Craig Heathcote has directed everything from music promos, to branded content, to short films, and all around a full time day job.
We met Craig to find out how, with so many other commitments, he has made it from Runner to Director in only a few years.
When did you start directing, and how did you get into it?
I only started two and half years ago but it feels significantly longer.
I always knew I wanted to tell stories through moving image but it took me a while to work out exactly what medium fitted my creative leanings. I entered the industry as a Runner working on drama series (Spooks, Party Animals, Law & Order: UK) as that felt like the right genre. I was also an ardent fan!
I subsequently realised it was creatively led by story and script – naturally, they are king – and I knew I wouldn’t get my visual story telling kicks there. Not yet anyway. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to me but I guess I was still learning and working out what floated my boat. I remember a Director I was working with on Spooks saying “If you want to direct, just go direct.”. Simple but insightful advice.
After Producing three short films back to back I was just gagging to do more. Simultaneously I started working for short form / commercial production companies by day and everything clicked in to place.
I’ve been directing music video, promos and content films ever since. It’s a much more visually creative medium but does allow you to tell engaging and powerful stories too, and they tend to be the main theme of my work. And so I’ve actually come full circle.
All my work has been off my own back and has engulfed a huge amount of personal money, time and energy. I find the artists / brands to work with. I found a Producer I could collaborate with successfully, and then for each shoot we assemble the crews, brief them, find locations, blag equipment and generally organise every small detail, and all on a budget.
Did working at production and media companies help you with your Directing career?
Yes! Absolutely and unreservedly so. A production role has never been my endgame but I think there are two traits that make me stand out as a Director:
One, I intrinsically understand production processes – whether it’s permits or budget restrictions, location hunting or design limitations, the etiquette of a set or the technical complexity of post production – I’ve experienced it all from the production side. I think that knowledge not only makes me a more productive, resourceful and appreciative Director but a respected one too.
Two, I’m just in it for the craft. I’m directing to make great work and not for any of the (quite frankly, boring) fancy stuff that comes with it.
Is it hard to juggle directing with your day job?
Incredibly. I honestly think at certain junctures before every shoot that I might possibly lose my mind. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
It’s like trying to keep several fires lit whilst it blows a force ten gale, and someone is calling you at the same time to tell you about another fire… so… that analogy is awful, but you get the gist.
I have my demanding day job, then this second job that’s all being done on the side, on just a shoestring and a promise, as well as every day life swirling on around me. The final product is always totally worth the craziness but it’s often a tough ride.
How will you know when it’s time to quit and focus on your dream?
There is nothing else I want to do now. I cannot do my day job much longer, and I’m cautiously edging towards being freelance. The conversations, briefs and meetings I’m having are getting bigger and more significant so I’m hoping it’s just a case of the right opportunity coming along and I’ll catapult myself in to the freelance world. I’m excited.
What advice would you give someone thinking of changing careers to do something different?
Well, there’s a whole War-and-Peace-sized bunch of advice to be given here. But to quote an over-quoted quote, just do it!
Contentment in our careers equals a happier life in general, right? I’m a normal boy from a fenland backwater and I never thought I’d actually be doing this for a living, so, just get on with it, it’s scary but it should be.
If you know it’ll make you happier, then don’t hesitate.
We couldn’t agree more! You can keep up with Craig’s latest work and see his showreel at http://www.craigheathcote.com/
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