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Interview with director Peter Steele

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I’m a professional actor/puppeteer and after attending a puppetry course with The Little Angel Theatre in London, I started making my own puppets. I’ve always told stories with my work and it was actually due to being in lockdown and stuck inside my apartment that I decided to make a short film. I was desperate to create something using puppetry and filming something with my phone seemed to be the most logical way of doing that. I’m really pleased with what I managed to produce and the outcome is true to what I envisioned.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I’ve met lots of filmmakers whilst working as an actor and many of those have been to film institutes, but I also know some who haven’t. I don’t think it’s essential.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

In terms of creating a film/artistic project? I think it’s harder to get started. At least for me, it is. I’ve had multiple ideas for films, plays, stories and it’s so hard to fight the inner critic, put pen to paper, and just get started. To overcome that I have to remember that the first draft won’t be brilliant, but no one will see it until it’s ready to be seen. Once you get that initial idea on the page you can keep tweaking and fine-tuning until you have something that’s ready to be put out into the world.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film?

In terms of the outcome of my film, it’s that ‘precision is key’. I re-shot a lot of material after watching takes and not being happy with them. The whole process was a learning curve and there are many things I’d do differently if I were to make the film again. I’ve picked up some great tips for my next project though!

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

I thought by using a puppet and operating it myself, the process would be quite straightforward. But due to filming AND operating the puppets, I was slightly limited to what I could do without an extra puppeteer. I did have to ask my girlfriend to help me a few times to hold certain props etc whilst I filmed! But I was pleased with the outcome and don’t think I had to compromise too much in the end. Again, it was a learning curve!

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

I sometimes found it difficult to cut unnecessary clips that didn’t add anything to the story, but I thought looked good on film! But the most difficult part for me was choosing the right music to convey the mood I wanted. I found what I was looking for in the end.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I think there needs to be a balance. I wouldn’t want to create something that no one else would like. But I also wouldn’t want to sacrifice what I believed in just to please others. But people have different tastes and you can’t please everyone.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

This is my first year entering film festivals as a writer/director, but I have been to film festivals in the past as an audience member/ cast. They are great events for networking and seeing a wide range of films that you might not normally get to see. They are also great places to be surrounded by people who are passionate about the art of film-making.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

There’s no right answer. Classic styles work for a reason, but working outside your safe space and stretching boundaries can produce some beautiful results. Everything was original once!