“Don’t over think things” — I have in the past had a tendency to over think a situation especially in relation to work. So I try hard to be in the moment and use my intuition.
As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Director Stuart Rideout.
Director Stuart Rideout is a Welsh director who has written and directed multiple award-winning campaigns for The Climate Change Coalition featuring actors and celebrities including Jarvis Cocker, Stephen Fry, Emilia Fox, Alison Steadman, and Miranda Richardson. Recently his short film I Wish for You won the Best of Show Award at Best Shorts Film Festival in San Diego as well as the Award of Excellence at the Global Short Film Awards in Los Angeles in 2019. It was also selected by The Asian Short Film Festival in Tokyo to tour Japan the same year.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?
It’s a pleasure — I grew up in a small village in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. As a child I had a very bad stutter which meant that I had severe issues communicating and for a while I retreated into my own little dream world — I was a classic day-dreamer, always drawing, reading comics. I loved horror films and became obsessed with classic Hammer horror films like Curse of the Werewolf and Dracula Prince of Darkness — around the age of ten I bought a “Dick Smith Horror Make Up” kit and with the help of my friends I made a vampire film in the local graveyard with my dad’s super 8mm camera. I also made a werewolf film but got into trouble with my mum for shaving my dog to make the werewolf costume!
When I left school I went to art college and studied graphic design, I was lucky as the course was pretty broad which meant I could experiment with photography and animation.
On leaving college I got a job in London with a company called ‘Lambie Nairn and Company” who were a design based agency that specialised in Brand Identity for television channels. I attended lots of shoots and learnt a lot about special effects, camera work and CGI.
After a few years I joined a company called “Mighty” as a designer / director and worked on brand identities for various channels as well as directing a few commercials. Some of the idents I directed won some awards and I began directing more and more commercials.
At this stage I was introduced to a contemporary dancer and we decided to collaborate on a couple of dance-based short films — “Rooftops” and “Daydream”. These went on to win a few awards that started to get me noticed by a number of production companies.
One production company in particular, “Coast Productions”, asked me to collaborate on a number of mini documentaries for Johnnie Walker and Canon — again, these went on to win a number of awards.
In 2006 I joined Ridley Scott Associates as a director and have been with the Ridley Scott Creative Group ever since. I now direct commercials through Darling Films in the UK and Fictitious in the USA.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
I think one of the strangest days on a film set was whilst filming a commercial on a lake in Canada when we were hit by the tail end of a hurricane.
I was setting up the opening shot with the cinematographer and I was standing on the set which was in a small cottage looking out onto a beautiful lake. As we discussed the shot the room suddenly got very dark and when we looked outside we could see huge black clouds rolling in over the lake, it was like something out of a sci-fi film.
We were surrounded by trees and suddenly the wind really whipped up and the whole house started to shake.
The safety officer came running in shouting that the whole crew had to get into the basement. I was a little dismissive at first but as I stepped outside I could see forks of lightning hitting the lake and the surrounding trees.
As I followed everyone into the basement, there was a huge crash outside and a massive tree fell on part of the house we were in. It started to feel very serious and pretty scary. We all sat in the basement for about twenty minutes whilst the storm raged above us, then suddenly it just stopped.
I half expected to emerge into a technicolor dream world like Oz!
As we came up out of the basement and saw the damage it was unreal and one side of the house was under a huge eighty-foot tree. I think I have photos somewhere of me standing on the collapsed tree. We were very glad that no one on the crew was seriously hurt.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I am always amazed when I work with really good actors — I love it when they bring a script to life and it’s wonderful to watch them work and collaborate with them.
You have to be very prepared and ready to answer their questions, it can be a little daunting but it’s just so rewarding.
Working with Jeremy Irons on “I Wish for You” we had to record him reading a letter that his character had written to his granddaughter — this would provide an emotional voiceover that would underpin the whole film.
We recorded it at the end of a day’s filming in a small room on location — myself, Sam the sound man and Jeremy sat and talked through the letter. We went for a take and Jeremy’s voice was simply amazing. When he finished I said that sounded amazing I turned to Sam and asked him how long it was and he said “5min 36sec” which was way too long. Jeremy asked how long it needed to be and I said about “3mins” so he looked at the script again, reading it through in his head. Then said “Ok let’s go again”.
We did another take and his voice was just unbelievable — it was so wonderful and rich. I was sitting opposite him watching him and the hair on my arms was standing on end. He got to the end and I looked at Sam hopefully — Sam said “3.06” it was astonishing, nothing seemed rushed or edited, he just adjusted his voice and timed it perfectly. To this day it still amazes me.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m actually working on a very different project at the moment. It’s a number of virtual reality experiences that are set to use nature as a way of altering one’s mood and help with anxiety. It is quite experimental but I’m hoping that we find a market for it, especially helping people deal with the anxiety and stress of the past twelve months.
I have been working on it since the start of the year and it is really coming together. I’m trying to bring my skills set as a director to a very different medium. I’m very excited about it, I love the fact I’m learning to use a very new technology and it’s a very steep learning curve.
I’m also working on three drama ideas with my creative writing partner, one of which is really coming together.
There are also a couple of commercial projects but the filming dates keep changing due to Covid-19.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
I have always loved the cross over between art and science — I think this stems from when I went on a school trip as a kid to see some drawings and designs by Leonardo da Vinci.
I was amazed that this man was not only the most incredible painter but he took time to explore and understand more scientific subjects, his anatomical drawings are amazing and show an incredible understanding of the human body. I also love his designs for various gliders, flying machines and even a helicopter.
A few years ago I was working in Milan and I visited the Da Vinci museum — looking at all the design drawings and scale models it made me realize what an incredible mind he must have had to leave such an incredible body of work he left behind — what an amazing person he must have been to achieve all that he did in that age and time.
