Interviewee: Keith Eyles
Company: Snakegully Productions
Job Title: Actor / Director
Actor Credits Include: Bad Day, Ten Dead Men,
Counterfeit Butterfly, The Shadow of Bigfoot
Director Credits Include: Crossed Lines, Fear
View, The Baby Watcher, Blood Right, Driven Insane
Interview Date: July 2013
Q. Hi Keith,
give us a little background on yourself before you became an actor
and director? (degree, relevant work experience, interests, etc)
A. Hi, well I've been a fan of movies and television
drama ever since I can remember and kind of knew this was what
I wanted to do before I even knew what most of it was. I grew
up watching lots of movies from the 60's & 70's on video during
the 80's as well as TV re-runs etc. I used to read about how these
productions were made and who did what etc. When I left school
I enrolled on a home video production course and then completed
a City & Guilds in 35mm photography. This then lead me to
looking into film schools which took me to the United States and
getting a degree in Film Production Technology. Following that
I studied acting and discovered that I enjoyed that too so since
then I worked and continued to study in both areas. This is my
Q. And how
did you get into acting and directing?
A. Well sometimes it feels like I'm still
waiting!! I directed my first short film when I graduated the
film programme. This was in 1999 so we were still on that grey
area between film & digital so I was lucky enough to shoot
my first film on 16mm which was a great discipline for the craft.
The acting came around the same time when I was asked to audition
for an independent film and landed the part so that was a really
fun time. When I moved back to the UK I started to build my network
here by enrolling on filmmaking & writing courses at Raindance
and acting classes at City Lit, Actors Centre etc...
your acting background help you when you are directing and vice-versa?
If so how?
A. I think the answer to that is a definite
yes! There are many directors out there that are masters of storytelling
as far as camera & editing go but find it hard to get great
performances out of their actors because they don't understand
different actor processes and requirements. Being able to communicate
to actors in their 'terms' can certainly generate a short hand
on set which is great when you're up against time which you always
are! Also there are lots of great actors that have been trained
classically and don't necessarily understand the subtleness of
screen acting, continuity etc. so I think that filmmaking knowledge
helps with my acting too.
Q. Do people
in the industry have an issue with actors who are also directors
or is it widely accepted these days?
A. I think that it's becoming more and
more accepted these days. Of the 7 films that I've currently directed,
other than cameos, I've only actually acted in one of them. This
is something that I'd like to do more. I do worry sometimes about
what other people think but I'm confident in what I'm doing and
think that I have the ability be be objective about it. If you
look at the history, this has always happened, look at Orson Wells,
Kenneth Branagh and so on. I grew up on Clint Eastwood movies
who has always done both and Kevin Costner's 'Dances With Wolves'
was a big inspiration for me when I was looking into film courses.
If you look at more recent movies actors like Ralph Fiennes and
Ben Affleck are now getting acclaim at doing both jobs.
are the biggest frustrations for UK actors today?
A. I think there are many frustrations
with choosing this life but that's not an excuse not to do it.
One of the main problems is that we don't have much of an industry
here in the UK and what there is out there is extremely difficult
to break into. I could write pages here being negative and moaning
about my near misses etc. but as I always say to my students (I
teach filmmaking too) its important to create your own work. We
live now in an exciting time where it's much easier to produce
work and get it out in the public domain. It's still a challenge
to get work seen by the right people etc but if your passionate
about what you do you can at least go play and try things out.
Even if you have no money, it costs nothing at all to write something,
only your time and effort. The mistake is to sit around and wait
for it to happen and I've been there too...
Q. As an
actor where do you find most of your auditions and roles?
A. There are many resources online that
advertise for actors to audition for roles which are worth pursuing
(again waiting for your agent to do all of the work (if you're
even lucky enough to have one!) is no longer an excuse) so that's
one way. Also being part of a local film community is a good way
to network and potentially find work as you never know who you're
going to meet. I often get approached in those kinds of environments
by filmmakers that have seen my work and want to work with me
which is always flattering. Also resources such as ActorBase
is a really great was of enhancing visibility.
