Filmmaker Series: Gary Rogers
Hi, I am Gary Rogers, I am primarily a freelance Director Of Photography but also co-own a production company called Country Star Productions. I am Dudley born myself with my family background all routing from Birmingham. Currently I am Stourbridge based but travel just about anywhere if the work demands it, even worldwide.
What initially got you into filmmaking?
Ok so this is probably quite a long one! It was probably a combination of events starting from a young boy fascinated by programs like 'Doctor Who'. That was always a favourite of mine growing up and back then there used to be a mad Saturday morning program called 'Multi Coloured Swap Shop!' Now and again they would have on a BBC visual effects artist called Matt Irvine who used to make the models for 'Doctor Who', 'Blakes 7' and the likes. He used to show you how they made model spacecraft out of washing up bottles and stuff (yes they really did use that stuff back then!) This fascinated me and soon found myself making stuff and wanting to be a visual effects guy!
Then 'Star Wars' happened when I was 9, like everyone else in the world I was blown away. I saw a ‘Making of Star Wars’, which reinforced my desire to go into film and TV. Around my teen years I started getting into photography which I guess is what started steering me around to my fascination with cameras and the visual element of filmmaking. I wanted to train as a BBC cameraman on leaving school but the careers advisers talked me out of it, saying it was too much of a pipe dream and I should look at a career in electronics and computers.
So now skipping ahead massively, my love for films was growing and I wanted to ‘make’ films. I struggled to find people locally and took quite a while to find similar minded people but eventually got a group of people together to make our first short film!
Who are your biggest influences and why?
Probably my first biggest influencer is Ridley Scott. I saw 'Alien' when I was around 14 years old and it scared the hell out of me! But it also inspired me. I loved just how real the world felt and the cinematography is just gorgeous, pure art. I wanted to learn how to create visuals that looked that good. Other influencers might include Quentin Tarantino just for his sheer passion of making the films he wants to, no matter what anyone thinks!
There are a whole host of cinematographers I admire and follow for different reasons such as the master, Roger Deakins and also Shane Hurlbut. Shane is great as he is passionate about sharing knowledge to the community, I have learned a lot from his online film school.
How important is film as a medium and art form in the world, today?
Very, I would say. It’s the ultimate form of expression. Also in a lot of ways it’s the most accessible with modern technology. With ‘streaming’ being the way to go, it seems, content has the potential to reach more people than ever. However, I also see this as a curse as well as a blessing!
I guess I’m an old school big screen cinema guy and wouldn’t entertain watching a film on my phone! Also with how accessible film cameras have become it is easier than ever for creatives to just get up and create film, there is literally no barriers to entry.. even phone cameras are a very usable tool for capturing video on.
Do you have a set process when making film?
I guess there is a certain routine as a cinematographer and filmmaker when making a film. For myself after reading the script it’s about understanding the vibe and feel of the movie. This will be a discussion with the director and an important one. From this there will usually be some examples to study and from this I will create a ‘look book’ of photos and images to then use in discussion. This will then get translated to other departments such as lighting and production design.
When it’s our own production though as in a Country Star Production then it’s a much bigger process! This is when I will be wearing multiple hats alongside business partner Sharni. We start with a script breakdown, identifying locations and what scenes are being filmed in said locations. Then start estimating shooting times for those scenes to ultimately get a rough shooting schedule, this will help with costing the shoot! From there it’s shooting and editing.. At least that’s the ‘short’ version!
In regards to what I look for in a project though, one, the team. Who is the team and what have they done before? I like to feel there is something to maybe challenge myself as a cinematographer or it’s just a damn good story that needs to be told, especially if they have gone to the trouble of landing some known actors, that’s always a good sign.
What has been your favourite film to work on and why?
Oh gosh this is really hard! I have shot 12 feature films now and every single one of them has been a learning curve in one way or another. So many of those have been good for different reasons. To name but a few, ‘Pumpkins’ was an earlier feature I shot for Maria Metheringham over the space of a year. Everyone was incredibly chilled and helped me develop a set of skills and build relationships with passionate filmmakers.
Then moving forward there was ‘Guard of Auschwitz’. This was great as it was the first ‘period’ shoot I had worked on, and covered such an important and sensitive story. Visually I am still really proud of the film as I also edited the film which was then released on DVD and sat at No. 3 in the DVD charts in Tesco!
Then after meeting Sharni on a short film, we really hit it off and decided to team up and write and shoot our own film. 'Abatement' was born. This was our biggest learning curve ever! Fully producing the film, casting, funding out our own pockets, begging, borrowing and stealing what we could to make it. We were blessed with a great cast which included professional actor Michael McKell who I met shortly before on 'Guard of Auschwitz'. While it has its flaws as our first feature it holds a special place in my heart.
Then this year after filming part of our TV pilot, ‘Parasitus’, out in the Philippines, I also shot a film called ‘Bloodhound’ for Peter Stilla. This was a great film for many reasons, it was a hard hitting drama based on human trafficking but had a great cast including Terri Dwyer and a great crew that gelled perfectly. All the cogs in the machine fitted perfectly and we shot a full feature in 9 days albeit in one house location.