In recent history I have always really admired David Bowie — to me he has always ploughed an amazing creative path. I loved the way he could flit effortlessly between genres, he always seemed so open minded to new ideas creatively from music, film through to design and art. I think he is a true inspiration.
Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?
I have been involved with The Climate Coalition for a while, which is a group of around a hundred charities all working together to raise awareness of the threat that climate change brings to our planet.
I have made three films that form the center of a wider campaign called ‘Show The Love” these provide the corner stone to a week of awareness that’s based around 14th February hence the title ‘Show the Love”.
It’s about building a supportive movement that speaks with one voice to bring change and make governments take notice.
It’s been a very powerful movement and uses a variety of measures to communicate its message right across the board — from musicians, sports people, community groups to businesses, astronauts to school children, faith leaders to school teachers — to show the love for everything we want to protect from climate change
I’m very proud of the films as they work hard to truly engage with the viewer on an emotionally visceral level.
I am also hoping that my nature virtual reality project gets some solid traction over the next few months and I hope that it makes a positive impact within the realm of mental health especially in young people.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?
My relationship with the Climate Coalition actually began in the yard of my children’s primary school when another parent — Beth Tegg, who was the Communications consultant for the coalition, asked me if I’d like to have a chat about the possibility of helping the “Show the Love” campaign.
We went to a café and had a coffee and after Beth took me through her thoughts I just knew I wanted to be involved. So I came up with a very simple idea for a campaign film and that’s how the whole thing started.
The first film had 2.5 million views across social media and each year the campaign grew.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
It’s not really about individuals as such — its more about us as communities of people working together.
The second year of the “Show the Love” campaign over 100 community groups hold “Show the Love” events, BT turned the BT Tower in London green and the astronaut Tim Peake tweeted his support from the international space station. The next year 600 community events reaching over 10,000 people take place. The hashtag #ShowtheLove reached over 126 million people and 80 MP’s in the UK got personally involved.
It is amazing to be involved with a campaign with pure creativity at its heart and watching how that campaign touches people in an emotional way and inspires them to become creative and work hard to bring change to society.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
In the first year of the “Show the Love” campaign the Climate Coalition managed to get a cross party pledge from the UK government to work across party lines to tackle climate change to show the love.
This pledge was pivotal in the UK taking a global leadership role in reaching the first international climate commitment — The Paris Accord
This was a result of direct action at a grassroots level and it shows that as individuals working together we can get things done.
Become more aware of the natural world around you. Think of how climate change can impact on the things that are important to you, things that you love. Get involved, write to your MP voicing your concerns.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1 — “Don’t over think things” — I have in the past had a tendency to over think a situation especially in relation to work. So I try hard to be in the moment and use my intuition.
2 — “Don’t worry too much about what other people think” — I think this stems from when I used to stutter and I’d get terrified of what people use to think of me. This used to make my stutter worse.
3 — “Use the energy you get from feeling nervous” — I still get butterflies in my stomach the morning of a shoot but it’s important to recognize that this a good energy and use it in a positive way and not to let it stifle you.
4 — “Be confident in your abilities but also listen to others” — It’s easy to get carried away and go head first down a black hole of an idea. Film shoots are collaborative settings and you need to surround yourself with people you trust, admire and who challenge you.
5 — “Enjoy yourself and remember to smile” — From a directing point of view a film shoot can be a stressful place but it’s also a very creative place where if you’re lucky magical things can happen, it’s important to enjoy these moments. The chemical energy comes from the director and its vital that when things are going well then you really enjoy yourself — this energy is infectious and will seep through to the cast and crew.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I think that the last year has been very difficult for everyone especially young people. They have seen their world tipped upside down and the levels of anxiety have vastly increased.
I’m hoping that there is a silver lining to the pandemic and that is that we learn to re-engage with the natural world around us.
My advice to young people is to firstly, take a look around you, take time to go for a walk and just contemplate the world around you. If you can try and be in nature — if you live in a city, then go to a park look at the trees put your hands on them, take time to think about how long they have been there. Look at sunsets, take deep breaths of fresh air.
Then think about how you can get involved, think about the changes you can make and the creativity you can bring to your community. Community spirt is key to bringing about change.
We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I’m a big admirer of the work Arnold Schwarzenegger has done in the realm of climate change — he really gets it and it is great to see him using his profile to get the message out there. He understands the urgency of the situation as well as the need to act in a positive way rebuilding a greener economy.
His Austrian World Summit is one of the biggest environmental gatherings in the world.
I would love to collaborate with him.
I also love and admire the British naturalist David Attenborough — I think the work he is doing in the field of climate change is just incredible. It comes from his heart and he is using the experience of sixty years of natural history broadcasting to deliver a vital message regarding climate change.
His program Blue Planet had an episode about the effects of plastic on the ocean — this was a real game changer here in the UK and it felt like the whole nation suddenly sat up and took notice. Everyone seemed to change their attitude to plastic.
He is able to communicate clearly to a vast audience the very real challenges the human race and the planet are facing. However, he does offer up a clear and concise plan of action that makes total sense.
I love his passion and sheer commitment and would love to meet him and collaborate.
Can you please give us your favorite ”Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never waste a view” is my favorite quote — I picked it up about sixteen years ago from a cinematographer I was working with.
Sometimes when you’re working hard or feeling under pressure and stressed especially on a film set just take a moment to look around you.
I’m always stopping the car when I’m driving to just take in a sunset or a particular view. I think it drives my wife and children crazy.
How can our readers follow you online?
I love the visual intimacy of Instagram — my page is https://www.instagram.com/sturideout/ or @sturideout
My Twitter — @sturideoutstuart rideout
Director @RSA films (UK) @We are Fictitious (US)vimeo.com