Theo Watkins about his latest CC commissions

Theo Watkins is a writer-director and editor from England whose work spans film, music video and documentary. His work often explores unexpected elements underlying seemingly mundane settings, with a pitch-black comedic sensibility.

“I’m one those people that sort of just fell into making music videos. I’ve always been an aspiring filmmaker, and music videos revealed themselves to be a fast way of getting something made, especially put against the slow process of getting a short film through its long production process. I don’t see myself as a music video director, more a filmmaker that makes music videos. Narrative film is my main love, but music videos are my mistress if that’s not too rude.”

What was your first film job or commission in music?

“I made a few videos for my University classmate who produced techno music. They were, for the most part, your typical mega-fast-cut-stream-of-randomness. When you’ve just realised it looks cool to cut to the beat and can’t put down the scissors. I realised what fun it is though, and how there are no real limits, it can be more like experimental film than narrative, and through that, I sort of fell for the medium.”

His latest commissions via CC include music videos for Palace and Model Man

“They ended up being very tight deadlines close to one another, which can be intimidating, but I always end up embracing those crazy periods. There’s something beautiful about working fast, you have less time to over-think things.”

“The Model Man video was my first ever directed remotely, as I had to isolate. It went well, which made me think that I’m not even needed on set. Both jobs were similar in that the commissioners liked my work after I applied, so I was confident in leaning on my own style of ideas when writing the treatment. Luckily, they were both quite smooth processes creatively, and the teams were brilliant. I happened to hit upon ideas that resonated in my initial treatments, so we stuck to that vision. 

As a side note, I love that Creative Commission makes sure directors don’t have to send a treatment straight away, only after a commissioner or label has shortlisted you after viewing your work. Unfortunately, even after the We Direct Music Videos movement created a glimmer of change, music videos outside of Creative Commission seem to have (from my small amount of experience) gone back to the label wanting a full treatment straight away, which often amounts to them getting a ton of ideas as a way of generating free research.”

"Ask yourself what you want to become"

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

“Someone said to me to take a deep breath before you react to notes, suggestions or anything that doesn’t immediately chime with your vision. The annoying thing is, maybe the person with the suggestion is correct, in which case you need to put your ego aside. And if not, thinking of a way to respond provides clarity to that vision in your own mind. That’s been great advice.”

What advice would you give to budding video directors just starting out?

“Constantly ask yourself what you actually want to make. It’s very easy to get swept up in trends or go where the money is to compete with our contemporaries. I’ve had moments like that, but I’ve taken breaks, focused on some personal projects that didn’t have any real monetary prospects and remembered what sort of filmmaker I am trying to become. Some people make a lot of money following trends and making big music videos and commercials, which is perfectly valid, but that doesn’t suit a lot of filmmakers, and they end up feeling jaded and hollow. Ask yourself what you want to become.”

What artist(s) would you like to work with in the future? 

“I want to do some more experimental stuff, perhaps metal also. I’ve pitched on a lot of pop videos in my time and will continue to do so — you can make some great stuff in that sphere, and that’s where the money is, really, but I want to follow my own tastes a bit more alongside that. I’d love to make something for an artist like Lingua Ignota, The Body or Full of Hell.”