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Interview: Tim Smith of Fourmost Films

6 June 11 interview: Alison Emm
photos: Tom Quigley

Fourmost Films come from the Shop stable with a can-do attitude, a string of short films that have garnered attention from all over the place and a hunger to turn Nottingham into one of the hubs of the UK indie-film scene. Head honcho Tim Smith manages to drag his head from the edit suite long enough to spell out his masterplan…

Who and what is Fourmost Films?
I set it up in 2006 to make short films and, eventually, independent feature films. I brought in a few mates and taught filmmaking to young people in local schools. Eventually our hard work led to corporate work, adverts and music videos. The more you do, the more people can find you, and the more passionate you are about it, the more you gravitate towards better projects. Along the way we’ve assembled a team of super-skilled filmmaking ninjas. We’ve got Dan Senior, who is dominating all things animation and Jack Curtis, who is a mind-bending Jedi. We’ve got Richard “The Edit Machine” Leverton, and Tommy Pykett – he won the Creative Youth Awards last year that we sponsored. There are loads of people involved; that’s the great thing about Nottingham, everyone connects and becomes a melting pot of awesome creativity just waiting like a great Leviathan beneath the ocean for the day it can take over the world.

You started your career as an actor. What made you want to start a film company?
Acting’s a funny old game because you’re always playing someone else’s character, and although living vicariously through a character can be an incredible experience, you can also feel like a pawn in a game. Sometimes you get amazing parts and sometimes you’re just waiting. Once I got an idea for a short film and made it, I realised that in between acting I may as well be doing my own stuff. I’m lucky to have a pretty vivid imagination and I love to tell stories; if you can tell a story really well, it lights people’s lives up for that second where they buy into the reality of it. Filmmaking is about creating a little reality, a little life out of words on a page, for people to just lose themselves in.

Do you prefer to write, direct or produce?
I didn’t set out to do everything – it was out of necessity. As an actor sat around a lot of the day on set I got interested in all the jobs other people were doing around me. Any chance I get on set now, I try to sit next to someone I can learn from. I love to write and I plan to direct more – directing is very addictive. The hardest thing in producing is telling people what to do, I’ve never enjoyed that. But what’s most appealing to me is having the thing in your mind created. Like Rikki Marr – he sees this image in his head and he draws it onto a bit of paper. The man’s a genius! It’s pure inspiration to me as that’s how I want to create films - from my mind to the screen.

Are you solely digital?
Yeah, I could have busted my anatomy to get 35mm film processed, edited, then turned into digital but, y’know… you get a Canon 5D with a few decent lenses now and stuff looks awesome. I’d love to do some stuff on film - if you said to me now that you’ve got some 8mm film and a camera, I’d say let’s go to Skeggy now, take loads of cigarettes and Macs, make a film noir. Everything looks good on film, that’s the beauty of it. But me and Dan Senior make the most of digital by shooting stuff neutrally and then giveing it a look and style in post-production. You can make digital look however you want. I think that’s where we’re at now with the technology we’ve been gifted with as filmmakers, there’s nothing to stop people making an amazing film. There’s no excuses: if you’ve got a good story, make it.

Many of your films come from the young adults who attend your workshops…
When we made Trust Me and Schoolboy we did workshops with the actors and used that as a way to engage young people and transfer the creative skills that will benefit them in life. There are loads of opportunities for younger people, but as they grow older there aren’t so many - so recently we set up the Actors Workshop for over-21s who are beyond the years of Television Workshop. It came about because I wasn’t doing much acting at the time - it’s like anything really, if you don’t do it for a while then you can get rusty. We’ll be doing Play Festival on the August bank holiday with Stage City, a series of plays for the public.

You seem to do quite a lot of community projects…
With Schoolboy, the idea was based on real experiences I had. All the stuff that was going on at the time made me think about how you never really stop to think about consequences when you’re young. Film is a great way to explore what happens when you make choices. Then there’s Out of the Blue, a MediaBox film-making project for kids from Bulwell that’s been going for about three years now. It’s wicked when you get them on a film set and it clicks with them. I hope that by highlighting issues surrounding sex, personal safety and violence we can open up discussions amongst our audiences and hopefully prevent some mistakes happening along the way.

Out of all your shorts, which is your favourite?
It’s tough to say... Trust Me, which we did recently with NCC: Joe Buhdha, the hip-hop guru of Nottingham, brought in people like Retch 32 and Mista Jam. That was my proudest project because it was as close to my original vision as I could get. Every shot was planned down to meticulous detail, even the time it was shot for the magic hour with the light. It’s taking something, crafting it with colour, sound and really good acting and making it your own.

Have you got any film recommendations?
There are millions of films I could mention but I’d say Zeitgeist The Movie played an important role in developing my current mindset as a filmmaker. News corporations feed us a reality but people are waking up to the fact that they don’t want that, they want to discover it for themselves. The internet is responsible for a shift in public consciousness and as a result there are a lot of great films that people are just quietly making and sticking on the web. Zeitgeist is definitely one of the best and it’s available for free online, just like Robin Hood would have wanted!

Any new projects coming up?
Loads. We’re involved in the NG83 project with Donkey Stone and Futurist Films which is going to be awesome. I’ve also got another project in the pipeline written by a local friend and filmmaker that potentially will be in cinemas in the next two years. Making feature films is a long process! There’s also a TV series and lots of commercial work to keep us out of trouble.

Fourmost are also part of Shop…
We had Shop as a front, but Fourmost Films have always operated from an underground cave. We have a butler and amazing security; genetically-modified dogs who walk upright and carry lasers. I mean it was an obvious thing to do, we have expensive gear. No, we’re in Hockley with Mimm and Dealmaker now. Shop was a whirlwind of awesomeness: Ronika, May Cortazzi, Rikki Marr, Nick Chaffe, Jack Curtis, Nathan Coltrane, Rob White, AJ Stevenson... It’s grown, though, and we’re looking at how we can make our events bigger and better - hence the move to Hockley.

Where do you see Fourmost in ten years time?
We’ll have a TV series of our own plus a healthy slate of successful feature films under our belts - which will, of course, all be written and produced in Nottingham! In between... we’re just going to keep learning, keep being nice to each other and keep trying to live a bit more sustainably in this ever changing world of intrigue and opportunity.

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