Author: John W E Rees

John Rees previously attended the University of Glamorgan, graduating with a Degree in Film & Video and a Masters in Scriptwriting. He is now studying for a PGCE at Cardiff University while furthering his filmmaking and scriptwriting career on the independent circuit.

Career Plan 2017-2018

First off, sorry this is a couple of weeks late. I started a PGCE in September (more on that later), and my coursework has taken priority. Right then, let’s get to it. Last year I congratulated myself on my most productive year to date and predicted big success was just around the corner! Was I right in my assumption? Let’s find out!

The Darning Needle did not achieve the big success I’d hoped it would, failing to be selected for the Wales Drama Award or the Script Room. However, in preparation for selection, I came up with three outlines for Doctor Who episodes that will come in handy if I do ever find myself brought before the BBC bigwigs; I hope to develop them further as well as coming up with a few more. I recently went back to treatment with The Darning Needle, planning a further draft, but it’s taken a back seat to my PGCE. The Darning Needle has been with me three years now, but being the best example of my long-form writing, it’s essential to continually update it until I come up with something new. I’d love to write a new feature, but with the busy year I have ahead, that may have to wait. I also received another rejection from the BBC after submitting two scripts to their Class Dismissed series (my one about Mr Plank the woodwork teacher was quality, the name alone sells it, I don’t know what they were thinking). I won’t be posting these, though, as there may be another opportunity to submit them in the future.

My greatest success this year by far has come with my filmmaking/writing in the short-form. In January, having wrapped up production on Bamboo House, I set my sights on Cardiff Mini Film Festival. Having been nominated the previous year, I was determined that this year I’d come home a winner. I tasked myself to write a number of scripts through January and then select the best for filming and submission. I wrote seven within the month (five in one week), and we managed to film four before the deadline. Three of them were nominated along with Bamboo House, and I did indeed come home a winner as The Prophet was victorious in the One Minute Wonder category! Further success would follow throughout the year, the films gaining multiple competition/festival nominations and selections; Goldfish reaching the finals of the Oniros Film Awards and Bob winning Short Film Sharer! My success led to me making many new connections through networking at these events, increasing my online presence via a Facebook page, creating posters for all my Outré Media productions, editing a slideshow advert and a showreel, and securing my first television interview! However, I did have one negative festival experience, but always striving to take some good from bad experiences, I decided to produce a festival submission guide so that others wouldn’t make the same mistakes I had.

It was also another great year for collaborations and making new connections. How Not To Be Single episode two – this time written entirely by myself – was completed at the start of the year, and it was unanimously agreed that it topped the original! Sadly, the planned third and final episode of the series has yet to surface due to various reasons including actors leaving the country. Studying for my PGCE, I would be unable to take on a large role on the project, but I’ve been encouraging the show’s creator to carry on with myself acting only as script-editor; so fingers-crossed! Speaking of script-editing, I also secured that position on the web series Long Shots. The series is still in post-production and I’m greatly looking forward to its release, it being the most prestigious, high-budget project I’ve worked on. Long Shots was one of two writing jobs I gained this year by passing an application/interview process, which has given me confidence of my high-ranking position in Cardiff’s writing community. The other job was for Stuart Thomas of Stu’s Reviews, who hired me to write a script working from his brief; hopefully you’ll be seeing the finished film later in the year. I also joined a new filmmaking group, Film Focus Wales. Through the group, I’ve redrafted one script, Snow White and the Seven Convictions, that went on to be filmed with me acting as sound recordist, and unofficial advisor due to my vast experience. Again, you’ll hopefully see this later in the year. Due to my PGCE commitments, I won’t be taking on any producing or directing roles within the group, but I’ve offered them a number of scripts I’m happy for them to film. One of which, Marching Orders, is in pre-production. Having not handed over complete control of one of my scripts before, I’m looking forward to the results. My most fruitful collaboration has been with Rachel Pedley-Miller of Avant Cymru. Not only did I produce the trailers for Avant’s Killer Cells, but I was also asked to film and edit Lands of Our Fathers, a half-hour documentary about the Rhondda’s immigrant ancestry. It was quite the experience being the longest single project I’ve ever been involved with and documentary not being my usual field. It’s had one screening so far, and we’re hoping for more this upcoming year. James Humphreys has yet again proved an invaluable contact, asking me to take part in one of his ScriptDawg events, test-running Tell Me About It, Sam on stage before filming. ScriptDawg is a great venture and a lot of fun, but I have no plans to pursue theatre work as it is not my passion or where my talents truly lie. James also encouraged me to take up home tutoring via the Tutora agency. This not only became my main source of income for the year but also a truly rewarding experience as I helped a number of struggling GCSE students achieve passing grades. It also inspired my decision to take a PGCE. My hope when I graduate is to gain a part-time position as a lecturer so I can still carry on my filmmaking/writing career while having the security of a well paid permanent job and hopefully making a difference in people’s lives.

