one which has at its centre a great original idea or concept, not for its own sake (as this would be gimmickry) but one which emerges from and resonates powerfully with the specific content. Something else that I've noted is that regardless of technical quality or even storytelling panache, in the age of YouTube, a 'great' video can actually just be something that effectively transmits the passionate enthusiasm of a group or individual for the subject matter to an audience. That is, if an audience is infected with the same enthusiasm for X, regardless of what X is and the quality of the production, the video's existence can be justified.

What equipment/software do people need to get started?

This one's easy. You need a camera and some editing software. Everyone probably knows that already. If you've literally never made any kind of film before, maybe consider using your phone or borrowing some kit from a friend - there's a lot around! I wouldn't recommend anyone spend any serious money on equipment until they KNOW FOR SURE that making films is either something they really enjoy doing as a hobby or that they could make more money back from clients or other revenue streams than they're forking out. The internet is awash with websites dedicated to the latest equipment for all levels of production. It's a massive and ever-changing can of worms to unleash but I've always found that keeping as up to date with the technology as possible as well as improving my creative and logistical capabilities in tandem has stood me in good stead.

Any things to avoid?

As indicated above, obsessing with technology at the expense of other important areas of knowledge and skills (storytelling, communication skills, project management, image and film literacy, political and cultural awareness, critical thinking etc).

How should an absolute novice begin?

It depends what you're trying to begin exactly and to be honest, even if you can be as precise as that, there's no clearly defined or easily repeatable route to a position of having achieved what you set out to achieve. What is that thing? Is it that you would like to make a video in your spare time in order to communicate something specific to a defined audience? Is it that you want a career in making videos for a living and to take home a reasonable and steadily increasing salary from doing so? Is it that you want to train up to be a highly-valued crewmember on large productions? Perhaps where you need to 'begin' is to get clarity on what you're beginning. Talk to friends and family and other creatives about your hopes and plans. Build up a large reservoir of suggestions, advice, knowledge, contacts. Then set a specific, achievable objective (for example, design, plan and make a 3 minute documentary about X with Bobby and Isabel who I met at a Sheffield Creative Guild networking event and get 1000 people to watch it at a mix of screenings, festivals and online). Once you've been through a process like that from start to finish, you'll be amazed how much you will have learned about not just the process, but also yourself. Do that a couple more times with increasing ambition and complexity and you may be at the point where people are also willing to start paying you for your skills. If not, keep going, keep growing, keep networking.

What are your favourite videos?

Again, there are so many different kinds of video (promo film, short doc, music video, campaign, vlog, educational, community video....??) that it's impossible for me to definitely provide my favourites. To be honest, I couldn't even tell you what my favourite feature film is, there are so many that I love, respect and admire. But if people are looking for inspiration, they couldn't do much better than browsing through Vimeo Staff Picks - https://vimeo.com/channels/sta...

Tell us about your own videos.

I'm currently in a slightly unusual for me (but actually very NORMAL) situation of having a young toddler and another baby on the way, a mortgage to pay and the associated desire to hunker down and earn a solid living for myself and my employees. Therefore, other than music projects such as www.in-fictions.co.uk, I'm finding very little time to work on my own creative stuff, including films. Sort Of...Films is now one of the preferred suppliers to The University of Sheffield amongst other clients and their requirements keep us extremely busy. In a couple of years time, when things settle down a bit, I'll be starting work on a debut feature-length documentary and probably making other short films too. You can find out more about Sort Of...Films at www.sortoffilms.co.uk or see a selection of our work at www.vimeo.com/sortoffilms

Where should people look to learn more?

Other than Vimeo, people might want to check out https://nofilmschool.com/ and also https://shootingpeople.org/