What I’ve learnt as a filmmaker: frank advice from Neil Huxley

At Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn in Malta, attendees were just gifted an in-depth presentation from director Neil Huxley. Weaving in stories from his visual effects, art direction and live action directing career, Huxley managed to do something that doesn’t always happen in these kinds of conference presentations: be frank.

Perhaps anyone who’s worked with or seen Huxley talk already knows that he talks freely. And that’s what he did here at THU, recounting his tough upbringing and then revealing his journey through visual effects, commercials and directing. He’s had a plan to be a filmmaker, and he’s sticking to it.

Two highlights (for me) were an examination of his Transformers: Fall of Cybertron trailer made at Digital Domain, and the live action interactive film Middle Earth: Shadow of War with Ruffian, one in which his pitch was to rely extensively on prosthetics, make-up effects and stunt performances, while also capitalizing on his in-depth knowledge of digital VFX.

Huxley also shared some useful advice for those looking to work in this field, which I’ve shared below. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, make the effort to check it out if you can. It was definitely inspiring.

1. When given an opportunity, deliver excellence and never quit.

2. When you get your opportunity, take it.

3. Feed your creativity: take a photo, draw something, bring something, stimulate your creativity, play a video game that inspires you, make music, make your own art.

4. Don’t use people to get ahead, a.k.a., don’t be an asshole.

5. Believe in yourself: things will get thrown at you that will make you question your talents. That will always creep in. It’s only natural. It just depends whether you listen to that inner voice or not.

Photos by Hugo Adelino – Point and Shoot.

6. Don’t stop chasing your dreams. Your first ‘blank’, whatever that is, whether it’s a script, drawing etc, will not be good. If you want to be good at something, it will take time.

7. Look at the greats. It’s good for learning but don’t compare yourself to them or it’ll lead you down a very dark path.

8. You will have your own voice. Why would you want anyone else’s voice?

9. Build some thick skin: things never go according to plan. Sometimes clients want to change shit. Even working on your own film, there’s going to be compromises. Pick your battles.

10. Return to your inner child.

Huxley also concluded his talk by quoting Darren Aronofsky, with this legendary quote:

“If you want to be a filmmaker the best thing you can bring to the world is your own story. There’s something that’s very personal to you and that you have your own singular connection to, that if it’s really important to you, there are people all over the planet that will relate to it.”

Check out more of Neil’s work at his website: http://neilhuxley.com

Feature photograph by Hugo Adelino – Point and Shoot.

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