Filmmaker Interview #25 – Arpeggio Pictures

Sara and Stuart of Arpeggio Pictures with director Neil Hartop sandwiched between them.

Our 25th Interview sees us interviewing two Edinburgh based filmmakers who formed a production company after graduating from Edinburgh College of Arts last year. Arpeggio Pictures is the brainchild of Sara Forbes and Stuart Condy who decided at the end of university that they could either make tea for other people on film sets or they could start their own company, they decided the latter was the best option… and it paid off this year with a BAFTA Scotland New Talent Award for their short film Rabbit Punch.

I’ve known Stuart for a few years after meeting on the Edinburgh Film Circuit. He was (and is) a guy with a hell of a lot of passion for cinema and storytelling and after meeting Sara recently at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, I can tell they make a formidable team, which makes me excited for what they are going to produce in the future. I’m delighted to introduce these guys to you and please check out their films and links at the end of the interview. 

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on?

SARA: My name is Sara Forbes and I’m the joint Founder and Co-Director at Arpeggio Pictures, a film production company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We are currently promoting and on the festival circuit with our BAFTA winning short, Rabbit Punch. We are also in post production for our latest fiction short Power of the Dogs and in pre production for a documentary set in Shetland.

STUART: I’m the Co-Founder and Director of Arpeggio Pictures with Sara. Despite having directed a number of films, I’m Producing more these days, looking after projects being made in conjunction with Arpeggio. As well as the projects Sara has mentioned, we have a healthy slate of productions in development.

Who/what inspired you to embark on a career in Filmmaking?

SARA: I remember saving up and getting my first stills camera when I was 10 and just being fascinated with taking photos of everything and getting them printed. I would love making them into storyboards and gluing them in my scrapbooks. I grew up watching the films of Steven Spielberg and later on, Stanley Kubrick. I just loved getting completely immersed into the worlds they created.

STUART: Seeing the Woody Allen film Manhattan had a profound effect on me and basically led me to film school. There’s something about the way Gordon Willis shot that movie and the vibrations of the characters that smacked me in the face and made cinema all consuming. If it weren’t for the opening montage of that flick I wouldn’t be answering these questions.

Have you had to make any sacrifices and how have you coped with that? 

STUART: Absolutely! You name it. Girlfriends, money, time with family/friends …….. the works. I also have a daughter so I’ve had to be pretty slick with schedule management to ensure my parental needs are never compromised. As for coping, you just do. There are people with a lot more on their plate than me in relative terms so you just get on with it. Sacrifice is not always a bad thing; it can add personal importance to what you’re doing.

SARA: They only things I really seem to sacrifice are time and sleep. You never have enough of each and when you’re in the process of creating, if it’s writing or physically being on set, you really have to be focused and sometimes your personal time and sleep suffers. I cope with it by eating while moving and a lot of coffee.

What is your ultimate goal/what drives you? 

STUART: My ultimate goal is to create good work. That goal is consistent over every project, to make the best film we possibly can. That’s also what drives me. It’s a wonderful thing to look at a new film and see it stand up and breathe. Getting from the page to screen is often a difficult journey but experiencing the realisation of an idea is ultimately why we do it.

SARA: I think just being creative and determined and having such a love of cinema drives me. I find it really difficult to sit still and not do anything. I always like to have projects or ideas on the go or be involved in something creative, if it’s not film then projects in photography, music or design.

How do you define success? 

SARA: I don’t think success is defined by anything other than your self. If you feel you have achieved something and you are happy then no one else should tell you otherwise. Regardless if you won an award or just collaborated with people whom you really learned something from, it’s 100% up to yourself to make it what it is.

STUART: ‘Success’ is a strange word when applied to film. If you ask a financier and a director what success looks like, you’re likely to get very different answers. If you get close to how the film looked and felt on the page, I would class that as success. Success is also being able to make films on an ongoing basis.

How do you feel about collaboration?

STUART: Collaboration is everything. Without it a film can’t be made. Well, actually, I suppose it can. It is physically possible but not advisable.

SARA: Collaboration is the very essence of film. I fully support a variety of influences and collaboration across multiple disciplines, not just based around film. It’s so refreshing when you work with people who understand your vision and compassion. It’s also equally as exciting when you meet people who have ideas and approaches you would never have dreamed of.

