How does a background in TV drama prepare you as a director for making the transition to feature films?
This was just one of the questions put to director David Jackson by RTS East’s Fiona Ryder, following a screening of his impressive debut feature, Winterlong, at the Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, in late April.
Jackson, who received his first big break from Nicola Shindler at the Red Production Company directing the RTS award-winning series Clocking Off, said he owed everything to TV drama.
“Television was my training ground. I’d made a couple of BFI shorts before that, but I didn’t know anything, really. The reality of shooting upwards of seven pages [of script] a day under intense scrutiny while negotiating a large professional crew was a wake-up call. I learnt that not only do you have to be good, but you have to be fast too,” he said.
Jackson turned his TV drama experience to his advantage by shooting Winterlong in just 18 days with no pick-ups. The film, evocatively shot in and around Hastings, East Sussex, was praised by The Guardian’s film critic, Peter Bradshaw, as “sumptuously shot” and “technically assured”.
The director cast some notable TV actors he had worked with previously, including Doon Mackichan (Smack the Pony, Plebs), Ian Puleston-Davies (Tin Star, Coronation Street), and, notably, Francis Magee (Game of Thrones, Britannia). Magee‘s tremendous central performance as a solitary, though charming, poacher who must take on new responsibilities when his estranged teenage son is left on the doorstep of his remote caravan home, has been widely acclaimed by critics.
Winterlong premiered at the 2018 Edinburgh International Film Festival, earning a nomination for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film.