I interviewed Lewis Arnold back in 2012. Below is the full interview. With his hard working effort, passion for television and talent, he is on the right path to carving a successful careers as a TV Director. Arnold graduated from The National Film and Television School and then worked on many projects which have been enjoyed by the nation on British mainstream television channels. Credits include E4 Misfits, E4 Banana, ITV Broadchurch and the award winning show HUMANS (S1&2) on Channel 4.
Lewis Arnold Interview (2012) @LewisAEA
1) Where does your passion lie?
My passion lies in films and drama. I’ve directed films as well as worked on promos, corporate videos, commercials and AIDS work in different countries. Developing the seed of an idea generally comes from some sort or truth and reality. In my films, you’ll see that I’m drawn to real life and fictional content.
At the moment, I’m really interested in the idea of cinema and a cinematic language. With the rise of home cinemas and surround sound, you can pretty much make cinema within TV.
2) Tell me more about your latest film …
It is a working title, it’s called Echo. It is a digital film project that I’m working on with The Film School. We shot the film in 3 days in Nottingham City Centre and one day out of the City Centre. For me, Nottingham has a very European feel and look to it – especially through a lens. You’ve got the tram line, The Market Square, the historical heritage.
3) How did you cast your actors?
We were heavily supported by The Nottingham Television Workshop. We worked with an incredible cast, all from Nottingham. We had two fantastic actors – Lauren Carse as our female actress. I predict she is going to be big, she’s a superb talent. And a young lad called Oliver Woollford and a few other actors. Ian Smith, Director of The Television Workshop is a legend! Such a funny and down to earth guy. Ian is a massive supporter of young talent. He teaches the young people to feel comfortable in the skin of the character so whatever situation the character faces, they will be able to fulfil the role. He teaches the philosophy of ‘improv’ and ‘wearing’ the character and not just reading the lines.
4) Are you in education now?
Yes, I graduated from university in 2007 then had 3 years out of university working. In 2011, I joined the National Film and Television School (NFTS). I’m now in my second year completing a MA. I would say it’s worth it. Lectures do scrutinise every mistake, every decision you make and they observe everything you do. But it is a great place to learn and to work with people who are fantastic at their passion.
5) Would you recommend a post-graduate course?
Yes definitely, I’ve recommended it to a lot of people. If you are really serious about it and want to develop and grow alongside some of the best directors/editors/camera operators etc., then defiantly look into the option of further studies after graduating.
Prior to taking up the course, I questioned myself as to whether or not to go, whether I could afford to go and so forth. I went to the NFTS’s open day and I was very impressed by the facilities and the staff. I remember the film school mentioning that they receive about 300 to 400 applicants a year and they only have 8 places available. I thought I might as well apply, and If I get in then I have to go regardless of financial difficulties. It was just my luck that I managed to successfully enroll onto the course. Looking back, it’s been fantastic. Personally, it’s tough. Financially it’s tough. In the space of just over a year that I’ve been at the film school, I feel that I have grown as a film-maker.
6) What is your perspective on travelling?
Do it! Travelling is a true life experience and it’s important to see the world. You come back with a different perspective. If you want to do something, you will do it or you may even find something down that path that may lead you to somewhere else.
7) Tell me about your trip to Africa …..
The trip was fantastic. Seeing the place and the people, you can’t help but grow. I came back to the UK with a greater appreciation but it’s funny how quickly you get pulled back into the rat race.
When I went to Africa, I went with a job to do – that is to push and get the material, because essentially the material I’m getting is going to raise money to make life better for the people out there. I did everything … writing the script as I went along, direct, shoot and controlled sound. My heart lies in Haiti. I was filming severely malnourished centers and malnourished kids and children who are going to die if they don’t receive care. You’re trying to be respectful but you must be in work mode to get the material. I always find it hard editing the material; that’s when it hit me hardest. I try to have some space away/some objectivity before editing the footage.
8) Tell me about a challenging moment …
One challenging moment was when I met a family whose mum and dad had died, and a young 18-year-old boy had the responsibility of looking after the family. It was a very intense environment to film in. Myself and another guy set up the camera and at that moment we weren’t worried about the camera or the shots, we were there with these people. Due to the nature of what we were doing, we didn’t want the kids, who were very young, to focus on the camera. It was very upsetting. Seeing that makes you appreciative and grateful.
9) Was it difficult to adapt to the lifestyle?
I wouldn’t say so – you just jump straight in. For me it wasn’t a problem adapting. 72 Hours after the earthquake in Haiti, charities including the one I work for, were sleeping rough with people who had survived the earthquake. So you adapt quite quickly. When I went to Kenya, people were living on the edge of non-existence; people were dying every day. Seeing that, you don’t think about yourself or complain about how hard it is. Because it’s not hard, we have it easy.
10) What was an uplifting moment for you?
That would have to be my first ever trip to Africa. I was employed by Islamic Relief Charity as a freelancer. I was there for about 8/9 days and I saw everything including the negatives. On the 4th/5th day, the charity installed a solar panel system in the village that gave water to about 1000 people living in the village. The village had ‘grown’ because of it. It was surreal going from this village where people carried dirty water with rain water, worms and donkey feces in it to use for their family. To seeing the village completely transform 4 to 5 days later.
It was the first time I’ve seen the mass impact the charity was having. It was seeing a need and seeing the resolution. The system was saving lives and people were drinking clean water. It was the work of the charity that made this happen, but it’s nice to be associated with that and I feel privileged to be out there under the name of the charity who is doing great work.
11) You took the opportunity to film life in Niger for charity. Roughly how much money was raised through the awareness of your film?
I’m not sure of the exact total which was raised in the end but I remember after the live appeal someone mentioned a figure of around 2 million pounds, which would have been enough to buy a significant amount of solar paneled water systems. This wasn’t solely through the videos but they were used a lot during that time to highlighting the problem out in Niger and show what can be done with a little money. It was difficult though, as when we came back with the footage and stories from Niger, the Pakistan floods happened so people were torn about which cause to donate too. I’d love to head back out there at some point and see the work that has been done by the charities since we went in 2010.
12) What’s your favourite hobby?
It’s weird as my main interest and passion has always been film, but this has now become my job and you can’t live and breathe that world 24-7 so you naturally find other things you’re interested in. I found a love for football and have been an arm chair supporter of Aston Villa for many years now and I also spend a lot of time with my family and friends in Birmingham as I now live in London and rarely get to see them.
13) What would you like to accomplish in the near future?
I think once I’ve finish at the NFTS the aim is to continue working towards a successful career as a Fiction Director. I’d love to make my first feature film but since going to the NFTS I’m in no rush for that to happen, as I want it to be the right story and project for me. I also feel with everyone now owning home cinemas in their living rooms that there is such a great opportunity to make good, cinematic, TV drama, like ‘Red Riding’, ‘Top Boy’, ‘Appropriate Adult’ where you can explore characters over four hours opposed to one and half hours on cinema. This is really excites me and am trying to develop a four part drama at present, whilst at the NFTS.