Q. How important
is it for an actor to have an agent or some form of representation?
A. It certainly helps particularly if
you have an agent that's well connected but I don't think it's
the only way anymore as my previous answer mentions. I think it
helps to get you in front of the people who do have access to
the industry and the well paid roles though.
Q. How important
is it to promote yourself as an actor or and find your own roles
rather than rely solely on your agent?
A. Again as previously mentioned I think
it's vital. The whole industry revolves on self promotion and
tapping into resources but just make sure you can deliver if given
Q. How important
is it for UK actors to be on Spotlight and / or a member of Equity?
A. I do think this is fairly important
if you want to be taken seriously at all. There are many similar
resources and organisations out there but I think that these should
be the main two essentials to belong to for anyone calling themselves
actors accept unpaid or below Equity minimum roles and why?
A. It depends where you are with your
career and how passionate you are about the project? The tough
thing here is that if you don't there are 100 more people that
will. I'm not debating on whether that's right or wrong but it's
just the way it is....
Is it important for actors to go to drama school or can they just
‘learn on the job’?
A. Like most things in this industry
there is no right and wrong. There are many great techniques and
disciplines that can be learnt at drama school but I also know
many great actors that never went to drama school. I think it's
important to keep working and gaining experience on the job as
you put it, but also of equal importance to keep attending workshops,
reading technique books and watching films, TV, theatre etc, just
as it is for filmmakers too. Do it because you want to not because
it's a chore!!
movie role do you wish you had played and why?
A. Let's keep this one simple as there
are so many! Bond, James Bond.... I don't think there are any
British boys of my age group that haven't dreamed of playing this
role and I've been a huge fan ever since I was a kid.
Q. Who are
your acting movie greats of all time?
A. Oh my god, this is getting hard. That's like
asking me my favorite movie which I can't answer as there are
so many for so many different reasons?!! Looking classically for
me I'd have to say Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracey,
James Dean. Growing up, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman,
Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Sean
Connery, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise & Bruce
Willis. More recently Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr, Ed Harris,
Russell Crowe, John Cusack, Kevin Bacon, Mark Strong, James McAvoy,
Idris Elba, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cummerbatch & Mark Ruffalo.
Those are to name just a few that spring to mind as there are
so many great and inspirational actors out there both past and
present. These are mainly leading man types there are also some
fantastic character actors out there too. I'm sure I'll be kicking
myself for missing obvious ones when I read this a month from
now and this isn't even to mention the wonderful actresses that
we've had over the years of which again there are many... TOUGH
Q. Are great
actors made or born?
A. Difficult to say as with the short
list I mentioned above by being put on the spot, these in my opinion
are all great actors but they all seem to have an extra quality
that maybe wasn't taught but is just part of their personalities
that shine through, who knows?
Q. As a director,
is it sensible to cast yourself as an actor in your own films
or does this complicate shooting and the end product suffer as
A. That's another tough one because as
I've already mentioned, I did do it once before and I plan on
doing it again. I think that you have to be realistic and honest
about the casting. You can't let your ego get in the way, you
have to ask 'am I right for this role & why?'. Providing you
surround yourself with the right people and you're prepared to
commit to the incredibly hard job of directing too then I think
it should be fine.
Q. Who are
the directing movie greats of all time?
A. Wow, another incredibly tough one,
again so many for so many different reasons but here's a few...
Classics - Hitchcock, Ford, Eisenstein, Lang, Lean, Capra, Kubrick,
Attenborough, Howard Hawks & Robert Wise. Growing up - Speilberg,
Lucas, Cameron, Carpenter, Michael Mann, Eastwood, De Palma, Scorsese,
Ron Howard, Richard Donner, Luc Besson, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott
& Nicolas Meyer. More recent - Christopher Nolan, David Fincher,
James Mangold, Del Toro, Joss Whedon, Tarantino, Steven Soderberg
& J.J Abrams. There are directors out there that are great
at certain genres and styles but also a wealth of incredible artists
and craft people, writers, composers, cinematographers and so
on from all over the world. This is just to name a few and not
even encroaching into the television writing, producing &
directing world of which I think there is enormous talent.
