I discovered filmmaking studying at DMU. It was fun, but I didn’t imagine it as a career. Until I asked a friend about her ambitions: she told me she wanted to be a filmmaker, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, like she wanted to be an astronaut or a formula one driver… on second thoughts, if she can be a filmmaker, I can definitely be a filmmaker. That’s how it began, and 24 years later, I’ve just been nominated for a Royal Television Society Award for Best Documentary. My films have played at international film festivals, independent cinemas, and on TV in multiple countries.
So how did I get here? I like to imagine that I achieved my ambitions through hard work, determination, and a peppering of talent, and to some extent this is true, but looking back I can see that I was certainly given a helping hand along the way.
Inspiration, incubation, acceleration.
It always starts with inspiration: The filmmakers who went before me. Shane Meadows (This is England) played a big part in my development. I only met him a couple of times in passing, but my very first job in the film industry: runner at Intermedia Film and Video in Nottingham, was actually Meadow’s first job ten years before me. I observed his career from a distance, and genuinely felt like I was following in his footsteps (to some extent). And then I encountered the inimitable documentary filmmaker Mark Isaacs at an event called Doc Day at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham. The way he spoke about documentary filmmaking after a screening of his debut film 'Lift' (2001) totally inspired me. Now I find myself working with the same distributor as Mark: Verve Pictures.
Incubation – in case you’re unfamiliar with this term, or you think I’m talking about eggs, premature babies, or diseases; the business incubator is a place where new enterprises are encouraged to grow. The word wasn’t in common parlance in 2004 when I received my first TV commission from ITV: 'Deliver Us From Evil'. It was part of a new talent scheme, and in many ways this was an incubation of my craft as a filmmaker. It gave me the opportunity to learn and grow in a professional environment. Shortly after this I established my production company Intrepid Media, and set up my own office at LCB Depot: a supportive environment in which many of the best creative digital companies in Leicester have established and grown. 16 years later I’m still based at LCB Depot (www.lcbdepot.co.uk), I love it here.
Acceleration happened for me on a training programme: Fast Track to Features, run by Sheffield DocFest. It was all about helping producers and directors who were determined to make their first feature documentary. Since then (2013) I’ve produced two features and I’m well into production on my third. I couldn’t have done this without this input designed by Charlie Phillips and the DocFest team.
Eventually you get to a point in your career when you’re asked to give back and help others to progress. So, I’m delighted to be working for Phoenix at the moment, I’m still a filmmaker most of the time, but for the next year or so I will be managing Phoenix’s REAL Initiative.
The vision of REAL Initiative is to work towards establishing Leicester as a regional centre for documentary filmmaking and non-fiction digital art. And we are delighted that this vision is supported by our funders the European Regional Development Fund, Midlands Engine, and Arts Council England.
'Over the next 18 months Phoenix will be offering support to ambitious individuals and enterprises (based in Leicestershire) wanting to start-up or grow businesses in film and digital art, particularly those interested in documentary. And when we say documentary we mean this in the broadest possible terms. I make long form documentary films for TV and cinema, a form that has been around for a hundred years. I have a film poster in my office for Dziga Vertov’s seminal 'Man With A Movie Camera' from 1929. And really the work I produce adds very little innovation to the form (apart from sound). But of course it’s 2022 and immersive digital technologies offer new and innovative ways to progress the form. So, whether you’re a traditional filmmaker, a technologist or an artist, or something in-between, then hopefully there could be a place for you in REAL Initiative.
REAL Initiative is offering Inspiration, Incubation and Acceleration. You can find details of this FREE programme at https://realinitiative.phoenix.org.uk.
Applications are open, apply before April 8th 2022.
Nick Hamer is a Leicester based documentary filmmaker, director, camera operator and
editor. His work has been screened by major broadcasters, international film festivals and
independent cinemas. Nick established his production company Intrepid Media in 2004 to
produce high quality factual films and has directed successful shoots for high profile
organisations all over the world. His feature documentary OUTSIDE THE CITY about the
monks of Mount St Bernard Abbey follows a community of 25 men, more than half of them
over 80 years old, who are opening the first Trappist brewery in the UK. OUTSIDE THE CITY
was broadcast by BBC FOUR as Brotherhood: The Inner Life of Monks.