Rising Star Filmmaker Julien Cornwall: “If we want to accurately reflect our society in television and film, it is essential that we have diversity in the entertainment industry”
If we want to accurately reflect our society in television and film, it is essential that we have diversity in the entertainment industry. The industry had become saturated with the same stories, so it’s exciting to see this change. Especially for young people growing up, everyone should be able to see themselves reflected on screen as complex, multifaceted characters.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Julien Cornwall.
Julien is a London based filmmaker with a Law degree from Bristol University and an MA degree in Filmmaking from The London Film School. He is an Oscar & Bafta qualifying Producer for the short films The Beast (2020), Moshe & Amira (2020) and Dogeater (2019). His latest short film The Lost Scot (2020) won The Best Student Film at The British Independent Film Festival and was nominated for Best Directing from Directors UK. He is a member of the jury panel at the International Fréjus Film Festival and recently joined Head & Wrecker productions as Head of Development. He is currently developing his first feature film.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you so much for having me. Hhhmm I’d like to think I grew up fairly similar to everybody else in London, with an overweight sausage dog and a rational hatred of cyclists. But then again, I’m reminded by my girlfriend that from ages thirteen to eighteen I attended an all-boys boarding school in Oxford (Radley College)… which is pretty uncommon. It wasn’t as bad as you’d think. I did play a lot of sports and received a scuba diving qualification. However, this came into no use at all when I attended Bristol university to study Law. I ‘studied’ for three years and like most of my colleagues, got my degree and vowed never to do Law again. Instead, I went on to do a Masters at the London Film School where I met some fantastic filmmakers and developed my craft. That’s most of it so far. I’m still growing.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Of course. As you may be aware, I didn’t particularly enjoy studying Law at university. It was incredibly dry and completely unhelpful to my hangovers. Instead, during my second year, I started writing plays for theatre. I wrote this really crap play about a deadly infection spreading across the UK, from the viewpoint of several different characters and how they fled to the border, wanting to escape to France. It got picked up and performed at a local theater where it got a standing ovation. I think it was in that moment I knew I wanted to tell stories and bring them to the screen for a wider and less drunk audience.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Back in November 2019, I produced a fantastic quirky short film called ‘Joseph Turns 42’, which was shot on 35mm film in the South of France. Later in January 2020, the director (Paul Maziere) and I were invited to be judges at the International Fréjus Film Festival as the panel had been impressed with our production and professionalism. We were both bewildered, but gratefully accepted. We were flown out, given hotel accommodation and fed three meals a day, with lots and lots of wine throughout. It was like a holiday, with the added luxury of watching some amazing films and meeting some talented filmmakers.
One evening, we got slightly inebriated with the casting director of Inglorious Bastards who shared a great story of him and Tarantino partying in a club in St Tropez. We checked out the club, mentioned his name and surprisingly got in. The rest of the night is another story ;)
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the funniest stories happened during my second term at film school. I was shooting a thriller short film on 16mm about a child being abducted from her family whilst out in the park. I had all the clearances granted from the council and had informed the park authorities of the filming. Nothing could go wrong. Turns out, informing the park authorities is not the same as informing the actual authorities. Therefore, during one take, the actress playing the mother runs around screaming for her missing daughter, when suddenly several distressed police officers arrive and begin to calm her down. This was not in the script. My DP caught this all on camera and I had to explain the situation to my less than impressed tutors at film school when reviewing the footage. A valuable lesson was learnt. Always have a runner available to stop the police from interrupting a perfectly executed take.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m collaborating with the inspiring Karina Michel Feld, producer of Tallulah films, in developing my award-winning short film ‘The Lost Scot’ into a feature. I’ve written a first draft along with a flashy treatment as we now look to approach production companies. The film is a comedy that explores the themes of friendship and revenge whilst addressing corporate greed and hunger in the real estate industry. Think Wolf Of Wall Street meets the characters of The Hangover, in a Hunger Games-style plot. It’s a lot of fun.
Here’s the synopsis –
Hugo Morgan is a narcissistic estate agent who dreams of running his own practice. When he is forced to work with his nemesis Jessica Roberts, he and his well-mannered partner Toby Reader must find a way to collaborate and beat the competition. They must overcome a cryptic treasure hunt and dangerous pheasant shoot, in order to secure a property contract from an eccentric Scottish magnate, Agnes Abernathy.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
- If we want to accurately reflect our society in television and film, it is essential that we have diversity in the entertainment industry. The industry had become saturated with the same stories, so it’s exciting to see this change. Especially for young people growing up, everyone should be able to see themselves reflected on screen as complex, multifaceted characters.
- As a filmmaker, I am always thinking of stories to tell. The more diverse the group of contributors is, the stronger and more nuanced the outcome becomes. It’s crucial to be open to new voices.
- Increased diversity means less casting faux-pas’ such as Joel Edgerton in Exodus: Gods & Kings. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joel Edgerton as an actor! He’s immense. But man… he’s not Egyptian. Fool me once… okay, but fool me twice with Bale as Moses…. Oh boy.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t use a permanent marker on the clapper board. Every take started at 11 as we couldn’t remove the one. The editor hated us.
- No instant coffee on set. The Camera team will go on strike.
- Sound is incredibly important. Respect your sound recordist and let them take a wild track when they ask for it.
- Time is money. Filmmaking is expensive. If you’re a producer, make sure you have a good 1st AD. Overtime hurts the budget.
- The worst shoots are the most memorable.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Date someone who isn’t in the industry.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In the UK we have these ice creams called 99 flake. I think you call them ‘soft ice’ in the states, which is very strange. Anyways, these 99 flakes use to cost 99p. Over time they’ve appreciated in cost to a whopping £2.50! My movement would be to get that price back down to 99p. We’re going through a global recession. People need their ice cream.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mum has always supported me throughout my career. She even helped cater an entire production during one of my films as we had a small budget. She was amazing. The crew said it was the best food they’d ever had on set.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My incredibly intimidating French teacher once told me ‘If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail’. It made a lot of sense and I’ve since applied it to all shoots I’ve produced. It didn’t help me with my French grades though…
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Dwayne Johnson. His journey to success is inspiring. He’s an iconic wrestler, a great actor and a future president of the US…
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
My pleasure! Cheers for having me ☺