Owen Franklin is a 23-year-old up and coming filmmaker and musician from Bristol. He’s just finished his fourth year at Durham University, where he’s been studying English Literature. In his own words, he’s ‘spent the past couple of years juggling dual identities between dynamo of creative energy and lazy student’ who is ‘usually in several places at once’.
I spoke to him about music, films, and advice for other young creatives who want to balance studying with their work.
You’ve released two albums (and a demo) since starting university. What’s your main inspiration for your songwriting?
In terms of musicians, it’s people like Springsteen, Joel, Dylan, but also more contemporary artists as diverse as Ben Folds, Frank Turner, Kelly Clarkson (seriously), Kate Bush (even more seriously) et al.
On a more personal level, I spent several years drumming for a lot of other people’s bands but never really did anything with the piano, my first instrument and original love. After I turned 18 and had some spare time I started experimenting with my own music; after all, I’d spent so long performing for other people’s self-penned material, I felt like performing songs about stuff that mattered to me!
For me the most vital component of any song is a degree of honesty. Even when I’m performing tongue-in-cheek numbers, written from a satirical point of view – the irony rings through because one can relate to it, or at least recognise something of other people in it. It’s got to be genuine, and have a spark of humanity.
You also made a film this year, She Moved Through The Fair. Tell me about that.
OK, back of the DVD case-style synopsis:
In an unknown location at an undefined time and date, a young woman called Alice awakes into a troubling scenario: nothing is familiar, and she remembers nothing except her name. Exploring the unfamiliar world around her, she finds herself invisible to all but two people: the eccentric and charismatic Dawn, and Cass, who is also seeking answers about her past. Can she trust either of them? Or, as events become increasingly surreal, can she even trust herself?
As Alice struggles to understand where she has come from, she is compelled to play a dark and dangerous game, in a world where truth is just an abstract concept and nothing is as it seems.
I wrote the screenplay for She Moved Through The Fair during my undergraduate studies, and spent the first half of 2013 putting together the cast and crew to make it, as well as fund-raising via sponsorship and donations. Shooting took three months over the summer, and post-production took the best part of six months.
It was an extremely intense project, only made possible by the generosity of so many people, the vast majority of whom were unpaid volunteers. But I’m very pleased with the final product, and looking forward to releasing it. Before anything else it’s time to submit to film festivals, though.
You have a BA in English Literature and you’re just about to finish your MA. How do you balance doing all this creative work with studying?
The short answer would be: caffeine, dubious sleep patterns, and occasionally stress levels reaching into the stratosphere.
Less flippantly, I suppose it’s a lot to do with time management. I don’t know what to do with myself if I’m not busy doing something. I’m rarely lounging around wasting time; a few nights off to blitz a DVD box-set like Breaking Bad is one of the greatest luxuries in my life!
I’ve also found it extremely helpful to physically separate the worlds of creativity and academia. Something as simple as using different rooms – one for university work, one for creative projects – really helped me to switch easily between the two, and focus on whichever one I was in front of.
Lastly, what advice would you give students who want to produce their own artistic work?
Do it, do it, do it. I’ve seen too many people sit around talking about their passion project but never get it off the ground. Make it happen.
Accept that unless you’re producing purely as a cathartic or private output, self-promotion and a commercial mindset are sad necessities. It’s not selling out; what’s the point in making a film if you haven’t got anyone to watch it?
People will absolutely, 100% take cheap shots at you. Constructive criticism is not something to be ignored, but a fair proportion of negative feedback is going to inevitably be semi-coherent abuse. It’s very easy to sit back and jeer at other people’s efforts, but I bet that hardly anybody who does that has actually achieved much, if anything, creative themselves.
And no matter what art you’re aspiring to create… Get into Kate Bush. Seriously. She’s the genuine article. You can thank me later.