Which genre do you enjoy working in?
I don’t think I really have a preference to be honest. My short films from way before I became professional were all horror films as my team were all fans, as am I, of horror. Nowadays, I love hard hitting drama. I always did love Shane Meadows' dramas such as 'This Is England', for its raw and honest vibe.
I like to be moved by a film so I’m all about capturing that emotion and love when actors are able to give that level of performance. Also, it’s a genre that is very achievable on a tight budget. I haven’t done any high-octane action yet so that’s something I would like to capture, especially being somewhat of an adrenaline junkie.
Is filmmaking your primary source of income?
Yes, it is. I have to be honest though it is real tough making a full time living out of it, especially in these current times. I am probably a little lucky here in that I paid off my mortgage a good few years prior to going professional, that really did take off some of the worry and pressure. I was teaching before this and took it in stages.
Firstly I cut down to 3 days a week giving me more time to do more filmmaking, then as the jobs grew I went supply so I could pick and choose when I worked in-between jobs. This worked well for me and got to the point of just jumping in full time filmmaking. Yes it was tough paying the bills I can’t lie! I also started working at a local PQA academy on a Saturday which I guess was the only part time job I did along the way.
Money is the main worry and sticking point for most people wanting to go professional, the uncertainty of when you will get the next paid gig. Depending on what stage of life you are at determines how hard this will be. All I will say though is you will never grow by staying in your comfort zone. If it takes saving enough money to pay your way for 12-18 months then do it and see what happens. What is the worst that can happen?
What is your definition of success?
I think success can be measured in many different ways. In one way, I could take doing this full time as a success, but for me it’s ultimately gaining recognition for what I do. I guess this is the same for most creatives in this area. That isn’t necessarily in the way of a BAFTA or OSCAR, although yes I would love to get that far one day! For me at the moment success is seeing the production company being commissioned to make TV or film content, something we are currently working on. Our TV Pilot Parasitus was a commission and we hope this will continue further.
What advice can you give our readers, should they wish to pursue filmmaking?
Never think about what you can’t do or what’s stopping you making a film. There are so many passionate people just like you that want to create something and it’s just about finding those people around you that will join you in doing it. Get your mates together and shoot your film, even if it’s on your phone. It’s all about the process and learning about ‘how’ to start and see it through.
Our aim with 'Abatement' went from getting some friends together over summer that just want to make a film. This rapidly changed to going full throttle to be as professional as possible in casting the roles properly to get the best actors we could and having a known actor involved!
You will learn so much from jumping in and making your first film, and it doesn’t matter what the end result turns out like, it’s what you learned along the way. Practice makes perfect, even your second production will be a million times better than your first! Also never give up, things will go wrong, you will doubt yourself along the way but when you finish it and see what you created it will all be worthwhile!
Do you ever suffer from creative burnout? How do you combat it?
Yes! On 'Abatement', both Sharni and myself put so much into the production it made us ill! Apart from being DOP I was directing also, then at the end of every long day shooting we were having to put the call sheets together for the next day and back footage up too. When it’s your baby though you will do whatever to see it through and crash later! It’s all about keeping focused on why you are doing it and it will be worthwhile in the end.
What projects are you currently working on?
The most current project has been a TV pilot called 'Parasitus'. Our production company was approached by a friend who had been asked if they would produce the pilot but was not in a position at the time to do so. They asked if we would be interested and we jumped at the opportunity.
The project was financed by an American investor who is actually Filipino. The story revolves around a Filipino folklore creature called a Mananangall, which is a vile vampiric creature that feeds on unborn foetuses. For part of the story we flew out to the Philippines to shoot out in the wilds, which hands down was one of the best filming experiences of my life! Going back to your question on success, this was one of those times it felt like success!
We have literally just put the teaser trailer out there and will soon be pitching it via our American investor Gil. We are very hopeful to be seeing the company get to carry on and film an entire series!
While all of that is going on my partner Sharni has written a short film called ‘SOW’ which we are in pre-production on with a view of filming hopefully towards the end of August.
Also in pre-production is a proof of concept we have been commissioned to produce and make called ‘The First Shield Maiden’ an rather epic sword and sorcery fantasy that should be great fun.
Also we have a new venture in the early stages of working with BAFTA crew member Theodore Salisbury, providing a mentorship program for young creatives to come together in making a film. Keep your eyes peeled for news on how to get involved with this soon.
What are your hopes for the future?
My immediate hopes are to see 'Parasitus' get commissioned into a series, this will provide some financial stability for us and the company and provide a good length of work to get our teeth into. Alongside this we have been working on a documentary series which we will be advancing soon, again with the aim of pitching to various channels. We have a goal to be producing TV content which will then aid us in furthering our film exploits too. The hope is to see the company grow into producing bigger and better productions and getting recognition in what we do.
Lastly where can people find you?
So my personal website is – www.garyrogersdop.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/gary.rogers.121398
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/gazpixelperfect/
My company website is – www.countrystarproductions.com
Company Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/countrystarproductions/
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