Q. What genres
of films do you make / direct?
A. I really do enjoy all types of movies
and entertainment. So far I've been more involved in directing
thriller or horror type films which are among my favorite genres.
If I had more money I'd like to make more Sci-Fi or action/adventure
type films, but of course want to have a go at everything!!
film do you wish you had directed and why?
A. Wow you really do like these impossible
to answer type questions. I'm not sure, I guess I'd like to direct
a Bond movie? (but not the one's I'm in...)
made films both in the UK and US, how do the two countries compare
when it comes to making films?
A. There's not a great deal of difference
in my experience but I feel that the Americans are always more
optimistic about doing anything....
Q. Is film
making a business or art form first and foremost?
A. I think these are two different things.
Films as general people perceive them is indeed a business but
it's a business that consists of many different art forms. I love
films as they are a combination of the visual and performing arts
which tell a story which I think is amazing. The key is when that
also works commercially. But I think as long as you know your
audience it can indeed also be a piece of art too.
is the point of making shorts films as there is very little money
to be made if at all?
A. Another good question. When you set
out to make a short film it should be to learn from or because
it's a story that you're passionate about or both!! These films
can either be used as a calling card or showreel piece or can
earn some recognition on the festival circuit but it is unlikely
to make money from it. Although not impossible that shouldn't
be the reason to make one!!
Q. Is it
easy to make a living out of making films?
A. In a word, no but it really depends
on how lucky you are and if the right people see it which is hard
to measure. I think you have to do it because you love it and
hope that someday you can get paid to do it... I'm still waiting....
are the main frustrations independent film makers face today?
A. Again there have been whole books written
about this. Of course it's hard to get the money to make it in
the first place but then it's now even harder to get your work
seen as there's so much out there. Sadly the business model does
not match the technology. You need a great script and a lot of
Q. You attended
film school in the US, is it necessary to go to film school if
you want to make films or can you just pick up a camera and teach
A. My thoughts on this are very similar
to my thoughts on drama school. The technology is now great and
there is oodles of information online, books, DVD commentaries
etc. to go and learn the craft by doing. Having said that there
are a lot of lazy filmmakers out there who think that just because
they have a camera and some software on their computer that they're
a film director by default and there's a lot more to it than that.
The craft of storytelling, editing, working with actors, cinematic
rules etc all apply. Rules are there to be broken but you have
to understand them before you break them so it's essential to
understand your craft, genre, audience etc first. It's vital to
watch films and analyse why they do or don't work as it's not
always about how much money went into them. Keep learning and
creating your own material...
Q. As a member
of BAFTA you watch a lot of films constantly, how has the type
and quality of films changed over the past 10 years if at all?
A. I am indeed fortunate to be a BAFTA
member but have always watched lots of films. I don't think there
has been a change in type or quality, there have always been great
films and bad films it's just that now there's more films....
or film? And why?
A. Another massive debate and a subject
that I feel somewhat divided on. I'm glad that I learnt to make
films and take photographs on actual film. There is a definite
craft involved in this process that can't be touched. However
from a commercial standpoint it saves time and money to shoot
digital (two factors that there's never enough of) and the quality
of the latest digital cinema cameras and projectors is as good
if not better. However I think that the principles behind shooting
should be the same and that it should be used as a tool and not
an excuse for lazy filmmaking. At the end of the day most people
who watch films don't care what it's shot on as long as they enjoy
what they're watching which goes back to good story, interesting
characters, compelling journey, great production values, performances
Q. Does CGI
help or hinder the film making process and the audience experience?
