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Keith Eyles

Keith Eyles
Actor / Director


     
 

   
   

Interviewee: Keith Eyles
Company: Snakegully Productions
Job Title: Actor / Director
Actor Credits Include: Bad Day, Ten Dead Men, Counterfeit Butterfly, The Shadow of Bigfoot
Director Credits Include: Crossed Lines, Fear View, The Baby Watcher, Blood Right, Driven Insane
Interview Date: July 2013

Q. Hi Keith, give us a little background on yourself before you became an actor and director? (degree, relevant work experience, interests, etc)
A. Hi, well I've been a fan of movies and television drama ever since I can remember and kind of knew this was what I wanted to do before I even knew what most of it was. I grew up watching lots of movies from the 60's & 70's on video during the 80's as well as TV re-runs etc. I used to read about how these productions were made and who did what etc. When I left school I enrolled on a home video production course and then completed a City & Guilds in 35mm photography. This then lead me to looking into film schools which took me to the United States and getting a degree in Film Production Technology. Following that I studied acting and discovered that I enjoyed that too so since then I worked and continued to study in both areas. This is my life blood!!

Q. And how did you get into acting and directing?
A. Well sometimes it feels like I'm still waiting!! I directed my first short film when I graduated the film programme. This was in 1999 so we were still on that grey area between film & digital so I was lucky enough to shoot my first film on 16mm which was a great discipline for the craft. The acting came around the same time when I was asked to audition for an independent film and landed the part so that was a really fun time. When I moved back to the UK I started to build my network here by enrolling on filmmaking & writing courses at Raindance and acting classes at City Lit, Actors Centre etc...

Q. Does your acting background help you when you are directing and vice-versa? If so how?
A. I think the answer to that is a definite yes! There are many directors out there that are masters of storytelling as far as camera & editing go but find it hard to get great performances out of their actors because they don't understand different actor processes and requirements. Being able to communicate to actors in their 'terms' can certainly generate a short hand on set which is great when you're up against time which you always are! Also there are lots of great actors that have been trained classically and don't necessarily understand the subtleness of screen acting, continuity etc. so I think that filmmaking knowledge helps with my acting too.

Q. Do people in the industry have an issue with actors who are also directors or is it widely accepted these days?
A. I think that it's becoming more and more accepted these days. Of the 7 films that I've currently directed, other than cameos, I've only actually acted in one of them. This is something that I'd like to do more. I do worry sometimes about what other people think but I'm confident in what I'm doing and think that I have the ability be be objective about it. If you look at the history, this has always happened, look at Orson Wells, Kenneth Branagh and so on. I grew up on Clint Eastwood movies who has always done both and Kevin Costner's 'Dances With Wolves' was a big inspiration for me when I was looking into film courses. If you look at more recent movies actors like Ralph Fiennes and Ben Affleck are now getting acclaim at doing both jobs.

Q. What are the biggest frustrations for UK actors today?
A. I think there are many frustrations with choosing this life but that's not an excuse not to do it. One of the main problems is that we don't have much of an industry here in the UK and what there is out there is extremely difficult to break into. I could write pages here being negative and moaning about my near misses etc. but as I always say to my students (I teach filmmaking too) its important to create your own work. We live now in an exciting time where it's much easier to produce work and get it out in the public domain. It's still a challenge to get work seen by the right people etc but if your passionate about what you do you can at least go play and try things out. Even if you have no money, it costs nothing at all to write something, only your time and effort. The mistake is to sit around and wait for it to happen and I've been there too...

Q. As an actor where do you find most of your auditions and roles?
A. There are many resources online that advertise for actors to audition for roles which are worth pursuing (again waiting for your agent to do all of the work (if you're even lucky enough to have one!) is no longer an excuse) so that's one way. Also being part of a local film community is a good way to network and potentially find work as you never know who you're going to meet. I often get approached in those kinds of environments by filmmakers that have seen my work and want to work with me which is always flattering. Also resources such as ActorBase is a really great was of enhancing visibility.

