14th August, 2013 at 6:30pm
A Summer of Learning - Tomas Leach
| YCN — Free

Tomas joined us on the 14th August to tell his own story of filmmaking, and share some insider details on those Little Scraps of Paper.

Tomas began his talk by describing his life-long passion for film and moving image. Even at the young age of sixteen, he had decided he wanted to be a film buff - so obviously the most logical next step was study of the medium.

He enrolled at the Arts University Bournemouth, studying film, and subsequently spent the next couple of years having his arrogance pointed out to him at various stages, and by various people. But that was fine for Tomas, as he was learning precisely what he did, and didn't, want to achieve as a professional director.

He recounted a pivotal thought at the time of graduation: "It's much better to be an unemployed director, than the runner you never wanted to be".


So after graduation, a few self-initiated projects, and an application to Fabrica later, he was on his way to Benneton's creative lab in Catena di Villorba, near Venice. There he would spend the next one and half years learning by doing. Most importantly, he learnt how to be truly competitive in the race to answer creative briefs, and then how to effectively answer them with film.

This microcosm of his industry of choice led him to show us The Glass Eye Maker, one of his first documentaries made at Fabrica, about the very last remaining glass eye maker in the UK. Next up was the trailer of All The Drunken Horsemen, a film on a legendary horse race in Guatemala. Both of these projects convinced Tomas that he was, in fact, "Mr. Documentary" - that this truly was his forte, and even better - that he could get brands and big business to pay him to make these kinds of films in future.

He then showed us - from amongst a wide-ranging body of work - his work for Red Bull, in making a short on Travis Pastrana. Driven was the result - a filmic portrait of the FMX star and his life. Unstoppable, a series of motorbike ads in South America then followed, with work for Powerade - with Jessica Ennis in the starring role - following around two years later.

After the success of working with Jimmie Johnson, a five time NASCAR champion, for Chevrolet in the US, Tomas admits he reached something of a turning point.

As is sometimes the case when working hammer and tong on commercial projects, he felt the need to "buy back a little bit of his soul" from client work.
Yet again, self-initiated, personal work was the answer. He decided to set a framework of rules for this personal work, so that he wasn't constrained by the usual management of a team, and so could stay agile and adaptable. And the rules were simple: each film would only require two hours to capture, it would be filmed independently by Tomas himself, and then be put online for free.

And so Little Scraps of Paper was born. 

Focused entirely on creative people, their notebooks and their passions, this enabled Tomas to make the kind of insightful short films that weren't always possible in commercial work. 
He explained that whilst their projects as a whole were central points of reference, they weren't the focus of each little film. No finished pieces of work were the culmination of each short; instead, the process and the practitioner took centre stage, and the insights offered were all the more insightful as a result.  

He kept up this series for the next two years, and he credits this as being a vital creative output in between commercial projects, or when a particular project was taking a while to get off the ground. The success of this series of films really enabled him to break out of any pigeonholes he may have found himself in, leading him to his most recent film In No Great Hurry, focusing in great detail on pioneering photographer and painter Saul Leiter

Tomas admits that his career to date, like so many, has been a series of stepping stones in bringing him to where he is today. Throughout his presentation, he alluded to this sense, as he highlighted each stage of experience, the most important insights and knowledge he gained, and how this propelled his forward progress.

Tomas then described what he thinks are the main ingredients of success, if professionally creative endeavours are your trade:

• Quality (make great work)

• Fun (have plenty of it in making your work)

• Money (make it, then invest it wisely in yourself)

As long as at least two of these are combined generously enough, and in just the right way, you should be headed towards success in your discipline, whatever it may be.

Many thanks to Thomas for taking time out from his schedule to share his stories and insights with us. More Member Events are in the pipeline - click here to see what's coming up. Not yet a member? Click here to join.

Words and photography by Chris Berry.


Event Details
  • Location:
    72 Rivington Street,
    London, EC2A 3AY,
    United Kingdom
  • Start:
    14th August, 2013 at 6:30pm
  • End:
    14th August, 2013 at 8:00pm

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