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Daniel Metcalf Interview

He’s a 21 year old first time filmmaker. On a budget of almost nothing, Daniel Metcalf, aided by his family and friends made the short film The Job Hunt (which you can watch here). We sat down for an exclusive interview with him.

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Tell us a bit about your background?

I am twenty one years old and I am from Wales. I recently graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in Business Information Systems. I am now in the county of Pembrokeshire, where I shot and set my film, and where I have lived for the majority of my life. Outside of films I am a big football (soccer) fan, I enjoy watching and playing poker, and have a keen interest in politics.

Have you always had an interest in filmmaking?

Not always. Unlike some people who have loved films all their life, it was probably not until around four years ago that I started to take a strong interest in films and started to look at them seriously. I remember at first watching films such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, then the likes of Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, and this was when I began to notice that these were not just products made to make money but the visions of people who loved films. It quickly grew from there as I wanted to explore more cinema, and I became involved in a number of online communities that helped me do that. Since then I have watched hundreds of films and gained many new favourite films and directors of all kinds. It was probably about three years ago that I realised I would love to be involved in filmmaking myself, and started thinking about how exactly I could achieve this. Had it been a year or two earlier, I think I would have taken a film related course in University.

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What is your Short Film The Job Hunt About? 

The Job Hunt is a comedy-drama film that is shot in the style of a realistic documentary where the “film crew” has supposedly chosen this young man, Callum, as a person to follow around for a few weeks as he attempts to turn his life around from someone who is unemployed, arrogant, and always blaming others for his own failures, to somebody who is willing to put in the effort and work hard needed to find a job.

The film follows him as he undergoes the usual processes involved in looking for a job, like preparing a CV, choosing what to wear, attending interviews and so on. This is intertwined with footage from his friends and family who give their opinions of the situation, giving us an insight as to why he may not have a job, or what they feel will help him improve in the future. Each character has a different perspective and relationship. With his closest friend, Jake, we find that he too is in a similar situation in that he is unemployed. The difference between them are their attitudes towards their situations, I wanted the contrasting characters to work together to create comedic chemistry that hopefully makes each one funnier.

Where did you get the idea for the film?

When I began to consider the idea of becoming involved in filmmaking, the biggest question was how would I go about it? It became apparent there was no golden answer or guaranteed route that could get me what I wanted From reading online and listening to others, the most common advice seemed to be, “go out there and make something!” and in today’s age of digital filmmaking there is almost no reason why anyone cant go out there and create something to get started.

At the time, my brother was out of work in real life, so I thought why not combine our two dilemmas and shoot a film about him trying to find a job? I figured I would write a script that eliminated as many costs of filmmaking as possible. I planned to use real friends and family who were willing to work for free my as cast and crew, and to write a script that utilised real life locations that I could easily use – avoiding any expensive sets, props or effects. Shooting a fake documentary was perfect for this as I was basically just filming real life, I just had to hope the dialogue I would write would be funny too. I based the screenplay off some of my favourite comedy films and television shows. I love “mockumentary films” such as Borat and This Is Spinal Tap!, and also recently enjoyed a lesser-known film Mistaken for Strangers which was funny, yet moving at the same time, and felt quite meta in the way it dealt with filmmaking and family relationships. My number one influence though has to be The Office. I love both versions of the show, but I am talking about Ricky Gervais’ original in terms of the way it is shot and how it hilariously uses a dry British sense of humour, and how Gervais’ character is always aware he is being filmed.

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Even when trying to get the budget as low as possible, there were still a number of costs to consider. I wanted the film to look professional and to have decent sound, so that it would be watchable. One of my friends from secondary school was getting ready to go to University to study a film production degree, had lots of useful equipment and had already been involved in film and media related work. Not just the equipment (including the camera we used), but the know-how in shooting, lighting and editing helped massively in terms of creating something that looked professional. Was it not for him, I would have had to have bought a camera, stands, more lights, more mics, editing software, and taught myself how to use all this stuff effectively too. Having him on board to help bring my idea to life was fantastic.

I also utilised local pages on Facebook, such as my local “Spotted” page, where I put out a call for any local people willing to act or offer business buildings for free that we could shoot in. I was surprised that this was met pretty much entirely in good spirit, receiving a number of generous offers. We did not end up needing additional actors, but we got fantastic access to an unused local office and car garage. We also contacted businesses where our families worked, who were happy for us to shoot there.

What was the experience of working with your family and friends on it like?

The documentary-style meant that there was less pressure on the people involved in terms of acting, there were no heavy emotional performances needed, no need to research or embody other characters, they just had to play themselves with some exaggerations here and there. It is not that easy of course, and even playing yourself is difficult when there is a camera filming and later an audience watching. It was good having my brother and two of my closest friends as the three main actors, as I knew I could rely on their dedication to the project. They were happy for me to use their images in promotion, knowing that their faces would be seen by large amounts of the local community. When we released promotional news, images, and then the trailer on Facebook, thousands of people from the local area viewed this information, and people were tagging their friends and commenting that they recognised the people in it. In the worst case scenario for the actors, the film could have been terribly written and put together, and their failure would then be out there for all to see, so I was delighted to have their trust, dedication and belief in the project.

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Whilst shooting the film we had an absolute blast. Because we all pretty much knew each other, it meant that there was a very laid back atmosphere where we spent a lot of time discussing films, television shows and joking around. Half of our time must have been spent talking about The Office (mainly quoting it) or singing Dean Martin songs, for the latter, I am not quite sure why. With the supporting cast, who all appear in only one or two scenes, I was surprised by how few takes we managed to shoot their scenes in, they were all enthusiastic and played their parts how I wanted them too.

Have you got and upcoming projects?

I currently have a few potential ideas on what to do next, and I am working on a couple of scripts at the moment. I learnt a lot making The Job Hunt and my main regret was that we were not able to shoot more! I think the story may have been better suited to a multiple episode structure that spread the characters’ emotional arcs out longer, whilst focussing on funny individual escapades each episode. I am not sure I would want to continue the story exactly, but I have an idea for something kind of similar. Even if I do not look at expanding on this in such a serious way, I would like to work with the same people again and create something soon because I miss the experience of being out there and actually shooting footage.

I have been developing a more serious idea over the last couple of months, and hope to complete a screenplay for it fairly soon, I have wrote some of it, but I am still deliberating over certain details at the moment. The idea is much darker than The Job Hunt, I would perhaps describe it at the moment as a cross between Blood Simple, The Player, Caché and Enemy. Its about a modern couple who find themselves being dragged deeper and deeper into something dark, their relationship begins to spiral out of control following a fairly innocent incident. Although it is far from a laugh-out-loud comedy I still want it to have a lot of very dark comedic moments. My immediate plan is to get the screenplay written whilst I promote The Job Hunt and gather further feedback on that. Then come the new year I will try and formulate a more extensive plan and set out the goals I want to achieve in 2017, in general I would like to be involved in a number of projects, not just writing and directing, but overall work to gain more experience and help build a strong portfolio.

Where can our readers keep up to date with your work?

My main suggestion would be to follow the official Twitter account for my short film – https://twitter.com/jobhuntfilm – I aim to continue using it not only to promote my film, but also to discuss and become more involved in filmmaking in general. I enjoy writing about films, so anything significant in the future, I will try and promote there too. It is likely that in the future it will fully transform it in to my personal filmmaking Twitter.

If you do not have Twitter, here is the film’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/TheJobHuntFilm/ – whilst it wont be used that much any more, any important updates will be posted there about future projects too.

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