Crossed Lines - Directed by Keith Eyles

Q. How important is it for an actor to have an agent or some form of representation?
A. It certainly helps particularly if you have an agent that's well connected but I don't think it's the only way anymore as my previous answer mentions. I think it helps to get you in front of the people who do have access to the industry and the well paid roles though.

Q. How important is it to promote yourself as an actor or and find your own roles rather than rely solely on your agent?
A. Again as previously mentioned I think it's vital. The whole industry revolves on self promotion and tapping into resources but just make sure you can deliver if given an opportunity.

Q. How important is it for UK actors to be on Spotlight and / or a member of Equity?
A. I do think this is fairly important if you want to be taken seriously at all. There are many similar resources and organisations out there but I think that these should be the main two essentials to belong to for anyone calling themselves an actor.

Q. Should actors accept unpaid or below Equity minimum roles and why?
A. It depends where you are with your career and how passionate you are about the project? The tough thing here is that if you don't there are 100 more people that will. I'm not debating on whether that's right or wrong but it's just the way it is....

Q. Is it important for actors to go to drama school or can they just ‘learn on the job’?
A. Like most things in this industry there is no right and wrong. There are many great techniques and disciplines that can be learnt at drama school but I also know many great actors that never went to drama school. I think it's important to keep working and gaining experience on the job as you put it, but also of equal importance to keep attending workshops, reading technique books and watching films, TV, theatre etc, just as it is for filmmakers too. Do it because you want to not because it's a chore!!

Q. Which movie role do you wish you had played and why?
A. Let's keep this one simple as there are so many! Bond, James Bond.... I don't think there are any British boys of my age group that haven't dreamed of playing this role and I've been a huge fan ever since I was a kid.

Q. Who are your acting movie greats of all time?
A. Oh my god, this is getting hard. That's like asking me my favorite movie which I can't answer as there are so many for so many different reasons?!! Looking classically for me I'd have to say Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracey, James Dean. Growing up, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise & Bruce Willis. More recently Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr, Ed Harris, Russell Crowe, John Cusack, Kevin Bacon, Mark Strong, James McAvoy, Idris Elba, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cummerbatch & Mark Ruffalo. Those are to name just a few that spring to mind as there are so many great and inspirational actors out there both past and present. These are mainly leading man types there are also some fantastic character actors out there too. I'm sure I'll be kicking myself for missing obvious ones when I read this a month from now and this isn't even to mention the wonderful actresses that we've had over the years of which again there are many... TOUGH QUESTION!!!

Q. Are great actors made or born?
A. Difficult to say as with the short list I mentioned above by being put on the spot, these in my opinion are all great actors but they all seem to have an extra quality that maybe wasn't taught but is just part of their personalities that shine through, who knows?

Q. As a director, is it sensible to cast yourself as an actor in your own films or does this complicate shooting and the end product suffer as a consequence?
A. That's another tough one because as I've already mentioned, I did do it once before and I plan on doing it again. I think that you have to be realistic and honest about the casting. You can't let your ego get in the way, you have to ask 'am I right for this role & why?'. Providing you surround yourself with the right people and you're prepared to commit to the incredibly hard job of directing too then I think it should be fine.

Q. Who are the directing movie greats of all time?
A. Wow, another incredibly tough one, again so many for so many different reasons but here's a few... Classics - Hitchcock, Ford, Eisenstein, Lang, Lean, Capra, Kubrick, Attenborough, Howard Hawks & Robert Wise. Growing up - Speilberg, Lucas, Cameron, Carpenter, Michael Mann, Eastwood, De Palma, Scorsese, Ron Howard, Richard Donner, Luc Besson, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott & Nicolas Meyer. More recent - Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, James Mangold, Del Toro, Joss Whedon, Tarantino, Steven Soderberg & J.J Abrams. There are directors out there that are great at certain genres and styles but also a wealth of incredible artists and craft people, writers, composers, cinematographers and so on from all over the world. This is just to name a few and not even encroaching into the television writing, producing & directing world of which I think there is enormous talent.

