Jonathan Newman - Screenwriter / Director

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WHY SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO HIM…? Because in the space of two years he has successfully adapted not one but two of his award winning short films into features which he not only wrote but also directed.

Toni Collette, Richard E Grant, Hayley Mills and Mandy Moore.

Writer/Director Jonathan Newman has been described as one of the UK's 'most exciting filmmakers' to emerge in recent years, and was recently longlisted for the Hospital Club's top 100 media hotlist, chosen by industry peers around the country.

2010 sees the release of two feature films shot back to back, both written and directed by Newman and produced by partner Deepak Nayar (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB).

SWINGING WITH THE FINKELS shot in 2009, tells the story of a bored couple who decide to spice up their marriage by swinging. It stars Martin Freeman (LOVE ACTUALLY), singer/actress Mandy Moore (CHASING LIBERTY) comedy legend and father of 'Ben', Jerry Stiller... Jonathan (WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S) Silverman and Angus Deayton. The film was based on Newman's award winning short film of the same name.

Almost immediately after, Jonathan shot the feature film FOSTER, a magical and heartwarming family film starring Emmy Award winning actress Toni Collette (THE 6th SENSE) , Ioan Gruffudd (FANTASTIC FOUR), Richard E Grant (WITHNAIL & I) and Oscar winner Hayley Mills (POLLYANNA, THE PARENT TRAP). The film was also based on his award winning short film which screened on both HBO and BBC and earned Newman a BBC new filmmaker nomination.

Jonathan's short film FATHER’S DAY, made for the 2010 Ford Mustang, won grand prize in a worldwide competition held by ad agency JWT and Filmaka. JWT subsequently hired Jonathan to shoot a 6 part documentary series in Japan on the art of drifting for the reveal of the new Ford Mustang.

British born, Newman spent his formative years in LA before returning to the UK. He earned his MA in Film Production from the Northern Film School and currently resides in London.

Q:  What was your favourite film as a kid?

A:   I hate to be a cliché, but it was ET.   I was 10 when that came out and it had a profound effect on me.  Retrospectively, it was probably the first time I was genuinely moved to tears by a piece of cinema.  I could watch it today and still bawl my eyes out.  When the story, the image and the music all come together perfectly, magic happens.

Q:  Who inspired you when you were starting out?
A:   On a personal level, I always find the success of my friends inspirational.  Oscar WIlde famously said "Every time a friend of mine succeeds a little piece of me dies".  While other's success may be hard to stomach, I find for me it motivates me to work harder to reach my goals and be the best I can be.  The dangling carrot that is hope both inspires and also knocks you down.

On a professional level I have always found Spielberg to be my creative inspiration.  His capacity to tell a human story that carries the viewer on a rounded emotional journey that both moves you and makes you laugh is what filmmaking is all about for me - to really engage and make that journey along with the film's hero. That's the magic of film.  Along with Robert Zemekis, those two have made some of my favourite films

Q:  What was your big break?
A:   Probably meeting my current producing partner.  He had seen my body of work and  was willing and committed to making the journey with me in the feature world.

Having said that, getting the break was really a culmination of my work to date.  An accumulation of short films, awards, commercials, and honing of my craft all contributed to the break.  You cannot have a break if you do not have substance to back up your style.

Q:  What was the best day in your career?
A:   The day that Peter Farrelly (director of THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) called me up while I was walking in Cricklewood and told me he was profoundly moved by my short film FOSTER and would I like to discuss working with him! 

It never happened with Pete but the film did get made, and I suppose the second best day is getting such an incredible cast for the feature film (Toni Collette, Ioan Gruffud, Richard E Grant and Hayley Mills).  I feel very lucky that I was able to make the film I wanted to make.

Q:  What has been your most important lesson?
A:  Two.  Script and Cast.

Script... because you can't go back and fix it when you realise it is broken (unless you have VERY deep pockets for reshoots).  I can't emphasize enough the importance of script development.  Actively seek constructive criticism.  Listen when more than one person tells you the same thing about your script.  Remember, your baby looks most beautiful to you.  Other people can see the defects a lot clearer.

Cast... because getting it wrong can tell a different story than the one you intended to tell. 

Q:  If a niece or nephew wanted to be in the business, what would you advise them?
A:  Go to law school. No seriously, if you really want to embark on the long hard road to filmmaking, know that it may never happen for you.  But if you are driven, and it is your dream, and you work hard and you are good, then dreams can come true.

I would advise that they make as many short films as they can as a means to learning the craft.  Work on a film set.  Start early.  Don't go to uni and study English if you know you want to work in film - you will just be older when you start and more disgruntled at having to work in a low level position and it will take longer to get there.

Oh... and just make sure you have a day job.

Q:  What is the hardest part of your job and how do you overcome it?
A:   As a writer... coming up with a great fresh story that doesn't feel derivative of something else. As a director, probably not having enough time or money and learning how to budget and schedule your time given the limitations of both.  On a proper structured film where everyone is getting paid, it is my job to balance the day and make sure I have the coverage I need for the scene, but not overdo it so that I don't get something I was scheduled to shoot that day.  Time does equal money, and if I go into overtime it costs the production thousands.  That is a profound pressure on your shoulders. I am forever making compromises throughout a shooting day just to get the film in the can.  So trying to maintain a very high standard while making those compromises is the challenge.

Q:  What do you feel is a writers’ or filmmakers' key responsibility?
A:   A writer's key responsibility is to the core creative team.  It is less important to win every battle but more important to win the war.  Work with your director and producer and be open minded to criticism and making the script the best it can be. That script should not enter production until you have rigorously put it through it's paces. Your key responsibility it is to keep working at it, even when you don't want to...

To the director, working with your producer and remaining open minded to the creative process.  Test your film and listen to your audience.  If they all feel the same they are right.

And apart from that, the points I highlighted previously about the filmmaker's responsibility towards budget and schedule.

Q:  What mistakes do you see writers or film makers making over and over?

A:   You will notice a theme here... but the mistake is virtually always a lack of script development... poor and amateurish execution of a script no one wants to see in the first place.  Lack of character development, thought and originality.

Bad acting is always another one and the telltale sign of a low budget film.

Lack of coverage.

Bad music.

Not understanding the audience and therefore making a film no one wants to see because there is no market for it.

Q:  What advice would you offer a writer or film maker?
A:   As a writer I would advise you to not put all your eggs into one basket.  Have multiple projects with different producers.  Do not get too emotionally attached to one project and you will not be so disappointed when it does not get made.

As a filmmaker, if nothing is happening for you, continue to generate your own work and your own opportunities. Make short films, enter festivals, and when it is done, do it again.  Do not wait for the world to come your way.  Go to the world.