I started 23½ Films in 2011 when I was… yep, you guessed it, twenty-three and a half years old. I graduated from Sussex University and purchased my own camera equipment from the money I had saved up from my weekend job. By the time I graduated I knew I didn’t want to leave Brighton, nor find a job in the big smoke working my way up through a production company as an assistant. I was determined to make my own films.
Admittedly, for a year or so I struggled to find my creative feet – writing a script still seemed too daunting (let alone producing a good one). So I continued working on music videos for local bands and taking any corporate stuff that came up, whilst practicing and improving my writing, and saving up to make the first short film post-university.
I eventually become impatient and decided to make a short with no script, and only a visual idea to go on. Loop made good use of my new equipment and its quality of shooting in low light – I only used light sources available from the street lamps, so it taught me about smart blocking of a scene – Loop is supposedly still my Dad’s favourite of my films.
2014 saw the release of That’s Not Me and Ring Ring – my first two scripted shorts after graduating from university. Ring Ring surfaced out of my interest in writing something more abstract and different from That’s Not Me (a reaction to a project that I still adhere to today), and both films were always intended to be released online for free to help build a following and audience for my work. That’s Not Me got into a few festivals, including the Norwich Film Festival, but I still had plans for larger projects and I was desperate to keep building on what I had already achieved.
In hindsight, 2014 was a frustrating year – both personally and financially, as it saw me attempt to move away from Brighton, which was a big mistake. I moved back relatively quickly, but meant a dip in productivity. By the end of 2014, I was desperate to return to filmmaking, but I had no spare cash, so justifying the budget for a short film became somewhat complicated. Therefore writing became a big part of my life and daily routine as I spent most of the free time I had between projects trying to improve my writing. Initially, it was a struggle as I am a guy who likes to film and edit things, and I was never naturally gifted a writing, but in that year I scripted a trilogy of short films (which I called The Herd Trilogy for sometime, which included; Killer Bird, Man In A Suit and Invasion) which I intended to present as a feature film once I had the budget to make them. I started saving for these three projects and knew it was going to take some time, so I wrote and filmed a much smaller idea, titled Cupid – a comedy about failed relationships and wrong decisions.
2015 saw production begin on the first part of the planned trilogy. Killer Bird was the first I took into production after I having a brief conversation with my Dad, who had offered to loan me the funds to make the trilogy. A set-up in production size by my modest standards, Killer Bird held many new and difficult challenges for me – on several occasions it looked like the film was deliberately trying to fail. But thanks to a bit of luck and hard work from all involved, Killer Bird was completed by the end of 2015 and I started entering it into festivals soon after. During some down time during the Killer Bird production waiting for actors to free themselves up for ADR, I wrote The Missing Hand. I now see it (again) as reaction to the difficulty of filming Killer Bird, as The Missing Hand was much more in keeping with the size of That’s Not Me and Ring Ring, but with the humour of Cupid.
2016 started off with the release of a new ‘one minute, one take’ short film called Toast. A month or two later, we shot the rescheduled Two Pound Forty Pence – which I originally wrote way back in 2014 during the same creative period as Loop, and was originally scrapped because of bad weather, and then when we tried to shoot it again at the end of 2015, weather once again prevented us from filming. Finally we managed to find a couple of nights that were reasonable (but very cold), and Two Pound Forty Pence was in the can. My next short film was Man In A Suit, which we filmed in July with a very small cast and crew, and was completed by the end of 2016. By this point, I had made nine short films, and I was more willing to take roles on other projects – this included working as ‘Grip’ on my first feature, as well as 1st and 2nd AD on two more short films.
At the end of 2016, I produced by tenth short film, called Punch Bag, which was an attempt at working with a bigger crew. It was the first time I had an AD, sound recordist, make-up artist and several runners – this seems basic, but I’ve often only made films by myself, but I know that this was the way forward if I want to make better work.
In 2017 I re-launched my showreel company which was once called ‘Framed’ but is now known as ‘Daniel Harding Showreels’. It’s been a hugely rewarding and interesting pursuit, as it has allowed me to write, shoot and edit on a regularly basis, which has undoubtedly improved my skills as a filmmaker. This year I’ve also completed my second feature script titled The Cult of Nigel, which will hopefully become my first feature film to go into production – as of writing, I have also just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the project. I aim to keep taking on more projects and building my C.V. Recently I worked on another feature films with Substantial Films called False Witness, but this time as Production Manager/Co-Producer. So far this year I’ve edited a short film called No One Notices, co-written another called Change Of Heart and began editing the pilot for a web-series called That’s What She Said.
2017 has turned out to be a very busy year, but I’m not finished yet.
– Daniel, October 2017