Q. What genres of films do you make / direct?
A. I really do enjoy all types of movies and entertainment. So far I've been more involved in directing thriller or horror type films which are among my favorite genres. If I had more money I'd like to make more Sci-Fi or action/adventure type films, but of course want to have a go at everything!!

Fear View Poster - Directed by Keith Eyles

Q. Which film do you wish you had directed and why?
A. Wow you really do like these impossible to answer type questions. I'm not sure, I guess I'd like to direct a Bond movie? (but not the one's I'm in...)

Q. You’ve made films both in the UK and US, how do the two countries compare when it comes to making films?
A. There's not a great deal of difference in my experience but I feel that the Americans are always more optimistic about doing anything....

Q. Is film making a business or art form first and foremost?
A. I think these are two different things. Films as general people perceive them is indeed a business but it's a business that consists of many different art forms. I love films as they are a combination of the visual and performing arts which tell a story which I think is amazing. The key is when that also works commercially. But I think as long as you know your audience it can indeed also be a piece of art too.

Q. What is the point of making shorts films as there is very little money to be made if at all?
A. Another good question. When you set out to make a short film it should be to learn from or because it's a story that you're passionate about or both!! These films can either be used as a calling card or showreel piece or can earn some recognition on the festival circuit but it is unlikely to make money from it. Although not impossible that shouldn't be the reason to make one!!

Q. Is it easy to make a living out of making films?
A. In a word, no but it really depends on how lucky you are and if the right people see it which is hard to measure. I think you have to do it because you love it and hope that someday you can get paid to do it... I'm still waiting....

Q. What are the main frustrations independent film makers face today?
A. Again there have been whole books written about this. Of course it's hard to get the money to make it in the first place but then it's now even harder to get your work seen as there's so much out there. Sadly the business model does not match the technology. You need a great script and a lot of passion!!

Q. You attended film school in the US, is it necessary to go to film school if you want to make films or can you just pick up a camera and teach yourself?
A. My thoughts on this are very similar to my thoughts on drama school. The technology is now great and there is oodles of information online, books, DVD commentaries etc. to go and learn the craft by doing. Having said that there are a lot of lazy filmmakers out there who think that just because they have a camera and some software on their computer that they're a film director by default and there's a lot more to it than that. The craft of storytelling, editing, working with actors, cinematic rules etc all apply. Rules are there to be broken but you have to understand them before you break them so it's essential to understand your craft, genre, audience etc first. It's vital to watch films and analyse why they do or don't work as it's not always about how much money went into them. Keep learning and creating your own material...

Q. As a member of BAFTA you watch a lot of films constantly, how has the type and quality of films changed over the past 10 years if at all?
A. I am indeed fortunate to be a BAFTA member but have always watched lots of films. I don't think there has been a change in type or quality, there have always been great films and bad films it's just that now there's more films....

Q. Digital or film? And why?
A. Another massive debate and a subject that I feel somewhat divided on. I'm glad that I learnt to make films and take photographs on actual film. There is a definite craft involved in this process that can't be touched. However from a commercial standpoint it saves time and money to shoot digital (two factors that there's never enough of) and the quality of the latest digital cinema cameras and projectors is as good if not better. However I think that the principles behind shooting should be the same and that it should be used as a tool and not an excuse for lazy filmmaking. At the end of the day most people who watch films don't care what it's shot on as long as they enjoy what they're watching which goes back to good story, interesting characters, compelling journey, great production values, performances etc. etc....

Q. Does CGI help or hinder the film making process and the audience experience? Explain why?
A. Another huge topic. I think the point is not to notice it too much so whichever process works then use it. I prefer the old school method of doing things in camera for real and then using tools such as CGI to enhance what's there, I think that's when it works best. As both an actor and a filmmaker I think it's more exciting to do things for real in actual places but then it's all about the art of illusion so if the audience is convinced it doesn't matter how you get there. I have a huge amount of respect for the digital artists that do this work but it's not an area that I understand beyond the basic concept.