One thing I’ve neglected this year is film/TV analyses/reviews. I had plans for a few but my filming/scriptwriting has taken priority, which is definitely for the best as that’s what I want to make my career from. Nevertheless, analysing and reviewing other people’s work is vital for inspiration, keeping one’s screen language skills sharp, and it’s a lot of fun, so it’s still my aim to publish my thoughts on some films and Doctor Who episodes in future. I’ve been aching to do The Seeds of Doom for ages, so hopefully that’ll be on this year’s list. First and foremost to this year’s plan is passing my PGCE, though. This will mean I’ll have less time for writing/filmmaking, at least until June – I’ve already had to turn down the opportunity to write/direct for Emojis of Horror, which would’ve been a cool project – but as well as Film Focus and Stuart Thomas, I’m on the lookout for other filmmakers to produce my work. Getting something produced on a big budget by a professional crew would be ideal. For this reason, along with the great opportunity it’d bring, I’m determined to be selected for It’s My Shout 2018, so will be producing a number of tailored scripts, much as I did for Cardiff Mini Film Festival. On top of all this, I’ll be continuing to submit my films produced this year to competitions/festivals, and I’m confident they’ll be more selections, nominations and winners ahead, and I’ll make many more connections.

So, do I feel I’ve achieved big success this year? Sure. I’ve topped last year for productivity and recognition, and my ability continues to develop rapidly. But am I satisfied? No, I want more! And I’m confident I’m going to get it. I’m certain I’ll build on what I’ve achieved and see similar success this forthcoming year. I feel I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it, and with effort and perseverance, all my goals will be achieved.

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My First TV Interview

My first TV interview, on Made in Cardiff’s The Crunch, discussing my award-winning films and filmmaking in general. Overall it was a good experience, that’ll hopefully prepare me for many more future TV appearances. The sound was out of sync on the clip from Bob, but it was still an excellent opportunity to promote my work, and I didn’t stumble over my words too much. More details on much of what I discuss, including my aspirations and my films and their development, can be found in the Films and CV and Contact categories and by exploring the rest of my website!

Handy Tips for Film Festival Submitters

This post was inspired by an ordeal with Zero Film Festival, for which my film Bob was selected but later withdrawn by myself due to the festival’s gross incompetence. They didn’t contact me after my selection, and I was only able to get hold of them a month later – less than two weeks before the event was stated as taking place – after pursuing a number of avenues and wasting a great deal of time and effort; at one point even coming close to calling the police suspecting I could’ve been conned. When I finally received a reply from the organiser – after tracking down his personal email by contacting a venue where the festival previously took place – it was childish and aggressive, berating me for suggesting there was anything wrong with the festival’s conduct and belittling my experience. It turned out the festival wasn’t even taking place on the date they’d given and they hadn’t even organised a venue. Their excuse for not informing filmmakers? They were busy with other things and don’t have the staff. More an admission of their inability than an excuse, although it wasn’t presented that way. Also, I was criticised for contacting one of the listed organisers and asking for help. It turned out they hadn’t worked for the festival for seven years – the fact this info hadn’t been updated providing more evidence of inefficiency – but they were happy to contact the current organiser and ask him to get in touch. For some reason, he found my actions inappropriate; perhaps because they drew attention to his organisation’s ineptitude. I asked him for a refund and was told one would be provided if I sent my PayPal details. I sent my email address, explaining that’s all you need, but heard nothing and received no refund. Needless to say, they pass none of the criteria listed here for spotting a good festival.

1. Use FilmFreeway, not Withoutabox. It’s far easier to setup, upload and navigate, the festivals are generally far cheaper (Withoutabox take a big cut), and Withoutabox are useless if you have an issue with a festival – they take ages to get back and basically tell you it’s not their responsibility and to deal with it yourself. You would’ve thought they’d just be able to contact the festival in question, right? Nope.

2. Check the festival’s contact info works before submitting! Call, email: make sure they’re quick to reply, polite and attentive. You don’t want to submit to a festival then find out they’re impossible to contact (believe me!).

3. Check the festival’s reviews! Do they have good ratings and reviews? Have they even turned the review option on? If they haven’t, they’ve likely done this for a reason. Note, Withoutabox don’t have a review option; another reason to be wary of them.

4. When did the festival last take place? If a festival has been regularly taking place for a number of years, they’re likely a winner. If they’re taking place erratically every few years, they’re likely disorganised or failing to generate submitters due to their incompetence.

5. Look for further evidence that the festival is professionally run. A regularly updated website, a Facebook page with plenty of activity (again, make sure these are easy to contact), and videos of their most recent event – search for past ones too, but if that’s all they have, there could be a reason.

6. Lastly, think carefully and make sure the festival is appropriate for your film. Does your film fit the festival’s criteria/objective/rules/terms? Is it within your price range? A lot of festivals might pass the £20 mark, but you can find plenty for under a tenner if you search hard enough! If a festival seems overly expensive, check to see if the regular deadline has passed. Many festivals have early bird deadlines that are far cheaper. So plan ahead and get your film in early!

Killer Cells

Here’s a trailer I was employed to produce for Avant Cymru’s theatrical production, Killer Cells. Killer Cells is a play about recurrent miscarriage. It manages to capture the pain and trauma of these tragedies with palpable authenticity – the script being based on real life experience – but it is in no way depressive or negative, ultimately being a story of optimism and resilience. It illustrates the importance of strong friendships and relationships, at times with a lightness and humour, yet this never distracts from the serious subject matter, and crucially, it doesn’t neglect to show things from the man’s perspective; depicting the male experience with equal validity. Killer Cells tackles a taboo subject, rarely discussed in public, with both bravery and sensitivity, creating something uniquely entertaining, informative and moving. I highly recommend you try and catch the play next time it tours, and together we can help #BreakTheSilence.

Lands of Our Fathers

Lands of Our Fathers is a documentary about the immigrant ancestry of the people of the Rhondda Valley. It was produced by Avant Cymru, and filmed and edited by myself, representing my company Outré Media. It was screened as part of Age Cymru‘s Gwyl Gwanwyn Festival.