Do you have a niche or genre that you specialise in?

STUART: Not really. Rabbit Punch is a contemporary Scottish human story. Power of the Dogs is a period tale of murder, religion and redemption with a hint of the supernatural and we’re just about to start a documentary. We like to keep it diverse.

SARA: As a producer I like to be involved in mainly any genre as long as I feel the narrative is strong and that the project is interesting.

What was the title of your first film (Your first first film, not the one you are happy to call your first film) and can you tell us a bit about it?

STUART: Ah, my first film. It’s called Running Out and tells the tale of a man out of cigarettes who literally runs hundreds of miles to buy some more. It’s a story about addiction and the ridiculous ends people will go to feed it. The film itself was made with a 2-man crew. Myself and the actor (A mate of mine who had never been in front of a camera before) It was literally 2 guys, a PD150 and a transit van. Some of the shots are horrendous and it could be shorter (as most shorts could) but it was great fun to make and occupies a nice little place in my heart.

SARA: The first film I made was in college on a media course. It was a  70’S American style cop sitcom set in Scotland.  I can’t remember what it was called, but I imagine it was some sort of parody on Starsky and Hutch.

Favourite Filmmaker?

STUART: Woody Allen. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea but there’s no arguing he’s produced stunning work throughout his career.

SARA: Stanley Kubrick.

All-time top 5 movies (as of this date, we all know it changes daily)?

STUART: Ok, let’s have a stab at this. The way I do it is imagine the 5 flicks that cover everything I like about film. So;

  1. Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
  2. Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  4. Ohikkoshi AKA Moving (Shinji Somai, 1993)
  5. Back to the Future Part 2 (Robert Zemekis, 1989)

SARA:

  1. Jaws
  2. The Shining
  3. Goodfellas
  4. Manhattan
  5. The Godfather

What is the best short film you’ve seen?

STUART: I’ve seen so many it’s difficult to choose. I always really liked Flashed, which was made by Julian Krubasik, a film school classmate of mine. The weirdness of the film and its great art direction really floats my boat.

SARA: I honestly couldn’t pick just one. So many I’ve seen recently are just outstanding for different reasons.

First film you ever saw in the cinema?

SARA: Disney’s Peter Pan.

STUART: Bambi, which was great. My second film was E.T. I’ll always remember it because I was grounded for swearing. After the credits rolled my Aunt turned round and asked me what I thought. I said “Auntie Irene, it was f***ing amazing!” Not suitable language for a 7 year old apparently. Maybe I should’ve realised then that a career in film was for me.

A random/funny story of anything you have experienced in the film world?

SARA: There is honestly far too many to recall. The film world is a strange place. Especially when you are off on location somewhere. I worked on set up in Barra for a Masters student film in ECA a few years ago. 12 people staying on a remote Scottish island for 2 weeks, with 5am starts and no hot water, tends to make folk go a bit loopy.

STUART: When shooting Running Out we were “removed” from the Forth Road Bridge for filming without permission. “Even the BBC need authorisation!” the portly gentleman hollered. I asked him if that meant he wanted us to leave at which point he intimated police intervention would be applied if we didn’t. I apologised and we swiftly vacated the bridge with our tripod and PD150. Unbeknownst to the guy, we’d already got the shots we needed and they can be seen in the film to this day. Important lesson there kids: Get a producer.

Favourite film related website?

SARA: I really like creativecow.net for information and Indymogul.com as Erik truly can make anything.

STUART: Senses of Cinema is a great source of information and outstanding writing on film.

What advice would you give to first time filmmakers?

SARA: Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

STUART: I’m not really one for quotations but Steve Jobs, during his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, told the students there to “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. I think that applies wonderfully to first time filmmakers. Be hungry, love the medium, push it as far as you can with experimentation and don’t be scared to be goofy and make mistakes whilst learning your craft. Be inventive with your stories, and even more inventive with your camera.

You can find out more about Sara, Stuart and Arpeggio Pictures over on their official site, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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One Response to Filmmaker Interview #25 – Arpeggio Pictures

  1. Pingback: No Excuses, Just Shoot – Advice for First-Time Filmmakers «

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