Jem Rankin, Melbourne based film maker talks to UCIA about his young love for film, the success of his final year film Cherokee and what his future hopes and dreams are.
Jem Rankin, a film maker from Melbourne is currently working in the Post Production department at a TV company. After graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2014, his final year film, Cherokee has been accepted into film festivals all around the world including Tribeca.
We caught up with Jem and asked him about his love for film and TV and where his love for film began and where he sees himself going in the future.
Where do you get inspiration for your work and what do you find most enjoyable?
I’m sure many artists say the same thing – I find inspiration for my work in everything. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, anything has the potential for inspiration. If I had to be more specific, I find music and travel to be two things that somehow seem to get my mind ticking over creatively. In my experience, I’ve found that writing and directing to be the most enjoyable. Creating is my favourite thing about being a film maker. Writing stories and making them come to life.
Like with most creative industries, there are always challenges, what are some of the challenges you have faced?
Finding the right story is a challenge. I want to make films that resonates with me not only as a film maker but as a cinema goer too. I want to make something that I would want to watch; and sometimes I’m not exactly sure what that is. So then it’s a process of just trying to get an idea off the ground and finding something that pleases me.
Jem has had a love and keen interest in the film and television industry from an early age, so we had to ask, what influenced his love for film and TV.
I’ve been interested in this industry even as far as when I was ten or eleven. I saw a “making of” documentary for Star Wars Episode 1 which went into complete depth of how everything was made: casting, costumes, props, sets, everything. It was so fascinating to me, more so than the film. There was never a moment where I instantly decided that film was the industry that I was going to work in. It was more of a slow peaking of my interest until I started making film of my own and became hooked.
With the increase of online media platforms, it now makes accessing and uploading all forms of media a lot easier. For Jem, his film making began at age 16 when him and his friends made films for YouTube and continued creating films and taking film classes throughout his final years of schooling. “A year after high school finished I applied for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television at The Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University and got in. I studied for three years and I am now working in television full time.”
How do you feel about the response and success of your VCA final year film, Cherokee?
I went into making Cherokee just trying to make a film that I would enjoy watching. I really wasn’t planning or expecting anyone to really love it…I was definitely hoping they would, but I wasn’t expecting them to. In hindsight now that Cherokee is pretty much behind me, I am very proud of what we achieved with the film. It seems to have hit some kind of note with people and that is an encouraging feeling going forward. It was a massive learning experience for me as a film maker, going to festivals, doing Q & A’s, presenting myself as an artist instead of just a shy dude from Melbourne. I am very grateful for the experiences I’ve had through the making of this film, and all the people I’ve worked with and met because of it.
Give us an insight into the process and outcome of Cherokee.. (Writing, casting, editing, production crew, funding etc) how did it all come together?
It was a pretty quick turn around by film standards I’d say. I started writing the film in December 2013, and wrote it through until June. We got our cast and crew locked away by the end of July and shot the film at the end of August 2014. The editing went for about eight weeks and it was all finalised by December 2014. So from start to finish, it took one whole year. In terms of how it came together, it was a massive effort from a lot of people. My producer, Frances Wang-Ward, was an absolute champion with her undying support for me and the project. She helped me through script development, auditions, crew meetings and of course on set. I also had a lot of help from my teachers and peers at VCA during the writing and post production process. We did a small amount of crowd funding for the film, from close friends and family who generously donated money to support us as well and they also played a part in getting this film made.
What are your future hopes and dreams?
All the time, my hopes and dreams are changing. At the end of the day, I want to be creating. Whether that’s film, TV or any other medium, I want to be creating and expressing myself. That is one of the most important things anyone can do, not just artists, everyone. I plan on making another short film soon, and building on my experiences, but the exciting thing about the film and TV industry is that every day brings something new. I don’t know where I could end up, and that’s half the fun. I look forward to wherever it will take me.
What areas in film and TV would you like to explore more of in the future?
I still feel like the short film medium has a lot to offer me, and vice versa. I would love to make a feature film some day, but I want to cut my teeth on shorts a little more first. They are a great way to try new things and push not only the boundaries of story telling, but yourself as a filmmaker too. I want to have a great little range of short films that I can look back on and be proud of, before moving on to something larger.
Jem’s film Cherokee is now available online and is featured on Short of the Week.
To find out more, check out the Cherokee Facebook Page.