On Wednesday 22nd April, Screen and Film School were delighted to welcome Neil Jordan for a virtual masterclass with our students, staff, applicants and alumni.
Neil Jordan began writing and directing features back in 1982 with his debut Angel. He has an award-winning, eclectic body of work including The Crying Game (Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay), The End of the Affair (BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), Mona Lisa, Interview with the Vampire, Breakfast on Pluto, Greta, as well as television shows The Borgias and Riviera. We were lucky enough to spend some time with Neil on 22ndApril, with Fiona Adams kicking off the Q&A with the questions below…
What qualities do you need to be a director?
[You need to be] Somebody who loves the art of film, somebody who has a very strong visual sense, and someone who basically wants to tell their particularly story, whatever way they can, in this medium that can’t be told any other way, really. When I started out, directors used to big beer-swilling guys from either England or America and it was a very male-dominated, very macho activity really. But everything’s changed over the years, which I think is for the better. The thing is now, people’s familiarity with their phones, cameras, editing apps on their computer – everybody now understands the basis of film language. In a strange way, everybody could be a director these days, but the distinguishing thing would be who has anything to say.
Can you talk us through your process as writer-director? I’ve read that when you write your own work, it starts with the image and dramatic context – could you explain that to us please?
It starts with an urge to make something. I started out 30 or 40 years ago writing short stories. I didn’t go to film school, the only reason I started making films was because I found far more interesting possibilities in the medium of movies than I could with prose. Being Irish, it was a country of writers. I grew up in the 60s, so it was quite poor, there was no film school here then. I got a place in Beaconsfield when I was 22 but I couldn’t take it up, so I kind of taught myself in a way. I started making movies because I had an image in my head that would be compelling. I tend to start with a dramatic situation that I can see, then I just blunder around and see if it wants to continue, really.