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Col is an award-winning writer/director of film and television, with numerous credits in both fiction and non-fiction. Drawing from his years of experience in the industry, he teaches documentary film making courses at the National Film & Television School, Raindance and various film schools around the country.

He started at the BBC directing documentaries before making an award-winning short with the young Keira Knightley. He was then signed to RSA Films as a commercials director and went on to write and direct the feature films “Someone Else” (2006) and “Honeymooner” (2010) – both distributed by Soda Pictures and broadcast on BBC1 and BBC2.

In June of this year Cinema Jam screened his hilarious short Things He Never Said, which premiered at the London Film Festival and made the long list for BAFTA.

Col sat down with The Spread to tell us more about where he’s been and where he’s going.

Col Pensive

What made you decide to make the move from documentary to narrative?

I’d been writing shorts and features ever since I left film school. Having made all the documentaries I’d wanted to make and having had a busy few years directing documentaries for the BBC, I thought it was time to make the leap. The short that launched my drama career starred Keira Knightley and Stephen 
Mangan – and ended up being something of a sketch for my first feature with Stephen Mangan.

You obviously still have a lot of passion for the documentary form, as you currently teach courses about it. What is it that keeps you interested in non-fiction after you’ve found such success with narrative?

I watch as many documentaries as drama features. The standard of documentary making is so high at the moment. But not every documentary is great. I’ve 
seen some of the efforts that pass as ‘films’. Too many people think that all you need to do to make a documentary is to pick up a camera and shoot  – the 
result of which are many unwatchable ‘documentaries’. I’m passionate about teaching the various
principles that you need to know in order to make a film that an audience will want to see and how to turn that idea of yours into a real film that will have an emotional impact on an audience.

Your features were done on a low budget and were both well-received. What advice would you give to people looking to make their first features?

If you really believe that your script is brilliant then make sure you cast it brilliantly – that doesn’t have to mean putting stars on it – it just means making 
sure that you absolutely love your actors. Then spend a designated time searching for finance. If that doesn’t come then use your savings and just go out and shoot your movie.

Tell about what people can expect from your documentary courses

My documentary course is split into 5 parts. The first part is covering my 9 rules – or principles – that I’ve always used in my own work and that I believe are an amazing tool to check that your idea will make a film – and if it will, then how you can turn that idea into a living, breathing film that an 
audience will gladly pay money to see. Part 2 covers the people that you put in front of the camera, and includes interview technique.
Part 3 involves the basics of making your film visual – including ways of illustrating events that have passed. Part 4 covers editing, music and sound design. Part 5 covers 
ways to make your film on various different budgets, getting your film out there and making a living as a documentary director.


And how can people sign up?

First of all if you want me to help you with a documentary idea that you’re struggling with or if you have made a film that’s not quite working I offer a consultancy service under the name The Documentary Doctor. This involves working with you one-to-one on Skype for an hour or two. I charge £75 per hour with the understanding that if you’re not entirely satisfied with the results I offer a money-back guarantee. So far I’ve never had to pay anyone back! For that please contact me direct at colspector@btinternet.com

If you’re after a course I lead the 5 day Directing The Documentary course at the NFTS https://nfts.co.uk/our-courses/short-courses/documentary or the 5 evening Documentary Foundation Certificate at Raindance http://www.raindance.org/course/documentary-foundation-certificate/

You’re working on another feature now that revisits a theme found in your previous films that could be described as the shortfall between what men want and what men actually get. Can you tell us more about this project?

All my films are wry comedies about love from a bloke’s point of view. This one is about a 39 year-old guy struggling with the idea of romantic settling. I think it has a theme that many people can relate to.

The Spread

The Spread is the official magazine of London-based film community Cinema Jam. We cover everything film, from movie and product reviews, features, editorials, news updates, interviews, and more. Follow @CinemaJam on Twitter for more updates!

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