My name is Ross. I’m from Plymouth but grew up in Wiltshire. I've lived in Wales for the last 20 years, so I'm an honorary Welshman. It’s definitely home.
I was in the military originally. I did a combination of the reserves and some full-time mobilisations. I moved over to film and TV when I answered a call on Facebook for the NFTS (National Film and Television School). They were looking for veterans to transition into the industry.
I've always wanted to work in the industry, but there was no way to access it when you've been in the military world. The course, which was funded by Screenskill's Veterans in Focus, Services to Film, and the NFTS, aimed to bring veterans into the location department. People in the military are very logistical, practical and good at solving problems. And we’re used to being outside in all weathers. I applied for it and was one of eight people to get on the first trial. From that, I worked on a few sets in the locations department. The more I did, the more I was inspired to create something and feed my creative ambition.
When things locked down and production stopped, I saw there was an NFTS documentary filmmaking course, which I applied for and did virtually. At the same time, the NFTS hub opened in Cardiff – that seemed like a good opportunity to try and do some formal education in documentary filmmaking and storytelling. I wanted to take the next step into trying to become a filmmaker, but making films is expensive. Luckily, the NFTS allowed you to make an application with bursaries and I was accepted.
The two-day intensive documentary courses in Cardiff showed me how to structure a documentary, to create a compelling story and how to self-shoot it – as opposed to just filming something interesting. The lecturers on the course had exceptional experience and knew the industry inside out. To have access to them and to learn in this way was a great privilege.
Being able to access the NFTS through the bursary – which is the best film school in the country and arguably one of the best in the world – has been invaluable. Screen Skills, Creative Wales and the NFTS are trying to bring people into the creative industries because content and skills are in high demand. Wales is a creative country, and its creative ambition is renowned. More and more productions are coming to film here and they’re bringing in money which trickles down to smaller independent filmmakers like myself.
For me, from starting the first course to now, my key objective has been to finish my documentary. It’s called Mann and it’s the story of Jack Mann who was born in Egypt to British ex-pats. When World War Two broke out, Jack joined the British Army and ended up in the Special Forces working behind enemy lines as a Jewish soldier.
Giving people a voice who don't necessarily have one motivates me. It allows somebody to tell their story in a way that educates, inspires and creates an emotional response from the audience. It’s really important that we learn the stories from veterans, so we don't repeat or lose their experiences.
It’s been submitted to film festivals, including one in Wales, but the next stage now is getting it distributed. That’s the aspiration; to put the film out there so people can watch it. It’s time to start thinking about the next documentary, but the main thing for me was getting that first one done. As soon as you've done that, you can say that you're a documentary filmmaker.
Want to brush up on your skills? Find out more about the NFTS Cymru-Wales courses.