A. Another huge topic. I think the point
is not to notice it too much so whichever process works then use
it. I prefer the old school method of doing things in camera for
real and then using tools such as CGI to enhance what's there,
I think that's when it works best. As both an actor and a filmmaker
I think it's more exciting to do things for real in actual places
but then it's all about the art of illusion so if the audience
is convinced it doesn't matter how you get there. I have a huge
amount of respect for the digital artists that do this work but
it's not an area that I understand beyond the basic concept.
Q. Is 3D
just a gimmick or a valuable film makers tool?
A. I'm only giving my opinion on these
subjects as I'm by no means an authority on this stuff. Once again
I think if the story etc is good then it's not really necessary.
I don't know, it's fun sometimes on some of the kids animated
movies. I think Cameron used it well on Avatar but do I think
it's worth the extra admission? Probably not in most cases. I
think that if a film is shot as 3D and if it's the right genre
it can work ok, I've seen a couple of horror movies that use it
well, but often when it's a post conversion I don't think its
very good as the shots weren't designed for it. The problem is
that the cinemas are having to compete with 'home cinema systems'
so 3D, IMAX, Dolby Atmos etc are all ways of trying to attract
people in for a bigger experience.
has made it easier, quicker and more accessible to make and distribute
films - although this is a good thing is there a flipside too?
A. Many of previous answers (because they're
long!) have touched on this. It's both good and bad. Technology
is just a tool to make things easier but like all tools it can
be abused. Yes it's easier but care still needs to be taken and
quality still needs to be present. It's also great that there
are multiple platforms to see things but as I mentioned there
isn't the business model in place to support this properly and
thats an issue that film distributors have been facing for a while
now. The challenge faced by most filmmakers now is getting their
work seen by the right people. No answers on that one I'm afraid.....
Q. With technology
becoming more and more advanced is there a danger that the skill
and craft of movie making will be removed?
A. I think I've answered that already,
Technology is an aid not an excuse.... It's a great tool but you
still need to understand how to use it properly!!
Q. How important
is the director / producer relationship in making films?
A. Not always an easy relationship but
a very important one and few people realize that both roles require
a huge amount of work, they're not just titles or credits!!
You 1st AD’d a lot on other people’s projects, what
is the most challenging part of that role?
A. It's another very difficult job and
I find it hard to separate the filmmaker when I do this sometimes
but it has to be done, basically you have to be the directors
conscience and stay very positive for the crew morale. I actually
learnt most of what I know about the filmmaking process (production
wise) by being the 1st AD on several independent features while
I was at film school. As you're the hub of the production communicating
with all departments as well as the director you really do learn
the nuts and bolts of this process and how to make it most efficient
so I'd recommend it for people who want to learn.
produced many film projects, does this make your job as a director
easier because you have more control or harder because you have
more things requiring your attention?
A. Both really, I do it because so far
I haven't been able to pay for a producer and it's been the only
way to get things done, but I'd prefer not to have to but people
say that I'm good at it from a production standpoint. I have no
idea how to get money or get films sold (just for the record!!)
Q. You teach
film making at BTEC level, do you find your students interest
and views on film is similar or different to yours when you were
the same age?
A. I find that most students are more interested
in video games than movies nowadays which I guess is sort of a
natural progression. A lot of the visual storytelling skills still
apply. I just find that attention spans and patience are shorter
maybe due to technology, I don't know? I don't expect them to
be as big a film geeks as I was....
Q. As a film
maker you want audiences to see your films - is it preferred to
screen your films at film festivals first where smaller numbers
of people will see them or put them straight online for the world
A. This all depends on what your intentions
are? If you put it online then festivals will not accept it but
does that matter to you?
Q. The success
and footprint of independent cinema has risen rapidly over the
past 10 years, in part due to technology - do you forsee good
times ahead for independent cinema in the next decade or will
the big studios claw back some of the market?
A. I wish I had a crystal ball, not sure
on that one?
Thank you Keith, we look forward
to seeing you and your films again on the big screen.
I hope so.... watch this space.... :)
Keith's Contact Details:
Contact: Keith Eyles
Tel: +44 (0) 7786 633948
Director Showreel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r5dBwczz5o