Talking TEDx with Chris McGeorge
‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ is the slogan bandied about by TED. Founded in 1984, the talks and speeches are now widely famous but perhaps a bit inaccessible for you and me not at those swanky conferences. Hence the birth of TEDx – a program of local, self-organised events in the spirit of TED. Now in the North-East of England, a group of young people aged 16-23 from an array of backgrounds will come together to have their voices heard. I got a chance to speak to Chris McGeorge, one of the speakers at [email protected]
Chris is 22-years-old and based in Durham; he plans to talk about his own personal experience of transitioning from university to the daunting ‘Real World.’ A recent graduate in Film and TV Production, Chris appears skilled in many art forms. He’s made his own films and just self-published his first novel a few months ago. I spoke to him about his craft, his future and why sometimes too many cat pictures on the Internet can be a bad thing.
You have a degree in Film and TV Production but you write as well. Has writing always been a passion of yours?
For as long as I remember, I have always been interested in telling stories. When I was much younger, I used to draw my own comics, and that gradually changed into writing scripts and short stories. The first film I ever remember seeing is Toy Story on VHS, and I loved it so much that I originally wanted to work at Pixar. That was the dream. Gradually I realised my real passion was in the storytelling more than the animation.
Do you write outside the scripts of your films?
I would consider myself more a novelist than a scriptwriter, although I have more credits for films. I wrote my first novel when I was 18, and although it was a bit of a mess, it got me into the process. In April, I self-published my first novel The Dog That Turned Into A Cat on Amazon Kindle about an 11 year old boy who gets his heart broken by a girl and takes drastic measures to make sure she can never hurt him again. In December, I am publishing my second novel Amateurs about an amateur theatre group in a small country town. I am always interested in exploring new ways to tell stories, like video games, interactive drama, and web content. In the future, I would love to explore some of these platforms.
Take us through your process of making a film – what happens from the moment you have the initial ideal to when the production is entirely complete?
I usually come up with an idea relatively quickly. Whilst doing my degree, I really didn’t have much time to think about the specifics. I remember in first year when I had to write my first film by the next morning, and I didn’t even have a title or a concept. I resigned myself to staying up all night, sure that the answer was going to appear at 3am. In the next thirty minutes, I had a title, concept, characters and half a script. It’s strange, but something just seems to click.
After the script is written, I usually hand off the organising to the producer whilst working on the visual style of the film with the Director of Photography. We usually have many heated discussions over many alcoholic beverages, before we settle on what we want. Shooting can take any amount of time from a couple of days to two solid weeks. As they are short films, they usually don’t take any longer unless we need to re-shoot. Filming is definitely my favourite part of the process, but it’s also the most stressful and exhausting. Then there is a lot of editing, which usually involves the editor and I sitting at a computer for days and days. It’s tedious but seeing a finished film become exactly what you pictured in your head is probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced.
Do you find there’s a common theme in your films?
My films are always extremely light-hearted. I’ll be the first to say that they aren’t hilarious, but they’re not really meant to be. I went in thinking that I wanted to break down the attitude that all student films were dreary, depressing and arthouse affairs. My motto before each project was ‘Embrace the Mainstream’.
How valuable has your degree been in your career so far?
I think there’s always a feeling as you’re at University that the degree you get is going to dramatically change your life. In terms of my actual degree, it hasn’t changed much. In terms of the life experiences I got out of university, it has been extremely valuable. There’s always going to be a difference between academic and arts degrees. Arts degrees are much more subjective, and focused on developing talents rather than completely learning new things.
Why do you think it is important to analyse popular culture?
Pop culture plays a massive role in anything I write, as I love to pick out references and nods to things that have influenced people in other works. Pop culture gives a tremendous feeling of relevance. It is very interesting to me how films and television can track the history of creative minds and of society in general. Pop culture is something that we are all dowsed in every day whether we like it or not.
What is your favourite Breaking Bad episode?
It’s hard to really pick out one episode, because it’s such a continuing story and the episodes just flow into each other. If I was to pick one it would probably be ‘Fly’ from Season 3 which is all about Walt and Jesse in the meth lab trying to catch a fly. It’s a really simple episode concept, and what the crew do with it is great.
Tell us how you became involved with this TEDx event. Why did you personally feel the need to speak?
I was on the Internet one day looking for jobs and just happened to click on the link that brought me to the TEDx project. I think it grabbed me straight away because it appealed to my situation. TEDx in Newcastle is all about young people and issues for young people in the modern world. I have just left university. I am unemployed and finding it tough even to get a job interview. I apply for an average of ten jobs a day and almost never hear back from employers. If I didn’t have my writing work to do, I honestly don’t know how I would fill my days. It is a strange feeling you feel in this situation. Failure isn’t the right word but it’s close. That’s why TEDx is so important. It gives the platform for young people like me to speak out and know that people are listening.
Do you feel there are a limited number of platforms for young people to voice their concerns? What would you do to change that?
I think there are actually almost too many platforms for young people. The Internet has been a revolution in young people being able to express themselves and their opinions. Everyone is in the social networking, and blogs, and Tumblrs. The problem is that the Internet is a big place and all these opinions get watered down by all the cute cat pictures and the memes. It’s not so much the opinions aren’t there, but people seem to not take them seriously because it’s just the ‘Internet’. In the real world, I think young people do have a hard time of it, and they’re voicing their concerns. It’s just no ones listening.
Why should other young people come to this TEDx event?
I think it’s very interesting for a potential audience to just come and hear what people have to say. There’s no such thing as objectivity really, we all have opinions on absolutely everything. If there’s one thing I can guarantee that will be taken away from the event it’s talking points. If you strike up a discussion in the car home, then I think we’ve done our job.
Where do you hope to be in the future and how will you get there?
I would love to walk into a bookstore and see one of my books on the shelves. There’s just a feeling of achievement there I think, but the best thing about that scenario would be that no one around me would know that I wrote it. I think one of the main draws of being a writer for me is the anonymity.
I am going to carry on and continue to develop and see where it all leads.
Journalist and Press Officer at Youth Arts Online. An ice hockey-enthusiast with a passion for the written word and the depiction of great character development on my television screen as well as issues of social justice.