Blood Right Poster - Directed by Keith Eyles

Q. Is 3D just a gimmick or a valuable film makers tool?
A. I'm only giving my opinion on these subjects as I'm by no means an authority on this stuff. Once again I think if the story etc is good then it's not really necessary. I don't know, it's fun sometimes on some of the kids animated movies. I think Cameron used it well on Avatar but do I think it's worth the extra admission? Probably not in most cases. I think that if a film is shot as 3D and if it's the right genre it can work ok, I've seen a couple of horror movies that use it well, but often when it's a post conversion I don't think its very good as the shots weren't designed for it. The problem is that the cinemas are having to compete with 'home cinema systems' so 3D, IMAX, Dolby Atmos etc are all ways of trying to attract people in for a bigger experience.

Q. Technology has made it easier, quicker and more accessible to make and distribute films - although this is a good thing is there a flipside too?
A. Many of previous answers (because they're long!) have touched on this. It's both good and bad. Technology is just a tool to make things easier but like all tools it can be abused. Yes it's easier but care still needs to be taken and quality still needs to be present. It's also great that there are multiple platforms to see things but as I mentioned there isn't the business model in place to support this properly and thats an issue that film distributors have been facing for a while now. The challenge faced by most filmmakers now is getting their work seen by the right people. No answers on that one I'm afraid.....

Q. With technology becoming more and more advanced is there a danger that the skill and craft of movie making will be removed?
A. I think I've answered that already, Technology is an aid not an excuse.... It's a great tool but you still need to understand how to use it properly!!

Q. How important is the director / producer relationship in making films?
A. Not always an easy relationship but a very important one and few people realize that both roles require a huge amount of work, they're not just titles or credits!!

Q. You 1st AD’d a lot on other people’s projects, what is the most challenging part of that role?
A. It's another very difficult job and I find it hard to separate the filmmaker when I do this sometimes but it has to be done, basically you have to be the directors conscience and stay very positive for the crew morale. I actually learnt most of what I know about the filmmaking process (production wise) by being the 1st AD on several independent features while I was at film school. As you're the hub of the production communicating with all departments as well as the director you really do learn the nuts and bolts of this process and how to make it most efficient so I'd recommend it for people who want to learn.

Q. You’ve produced many film projects, does this make your job as a director easier because you have more control or harder because you have more things requiring your attention?
A. Both really, I do it because so far I haven't been able to pay for a producer and it's been the only way to get things done, but I'd prefer not to have to but people say that I'm good at it from a production standpoint. I have no idea how to get money or get films sold (just for the record!!)

Q. You teach film making at BTEC level, do you find your students interest and views on film is similar or different to yours when you were the same age?
A. I find that most students are more interested in video games than movies nowadays which I guess is sort of a natural progression. A lot of the visual storytelling skills still apply. I just find that attention spans and patience are shorter maybe due to technology, I don't know? I don't expect them to be as big a film geeks as I was....

Q. As a film maker you want audiences to see your films - is it preferred to screen your films at film festivals first where smaller numbers of people will see them or put them straight online for the world to see?
A. This all depends on what your intentions are? If you put it online then festivals will not accept it but does that matter to you?

Q. The success and footprint of independent cinema has risen rapidly over the past 10 years, in part due to technology - do you forsee good times ahead for independent cinema in the next decade or will the big studios claw back some of the market?
A. I wish I had a crystal ball, not sure on that one?

Thank you Keith, we look forward to seeing you and your films again on the big screen.
I hope so.... watch this space.... :)

 

Keith's Contact Details:
Contact: Keith Eyles
Tel: +44 (0) 7786 633948
Website: www.snakegullyproductions.com
Spotlight: http://www.spotlight.com/interactive/cv/9978-8940-1012
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1420097/
Director Showreel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r5dBwczz5o

   
     
     

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