Embracing adversity earns director industry recognition

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Article by: Laura Blackmore

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BA (Hons) Digital Film Production graduate Connor Maclaren gained a nomination in the Best Early Career Filmmaker Category at the Oxford Shorts 2023 awards.

As part of his final major project, he wrote and directed, ‘Brotherly Love’ and had to overcome different challenges on set to make the short film, including working with child actors. .

Since graduating, Connor has been busy working across multiple projects as a freelance director. In the future, he aspires to become a director working with a production company or an agency.

We caught up with him to find out more about working on set and his recent nomination at the Oxford Shorts 2023 Film Festival.



Connor, firstly, can you share with us why you decided to study Digital Film Production at Ravensbourne?

I have always enjoyed storytelling. From a young age, my favourite lesson was English when we had to write stories.

I studied film and television at West Suffolk College and my tutors there first suggested the BA (Hons) Digital Film Production course at Ravensbourne University London.

We had a recruitment officer from Ravensbourne speak at our college and it seemed like a really practical degree, so I chose to study it.

Can you tell us about the biggest highlights from the course?

One of my highlights was the screen writing unit, where we would write different scripts which were then distributed to professional actors to read through, act out, and provide live feedback.

I really enjoyed that subject because it felt really productive. We were constantly receiving feedback and improving on our writing techniques and scripts.

Another highlight of my course was meeting a lot of people who became my good friends and other collaborators. We worked on different projects together during the course and some people from our group of friends were also part of my final major project, ‘Brotherly Love.’


For your final major project, you wrote and directed a short film called ‘Brotherly Love’. Can you share with us what inspired you to write this film?

I’m really interested in family dramas and exploring family dynamics. I've always been inspired by British social realism film and television dramas.

I wanted to create something that felt authentic and had really natural acting. It ended up being the longest short film I have directed.

The inspiration for the film came from the idea of how when you are younger, family drama is almost hidden from you and your family won’t tell you outright what is happening until you get older.

As a young child, you have to find out what is going on or piece together different elements until you can put two and two together to understand the bigger picture.

Connor Maclaren 6

Can you take us through what was involved in directing this short film?

As the director, I was overseeing everything on set. There is a lot of responsibility because you will get asked a lot of questions and need to be able to make decisions.

You have to be decisive, because if it sounds like the director doesn’t know what they want, everyone will start to lose trust in you and start going off script.

Everyone on set is responsible for managing different parts of the filming and might want to change the way things are as well, which is okay too.

It’s good to be able to understand the reason behind them wanting to change something and be willing to go in that new direction or stick with your guns and trust your gut.

Did you have any challenging moments on set? And how did you overcome them?

We had a tight three-day shooting schedule to film the entire project because our child actor was the main character and you are only allowed a limited time with them.

They always say don’t work with children or animals, but I thought it was a really interesting experience.

There are different restrictions when working with children such as strict time constraints for how long they can be on set or if it’s longer than three days, they need to have a tutor for their schoolwork.

It is probably more of a testament to our child actor on how well the filming ran. He was really professional, and he definitely brought up the energy, especially when everyone was tired after a long day of filming.

To ensure we made the most of our limited time with the child actor, we worked with the Director of Photography beforehand to create a visual style that worked logistically within the time frame. It helped us choose between either filming or holding off on shots and letting them have a moment to breathe.

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You were recently nominated for Best Early Career Filmmaker category for director of ‘Brotherly Love’. How did it feel to be recognised for your craft by these prestigious awards?

It’s always nice to get recognised for your work and it’s reassuring that other people like your film.

A lot of people said to me they really liked the acting. They said they felt the chemistry between the two on-screen brothers and the fights they had felt true to real life.

We attended the screening of the short films at the Oxford Film Festival. It was pretty surreal to see it at the cinema with other people watching it.

After the screening, I had a random person come up to me and said they were really touched by the film, and they started tearing up. It’s such a rewarding feeling to see what you have envisioned come to life and then for other people to appreciate it.  

Now that you have graduated, what are your future career aspirations? Can you share with us any exciting projects you are working on?

Establishing myself as a director is the goal. I would love to keep on directing other projects and keep expanding my career in the film industry.

I am currently working as a freelance director, and I recently produced a music video. It was my first big budget music video, so that was a really great experience.

I am writing more scripts and pitching for more music videos, which is quite competitive but hopefully my recent experience will help me land a few more roles.

Eventually, I would like to get signed by a big production company or an agency as a director, because then I’ll have the chance to work across more projects.

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Do you have any advice for students commencing the Digital Film Production course?

Try to connect with as many people as you can. It’s all about collaboration in the film industry.

A bad team can really make or break your film. You are only a good as they people you surround yourself with, so find great people to work with on your projects and keep creating with them.

Find out more about the BA (Hons) Digital Film Production course.