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19 September 2014
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That winning feeling

John Giwa Amu

John Giwa-Amu

John Giwa-Amu's short film Barrie the Barber impressed the judges enough to win 2004's New Film Makers Award. Since then John has gone on to produce a feature film with ITV called 'Little White Lies', which was nominated for six BAFTA Cymru Awards in 2006 and won two of the awards, for Best Actress (Helen Griffin) and Best Actor (Brian Hibbard).


Here he explains how he made 2004's winning film.


Watch his winning film

Q1. How did you come to make Barrie the Barber?

Barrie the Barber was a film I wanted to make after winning the '48 Hour Film Challenge'. What I needed to do was to find a script that I could make my mark on as a director and then raise the finance to do. The script, to me, was able to distil some of Cardiff's energy, and sometimes lack of it, into a very small space which I could stylise as a director. I had an interest beforehand in writing a script about someone who is a liar and I had a really strong interest about writing a script about Cardiff, Wales. So these script elements, when I was given them, jumped out at me and then I was able to combine what I found interesting, with a script that had already been written.


Q2. What was the hardest part of making the film?

Raising finance. It's always raising money that is the hardest part, convincing people that my vision is worth putting money into. Apart from that, I didn't find anything on the shoot really hard. In fact it was the first time on a shoot that I genuinely felt like a real director because I've always been running round doing my own assistant director jobs. So rather than what was hard, what was a lot easier on this shoot was that I had a first assistant director. That took my mind off doing things like running round, getting people teas and coffees - all the things the director shouldn't be worrying about rather than what's going up on the screen. So it was actually easier for me than any other shoot as I was just doing my job, I was just producing and directing.


Q3. How did you source actors for your short film?

Well I've been making films and a little television in Wales for a while, so I know a few people. I went to an Irvine Welsh reading of one of his films he's got coming out and met Brain Hibbard at that reading. I remember shaking as I walked up to him as it was the first time I had worked with a professional actor, or asked him to work with me. I remember thinking, 'I want something off you but somehow I've got to make it sound good', so I asked if I could send the script and he was very nice and said yes. I didn't expect to hear anything back from him and then I received a letter saying, 'I'm interested, when do you want to do it?' That was fantastic. The main thing for film makers is to have the balls to go up and ask people. I was shaking inside and this was Brian Hibbard, not Tom Cruise.


Q4. What made you decide not to film in colour?

Well, first of all we had a budget of £2,500, which means the luxuries you have as a director, where you can control the way people dress down to the colour of their clothes, weren't available to me, so I just wanted to make it look as slick as possible, which black and white really takes care of quite nicely. I always think quite stylistically, which as a filmmaker I think is quite important. You really have to shout as a short filmmaker - you have to be prepared to stand up above the crowd. I think the techniques I used in Barrie really did that. They are unconventional techniques, I haven't really seen them before, they were ideas out of my head. I think you really have to scream from the roof tops look, 'look at me'. You‘ve got ten minutes to do something that people aren't going to forget.

The latest on John

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