“As difficult as this past year has been, I’m excited for what 2021 can bring in terms of filmmaking. We’ve all figured out how to continue shooting in this pandemic which means projects should slowly continue to increase for next year. Myself and View Shift have various projects planned throughout the next 12 months including a lot of exciting music videos which is something to keep us all moving forward and feeling positive about next year.”
Harris Tomlinson-Spence is a Manchester based filmmaker, specialising in directing and producing music videos and short films. Alongside creating content through his production company, View Shift Productions, he works with bands and artists around the world filming live shows and capturing tours.
What came first, drumming or filmmaking?
Harris Tomlinson-Spence: Drumming definitely came first, but very shortly after that, I started to mess around with cameras, at a pretty young age. I remember starting to film myself drumming and creating drum covers, I would say that was the earliest point of trying to combine both music and filmmaking. Shortly after that, I started to shoot videos with friends and various content away from just music.
Being a musician yourself, is this what partly draws you to projects that involve filming live music, music videos, and musical gigs?
Harris Tomlinson-Spence: Absolutely. I’ve always felt like my life has been split 50/50 between music and filmmaking, however, in recent years, filmmaking has definitely become my main focus. To me it’s such a fun way to combine these two things, and it always feels natural. Shooting live music is a more recent thing for me, just over the last 3 or 4 years, but it feels like I’ve always been working in that field. All of my gig work has also fed into music videos really nicely, especially when directing performance scenes in music videos. With every gig I shoot, I learn so much, especially about how to best capture the performance, so I take all of that experience and put it straight back into more traditional music video projects.
My favourite music video I’ve directed so far has to be my most recent, which we wrapped just a couple of weeks ago. This particular project was for the artist, Duccbod, which we shot back in my hometown of Lincoln. The video was split between performance and story, which is definitely a style that I gravitate towards, again it combines both live performance and narrative filmmaking. I would say the reason why it’s my favourite so far was just because it was a big step up for myself as a director, and my production company, View Shift Productions, in production size, value and the fact we managed to actually complete something in 2020. The cast and crew were just incredible, especially after working through way too many scenes in just a couple of days. Duccbod was also a dream to work with, not only because he gave me so much creative freedom, but he was just so positive and excited about the whole project, that positivity made such an impact on the crew when he arrived on set to shoot his performance scenes.
I must say, however, I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve never had a bad experience while shooting any of my projects. Although some have been much more difficult than others, we’ve always found a way to pull through and create something we’re all proud of.
How are you navigating and keeping active and creative during these Covid pandemic months of social distancing, and times of quarantine and self-quarantine? Can you share some inspirational words with fellow creatives?
Harris Tomlinson-Spence: It’s been a tough year, for everyone. A lot of the time, I can’t say I’ve been managing to keep active and creative, but I don’t particularly think that’s a bad thing. It’s definitely given me time to reflect on what I’ve done over the last few years and take a break before planning the next step. Although I’ve done a few very small solo projects, the music video we just wrapped for Duccbod was actually my first full project back since March, so that in itself felt incredibly rewarding.
The one thing I have been managing to do is just really work on projects next year with much more pre-production time than usual. It’s also given me a chance to start developing projects such as large-scale short films. My production company, View Shift Productions, has really taken the opportunity to dive in and develop scripts for next year and work on securing clients for music video and commercial projects. So although a lot of that isn’t particularly creative, it’s been nice to continue working within film production throughout the pandemic, especially while gigs and tours have been put on hold.
If I was to share some advice with fellow creatives, it would just be to keep working at the right pace for you. Maybe have another look at a story you previously wrote, try and develop some existing skills or learn new ones, and try to be ready for when normality returns. However, try not to burn yourself out, something that’s so easy to do in these times. If you look at the last few months and you haven’t progressed, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, we’re in a pandemic! We can hope that next year slowly brings us back to normal life as there will definitely be countless projects and work waiting, whether that’s film productions or music events.
If you could share your Top 3 Tips on Filming Music Videos, what would they be?
Harris Tomlinson-Spence: That’s a tough question! My first tip would most likely be to really ensure what you’re shooting fits with the song and artist. Of course it’s great to be as creative as possible, but personally I always feel like the more the music video fits with the song specifically, the better it all gels together and ensures the song and video complement each other.
Secondly, I would suggest over the course of a few different projects, really trying to develop your own style. There are countless music video styles, especially more recently, and it’s becoming harder to stand out. If you did want to focus on one or two specific styles, I would definitely suggest trying to develop them over time and really make your mark within that style.
And finally, find your crew. Although crew members come and go and can often change, finding a core team who are into music videos as much as you are can go a long way. I’ve definitely found that working with a similar core crew of filmmakers while creating my last few music videos has been super beneficial. You all know exactly what the workflow is on the production, what the aim is and how to get the most out of each other. This can be applied to every type of film project, however, there’s less people who are really focused on music videos than perhaps narrative films, feature or short.
Check out Harris’ websites and instagram!