Filmmaker Spotlight: Jamie Donoughue

Filmmaker Spotlight: Jamie Donoughue

Writer and Director of the HollyShorts Best Short Winner, Jamie Donoughue shares with us about the natural disaster that led to the submergence into Kosovo’s history and to his short: Shok. Shok is a story about a friendship between two boys that is tested by the atrocities of the Kosovo war.

Where did you study film?

I went to University in Salford, Manchester in UK. However my practical knowledge came from working in the industry. At 18 I trained as a camera assistant and then moved up to Operator and then Director. My background for years was in music videos where I ran a production company ‘Left Eye Blind’. A couple of years ago I left the company to pursue my love of drama as a freelance director.

What drew you to tell the story of Shok?

I visited Kosovo for a few days back in 2010. Then the Icelandic volcano erupted. I was stuck in the country for 5 weeks and during that time began to learn the history and the atrocities that had happened. Meeting my producer Eshref he taught me about life in Kosovo and growing up during the war. I could not believe that these events had happened less than 15 years ago and felt as a filmmaker I could create an opportunity for these stories to be heard.

Was there a language barrier?

Yes of course, directing in a different language does present obvious challenges. However, I’m a strong believer that you can tell a good performance in an actor no matter what language they are speaking. I studied Albanian in order to direct the film, however I also had translators with me.

What was it like to work with children especially who speak another language?

I can honestly say that both Lum Veseli (Petrit) and Andi Bajgora (Oki) were two of the most professional actors I have ever worked with. Andi had had some experience, but it was Lum’s first time acting. We worked hard in rehearsal and used those lessons as a reference point on set. Both are natural born actors and took notes very well which was a major reason why I cast them. Luckily both had learned to speak good English, which made my job a lot easier. I can thank the Harry Potter movies for that!

While you were in Kosovo how did you go about exploring the culture and learning about the history?

It took a long time to fully understand the history and culture of Kosovo and I’m still learning. You can read as many books as you like but the only way to truly understand is to speak directly with the people and to spend time with them. I researched for over four years before writing the film. In this time I visited the entire country and stayed with families, hearing their stories of growing up and their experiences during the war. I also spent a lot of time in Albanian. Most of my research was done over a good traditional family meal and a few raki’s (the local drink).

Is Shok the first short you’ve written?

Yes. I mainly script edit and I also write voiceovers for commercials but Shok was my first solo writing project.

Are you thinking about developing Shok into a feature?

I’m not specifically thinking of developing Shok, I feel it’s a very self contained story. I am however working on a developing number of other stories from the region.

You wrote and directed Shok, which role do you prefer and what do you plan to do more of?

Definitely directing. I enjoyed the writing process but it came more out of necessity than choice. For me satisfaction comes from collaboration and there is no better feeling than being on set.

What are you working on next? Any features?

I’m in talks with a number of different companies/producers about developing features so hopefully this is something I can look to do in the future. I also have a huge love for TV drama, especially in the USA, so I’d be keen to branch into that.

Have you shown your short to the people you’ve met (in Kosovo) throughout this project? If so, what was their reaction?

Originally very few people, apart from the producers, had seen the film in Kosovo. We decided to do a national screening at DokuFest, the Kosovo film festival. Out of all my screenings to date this was the most nerve racking. However the response was fantastic. As hard as it was for many people to watch we were complimented on how realistic and accurate the film was and there was a genuine appreciation that we had decided to tackle the subject and bring these events to light.

What advice do you have to your fellow filmmakers?

Only people who have made a film can truly understand what is involved and the stresses and challenges that come with it. For me my biggest lesson I learnt was persistence. For every success you have there is disappointment, and vice versa. There are always dark times and, especially with this film, there were times when it felt it would never get made. You have to keep focused and keep going no matter what. Look at setbacks as creative challenges, keep positive and determined. Also understand that everyone has a different view and opinion. Be open to advice but stick to what you believe is right.

Behind The Silver Screen: My Alien & Artistic Encounter

Behind The Silver Screen: My Alien & Artistic Encounter

This summer I had the pleasure and opportunity to meet an iconic influence in the film industry and a talented artist who accents the world of film: Matt Winston.

I was first starstruck when I saw a familiar face in the crowd while I was waiting for a dinner reservation. Some how I knew this man without ever having met him. I had subconsciously remembered him from a few films that I had seen and couldn’t shake the familiar feeling until I confirmed that it was the man who I thought he was. Indeed my gut feeling served me right. The man I had recognized was Matt Winston. If you have seen Fight Club, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, or Little Miss Sunshine then you may be able to distinguish him in a crowd as well. Over dinner I got to know Matt and his family, Matt shared some insight about his screenplay and how he is keeping his father’s dream alive.

But what makes this man and his father so iconic? Any attendant to a science-fiction, horror, or action film in the past twenty years would subconsciously recognize Stan Winston’s work. Stan was the innovator and creator of Jurassic Park‘s prehistoric animatronic dinosaurs, AlienA.I. Artificial Intelligence, and many more creatures featured in film. In other words, Stan is responsible for the monsters, aliens, and robots we’ve come to know, love, and fear. Stan’s work has been awarded by Oscars, Emmys, and many more along with a copious amount of nominations.

Outside of acting and screen writing Matt is keeping his father’s dream and success alive through the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. This high definition media based school teaches a range of film aspects from Hollywood’s most talented and recognized.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Metin Bereketli, a famous, charitable artist who has blessed the film world with his paintings. Metin is known for his art that made its way on to the screen in shows such as FriendsE.R.Gilmore Girls, and many more recognizable television shows. Metin’s style is unique because of the minute detail that characterizes his artwork. When I visited his gallery he handed me a magnified glass and truly showed me the magnitude of his artwork. Metin has received a bevy of appreciation from many celebrities throughout the years and uses his fame to raise money for several charitable causes.

I hope I get to meet even more influences and icons in the industry that light up the silver screen and inspire so many people.

Stan Winston & Alien model

Matt Winston

Metin Bereketli