In-Depth interview with talented Director Shan Phearon
Author: Musa | Thursday 8th October 2020
We caught up with multi disciplined director Shan Phearon who is represented by award-winning creative production company Greatcoat Films. We spoke to Shan about his career so far, how he prepares for his shoots and where he finds the inspiration for his work amongst other subjects. The full interview can be read below.
What made you want to become a director and what has your journey in the industry been like so far?
A journey is defined by its challenges. The question is probably why do most artists try to become artists? It’s often because of all the challenges, odds, resistance faced, conflicts, resilience, defiance, need for expression… it leaves you with a story, and that develops a vision and fundamentally a desire to voice.
Can you describe what the process is like when you are working on a new video or short film, do you have a particular method that you follow?
Total immersion. I’ll live and breathe a project. I think those I work closest with would describe my processes as, maybe ‘a bit methodical’. In creative development and pre-production, it’s all about hardcore research and making sense of all the data, to help inspire a 'smart art’ approach. In production, it’s just do or die time. And in post-production, for example, I don’t believe in rough drafts - try and hand over the first draft as polished as possible like it is THE intended draft (and pray everyone can keep up, haha). You have to judge each project individually and just work out what the best method will be for what is often simultaneously a work of artistic craftsmanship and a product for audiences and clients. For this intuition, it helps to work across a diverse range of projects and always study to learn from and improve on your results.
What piece of work are you most proud of and what has been the best project you have worked on from a personal viewpoint?
I try not to rest on past work, it’s not the right attitude for me philosophically. I do take pride in every selective project and it’s probably the people I’ve been privileged to collaborate with and those who’ve joined the journey so far that I’m most proud of. There’s always room for growth and improvement, to continue perfecting formulas and finding empowerment to equip productions that can take things to the next dimension. Most probably the work I’m most proud of I haven’t even made yet...
We noticed that you have worked on a variety of different projects from music videos for One Acen to campaign videos for Adidas and Red Bull. Is it challenging to alternate between different mediums and do you have to change how you approach all of these different projects?
I love working across diverse and varied projects, whilst trying to apply my own sauce and creative textures to those existing frameworks and format expectations. I’m not a fan of boxes or the idea of being labelled or placed into genre or lazy cultural pigeonholes. I always encourage all filmmakers I speak with and my peers around me, especially filmmakers coming from underrepresented backgrounds, to focus on ‘approach’. What is your your approach? It’s a certain spirit that is an extension of your cultural conditioning and a creative ideology, that can transcend beyond what is expected of you. So your ‘approach' is something that can be applied to any piece of work that you do across any medium and genre - you can enter into any world and redefine it.
Who or what are your current inspirations right now?
Honestly? Everything inside the matrix we’re living in right now. I find inspiration in unconventional, random, weird places every day. I actively seek those lightbulb, eureka moments and twists and new ideas.
Are there any artists in the UK underground scene you would like to work with and why?
Artists that I feel are innovative, unorthodox, with personality, I usually like to gravitate towards those. Becoming too many to mention, but I’ll set this laundry list off with: J-Hus, Headie One, PA Salieu, Dreya Mac, Slow-Thai, Rejjie Snow, Octavian, Kojey Radical, Dutchavelli, Ivorian Doll, Shaybo, Blanco, Nayana Iz, Dave and some of the day dot icons too like Kano. The last decade for British underground (and overground) music has been groundbreaking and I’m hoping we’ll see evolution and more experimentation, with artists unafraid to step outside tired notions of ‘authenticity’ and into more expressive territory with ‘avant-garde art shit’. Those two ideas can co-exist, elevate artistry, push forward culture, break self-imposed boundaries and stop things stagnating.
What advice would you give to up and coming directors that are trying to break into the scene?
Make your own scene. Have awareness of 'their rules’, with intent to one day make your own. Realistically, be prepared to make sacrifices in your life for the pursuit of studying film craft and trying to achieve something. Train like an athlete, work like a scientist or an engineer, and develop your own textures and expressions to put out into the world. Clout is fleeting and will one day fade. Craftsmanship is the real glory. Try not to become a Filmmaker just because you’re in love with the idea of becoming a Filmmaker - do it because you have a real vision. Seek mentorship. Study the masters. Learn to manage your natural ego and insecurities as an artist. Respect your value. Respect your peers. Start with these basics! And as corny as it sounds… don’t give up so easy. It takes a lot of resilience, stubbornness, stupidity, trial and error to manifest anything remotely resembling destiny. Make lots of mistakes and learn to forgive yourself. Just keep working smart and with heart. One day you might be shooting hot trash with a DSLR and some day you might be helming a half-a-million pound award-winning Nike commercial. The doors are there to be kicked down.
What do you think upcoming filmmakers, from diverse or underrepresented backgrounds especially, might benefit from more of?
Mentorship, nurturing, perspective, career guidance, protection and empowerment - that’s the obvious stuff that will make or break the next gen. Established creatives that were once underdogs (aswell those with privilege) must see it as a responsibility to give challenged young people real expertise and no nonsense advice. I also think we need more commentary, journalism, publications, platforms, gatekeepers and execs from diverse backgrounds, that champion film and video with a wider array of reference points, tastes and lenses to view the work and push talent through.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Who knows?! My hopes… For example I hope an unknown, next-era-defining artist will emerge from nowhere and maybe we can make some game changing music video work together… that would be cool. I hope for some more levelled up high-concept commercial work where I might be able to flex some of my own textures onto the sometimes narrow-lensed world of advertising. And I hope, interesting narrative, television or feature film work, which to me is the top of the pyramid and would be a nice culmination! Till then, let’s keep it moving.