Having recently been longlisted for the Cannes Young Director Award as well as scooping the grand prize at the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge, Martin Stirling is certainly a filmmaker to keep an eye on at the moment. Looking through the multi-award winning writer/director’s body of work, Stirling has built up a diverse portfolio so far; a mix of music video, commercials and shorts films making up his back catalogue. We asked the director to talk us through his creative approach to filmmaking and whether variety is something he feels is important in his craft.
I don’t think I ever set out to have an eclectic portfolio of work, I’m just interested and fascinated by a lot of different things. I find an unvarying style tedious and love to explore and experiment so I’ve always seeked out new experiences and ways of working. I guess my main aim is to always make something interesting for me and the audience and that’s often expressed in different colours. The aim had always been to become a feature film director but I feel like I’d love to continue working with short form content too. I believe in the power of brevity and think interactive media offers a whole new way of thinking about stories and the way we experience them.
I’ve never considered myself a genre filmmaker, I just stumble across things that interest me. I’ve awakened to Sci-Fi most recently because I feel like it holds up a mirror to society in an interesting and magical way. I think it’s a great genre for mining ideas as you can pretty much invent and get away with anything. I think Sci-Fi has a bad press officer because people tend to think of it as floating cars, spaceships and excessive lens flares which can turn people off. I’m more interested in a lo-fi aesthetic that looks at relationships affected by technology. Automate started off as a merging of Sci-Fi and Mumblecore – which sounded like an interesting genre lovechild – it ended up becoming more composed and considered. The truth is I’m attracted to ideas more than anything else, the genre and style comes much later.
I bashed the idea around with Andrew Ellard who did the hard work – writing the script and creating all the characters in record time. He bashed out 4 quality drafts in the space of about 6 hours which I think is an unbelievable talent to have. I’ve found in my work that restrictions are a blessing – most filmmakers ruin their films by having too much time and too much freedom. The limitations give you focus and force you to work on a level that is much more instinctive and creative. I’d recommend it to all filmmakers – I think you identify your strengths and your weaknesses very quickly that way.