Filmmaker Jack Park is premiering his new short film ViZor on Paus TV on September 3, 2021. ViZor is a thriller set in Leeds with an energising techno soundtrack. JumpCut Online spoke with Jack to discuss being a young filmmaker, navigating the streaming landscape, and the process of turning ViZor into a feature length film.
How did you get into filmmaking? Has making films been a dream or goal since you were a kid?
Yeah, I made a ton of short films when I was really little. I made them on my phone at the time. I did a lot of drama as well because my school didn’t have any media courses, so in the early days it was just making my own films. I did well in English and Drama because I liked writing, so I wrote a lot when I was younger. Then, when everyone else did sixth form, I went to media college instead in Leeds. I learned how to do location stuff. When I was about sixteen, I got my first media job which was for Leeds United, as a camera operator for their football. A lot of my career professionally is as a videographer. That went on for five years until recently when I finally found a producing partner. When I started finally making short films outside the college system, I found my producing partner and then we financed this early this year.
Awesome. I saw in your Twitter bio that you worked for Leeds United, as you just mentioned. What was that job like since you have a mix of filming the games and dealing with the crowd all at once?
It was great for learning about the atmosphere of being there, filming an event constantly. It was nice training for how to deliberately desensitise yourself to a crowd or an audience. It was a good way of learning how to focus on the practical task. It was a practical job and very dirty and very fun. In addition to doing the main games, I did all the under 18s, Leeds Ladies games. They asked if I wanted extra responsibilities and I always said, “Yes! I’ll do anything.” So that was a good practical task of learning how to shoot on location because we did home games and away games. It was about learning everything I could about thinking on my feet and being pragmatic.
That sounds really unique! What attracted you to making short films in particular?
It all came from the writing experience. Initially, I wanted to direct and not write anything. I have a lot of penpals that I wrote with before I wrote any feature scripts. I would look for scripts online and contact the writers and ask, “Can I fiddle around with this?” Usually, they say yes because they put something online (on SimplyScripts) and do it as a hobby, it sits for four years, and then someone like me contacts them. I learned a lot about writing by doing that. I wrote my own novel this year as well, which is the first really extensive thing I’ve gotten close to getting published as of now. ViZor, the short film, it’s writing process was very haphazard. I’d written a bunch of stuff and to make a good thrilled I jigsawed it together. Visor was the first time in a while where I felt like a filmmaker making something instead of a media technician doing something. They are completely different disciplines, short filmmaking and being a production operative, and with the making of ViZor and its release in September, it’s really given a jolt to how I see myself in the industry.
Can you describe your new short film ViZor and the inspiration behind it?
After shooting in Leeds for five years outside of college, doing the games and fan houses and other videos and shooting locally for Leeds City College. After all that, I really wanted to make something with a narrative which is a thriller, quick montage music video with all these parts around Leeds that are very atmospheric and fit well within a crime thriller. It was a great excuse for me to do all of that on a larger scale and add a story to it. That was the main inspiration behind it. The story was really an excuse to make a film as a filmmaker and work with actors again. I did a few films in between, but it was a good opportunity to work with new actors that are casted specifically for this project. The whole point was to create a framework for a genre thriller that I could sell to a distributor and not have to explain too hard. If they ask, I can just say “It’s a thriller.” It’s a very good example of it’s genre, which was the whole point and the pitch for it as well.
Going along with that, because you have to work hard in short films to quickly establish time and place, what is your advice or process for creating a clear starting point?
With a short film, you need less context than with a feature film. With a short film, there’s a lot more freedom to do whatever you want. You don’t have to play to people’s expectations as much. From the first opening credit, it’s clearly a city thriller kind of thing. As it goes on, this film is not going to be a clear cut series of scenes. It’s a scene with a montage and then a scene and a scene set to a montage. By the three minute point, people know exactly what it’s going to be, a series of quick shots set (in ViZor’s case) to a techno soundtrack. That’s what people expected with it. We went to a festival in London, which was a university of arts thing, and showed it to a bunch of people who went to go see short films, so people who understand short films and are more discerning about it. It was the first time I’d been in a cinema with people headbanging to the score, really enjoying it, engaged and grossed out in all the right places. That was a really great experience!
How do you balance streaming opportunities vs screening events where you can see people engage with it?
I wanted to push it as far as it can go on streaming. That was my primary goal. We have set up a lot of festival screenings (after the online premiere). The event before was more of an anomaly. I think we’ve got one more before the online premiere. They were smaller events. We aren’t going to give it to a festival which then puts it on their website. It’s important that it goes to Paus TV as its first big, public showing. Everything else is more ancillary, a bit of fun we can do in the meantime. It was less about exposure in London and more about getting qualitative feedback from students and lovers of short films. It was more about the experience of being at a festival than the film’s success. That’s what the streaming service is all about and when we are going to push the marketing. We’ve done a fair amount already, but that’s when we are going to pump things into high gear and start releasing all the trailers again.
As a young filmmaker, do you think streaming presents a unique opportunity to share your work or is it challenging because of the vast amount of films online?
It was challenging finding a streaming service that would give it its due. We could easily give it Amazon Prime and have it as a rental, but it would get buried and have little to no advertising. I really wanted to go for a filmmaker centric streaming service if we could find it, and that’s what we found in Pause TV. That’s what is limiting it. It’s a balancing act. We wanted it to be a big deal for them as well. We got a lot of really exciting feedback from them as well and they have a solid fanbase and other releases. I dont think it’s limiting as far as audiences go. Especially with Covid, if we tried to find a traditional cinema release at a festival, maybe five people would show up and it wouldn’t reach as many people as I want it to. The student event was an anomaly, just a really good opportunity at the time. Streaming has always been my main priority with releasing it. Even before we shot it in March and April, in January we were financing and focusing on finding a streaming service.
You plan on making ViZor into a full feature film. What’s that process been like and what’s your advice for filmmakers learning to take that leap?
As far as confidence goes, it’s more an issue of backer confidence and finding financing from a specific source than creator confidence. There’s already a feature length script that I wrote before we shot the short. I took a few key scenes from the feature script and added connective tissue between the scenes to create the short. So if it’s successful, we’ll get enough attention so people want to see a feature length adaptation of it. It’s more to do with the confidence of the people paying for it, quite frankly. It’s the first time I’ve made a short film that wasn’t financed by me at all. Before that, I made one in late 2020 and that was to get financing for a funded short film. The actual film itself involved me constantly having to worry about budget. When it was a producer who was really interested in what I was doing, my voice, and my filmmaking style, it was a lot more freeing because I wasn’t constantly worried about the money. For a feature film, it will be nice to carry that onwards and into a bigger project with a wider reach. That’s when we can start thinking about self organising a theatrical release run which we can’t do with shorter films.