On June 12th Screen Academy Scotland were honoured and privileged to welcome Director Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Line of Duty, Knightfall) to speak about his latest work on Good Omens the dazzling new TV adaptation of the bestselling fantasy novel by Neil Gaimen and the late Terry Pratchett. The six part series from Amazon Studios tells the epic tale of an angel (Michael Sheen) and a demon (David Tennant) joining forces to save the world from Armageddon. The hotly anticipated, star studded programme co-produced with BBC Studios premiered in London and was launched worldwide on Amazon Prime Video on the 31st of May.
In an introduction to a more than three hour masterclass, our students were treated to Douglas’ favourite episode of Good Omens (no. 5), a visually stunning rollercoaster ride with soundtrack by David Arnold, featuring Queen, and stellar performances from Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Miranda Richardson, Frances McDormand, Bill Paterson and Brian Cox, to name but a few.
Following the screening Douglas generously shared his experiences working closely with writer Neil Gaimen to develop the script and the creative vision for the series, including insights into the adaptation of the incredibly popular novel, the legacy of Terry Pratchett, the all-important casting process and how fantastic it was to work with Amazon. Douglas stressed the joy of having the writer on the set and the central importance of the best possible script. In a wide ranging Q&A session with Kay Sheridan, Professional Practice Manager at Screen Academy Scotland which was inspired by our students’ questions, Douglas gave solid advice on everything from how to keep the day job ticking over during lean times to the intricacies of managing A-list stars and million pound budgets. Insight was also given on the nature of the Director’s role: the importance of working in a non-hierarchical way with Heads of Department to achieve the best results, of creating a safe creative space for actors, of being aware of everyone in the cast and crew to keep moral together on set. Overall Douglas’ commitment to his creative vision and determination to deliver the best possible work (from The Bill in his early career to his latest efforts on Good Omens) shone through and was an incredible example to our students.
Some quotes from the day from Douglas:
“Everything comes from the material…the treasure is in the script”
“…the hard graft has to be done by you. Pestering agents won’t work”
“If you can’t do your Plan A go one better to Plan AA”.
“Don’t start [the shoot] with your opening. Position it later in the day or the week. No one is match fit on day 1”
“Part of your role as Director is to keep moral together…Be generous, externalise what you think and connect with people, both cast and crew”
“Get ready for the bumps as well as the good stuff. It’s worth it!”
Many thanks to Douglas and to Kay Sheridan for making this masterclass possible
Some quotes from the day from Screen Acaemy Masters students who attended Douglas’ masterclass:
“Douglas was incredibly honest and generous with his experience and insights into the industry. He didn’t sugar coat the ‘bumpy road’ to success but also let his passion and enthusiasm for the work shine through. It was a real treat to spend the afternoon with such an accomplished but grounded filmmaker.”
Sophie Linhehan, MA Screenwriting
“I enjoyed the fact that it was a really balanced discussion. It was filled with practical bits of advice, that are fundamental for us that want to start a career; but at the same time, we were able to focus on art and films and all the elements that inspire a new production.”
Giulia De Filippo, MA Film
“Many of Douglas‘ insights resonated deeply with me, which gave me great confidence that I am on the right path in my thinking towards film and the Industry. I was impressed by his honesty and humbleness. I also feel I learned a lot about how the industry works and what it can take to get a project from the ground. I wish him all the success – he clearly deserves it.”
Thomas Brink, MA Film
“I appreciate how humble and generous Douglas was about his knowledge and experience, regardless of his outstanding body of work, he shared it all with us. He exemplifies the value of resilience and professionalism in this industry, and I am very thankful for him to take the time, it was a very enlightening afternoon.”
Orlando Vazquez del Angel, MA Screenwriting