Christopher Leslie Wells is an International Filmmaker from the United States of America. In June 2014 Chris completed the Diploma in Screen & Media at the Sydney Institute Film Academy with Honors in Post Production and Workplace Health and Safety. Later that same year he completed the Advanced Diploma in Screen and Media at TAFE NSW – South Western Sydney Institute. While in film school he also wrote and produced several short films including co-writing and co-producing his first feature film “Bloody Legends: Yara” with Director Doug Turner (I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer). Most recently the short film “Aurora” he co-wrote, co-produced and co-directed with Gareth Carr was granted the award for best visual effects and nominated for best film and best cinematography at the Sydney Sci-Fi Film Festival Project SciFi competition for 2014.
His passion for photography and storytelling with visual media began during kindergarten when he would make stop motion movies with his Star Wars toys filmed by his mother with a Super-8 camera. By the time Chris reached junior high school he would gather with friends to make VHS camcorder videos based on his favorite movies and comics. After Chris graduated from high school he moved to Europe to explore his ancestral heritage, where he discovered he had a natural ability for languages. In addition to American English, he could also speak fluent Spanish and German by the age of 19.
During 1993 in Mallorca Chris’s first paid acting role was for the character Rico in the German TV series “Happy Holiday”. Chris has trained directly under Lewis Fitz-Gerald (Pitch Black, Breaker Morant, Home and Away) for directing, Karel Segers (Kindred) for scriptwriting, Kirsten Boerst (Farscape) for Post Production, Antony Waddington (The Eye of the Storm) for producing, Lutfi Hady (Reset) and Richard Wilmot (Earth: Final Conflict, Terra Nova) for Cinematography and Stephen Fearnley (Rocky Star) for post production sound and advanced story development.
In January 2013 Chris began forming different teams for various film projects. Chris has produced several short films and most recently has turned his attention to writing, producing and directing feature length movies with emphasis on creating original paranormal, fantasy and science fiction content.
Carrie: When did you first discover your love of film?
The first film I fell in love with was Star Wars. I saw it when I was 4 years old. It was the first week it was out back in 1977. And even before I saw the film my dad bought my first Star Wars figure R2-D2. I remembering asking to see the film but my parents wouldn’t let me until they saw it first to make sure it was ok because I was so young. They saw it and loved it and took me the following day. I have been hooked with scifi films ever since. They used to show the making of Star Wars on television and I would always watch these shows with amazement and try to learn all of their movie magic tricks!
Carrie: When did you decide to make film a career?
I didn’t decide to become a full fledged filmmaker until 2013.
I started a group in Sydney on the www.meetup.com website calling for anyone who wanted to be part of making films to join up. In about two and a half weeks the group had about 75 people join. Then I called together our first meeting. I didn’t really know anything about filmmaking. All I knew was on this meetup website there were groups for scriptwriters, groups for actors etc. But at this time there weren’t any actual groups to go and produce anything. My background had been in management at Micron Technology as a circuit board manufacturing in Boise, Idaho. I split the group up into portions for each team to focus on their skills. One group for the writers, one group for the crew and the guys with all the camera and sound equipment and another group was for the actors.
This made it so writers would write scripts while the actors and those who wanted to learn how to act could practice the Meisners techniques and the gear guys would put together their own things on the side while they waited and create YouTube videos.
The theory was ok but eventually the stuff we made that first year in 2013 wasn’t very impressive. None of the writers really knew how to formulate a compelling story in order to engage an audience. The set was unorganized, we had people getting in shot and goofing off, not keeping quiet, cameras not rolling when they should be rolling pretty much every newbie blunder you could imagine.
Half way through that first year in 2013 I decided if I was going to successfully lead this group of dedicated people forward, that they needed a leader that knew the ins and outs of how this all need to be done.
So I signed up for film school at the Sydney Institute Film Academy. Their courses were broken up into 3 stages in Screen & Media: (1) a certificate takes 6 months, (2) a diploma takes one year, and (3) an advanced diploma takes an additional 6 months. From prior experience I already had from my film group I managed to bypass the first stage and jump right into the diploma. A few months into the diploma I decided to join forces with the most dedicated and experienced members from the group I had started to get going on a feature film. I had not directed before so I got together with Doug Turner to get the ball rolling. He had already completed one feature film. So we met up and discusses the type of film we would want to make. We ran through several ideas until it dawned on me. I told him, “Dude! We could make a movie like Blaire Witch practically in my back yard!” So Doug said, “alright lets do it.” And that’s it. I took what little I had started learning in film school and in 3 days hammered out my first feature film screenplay. It was rough… It missed all the plot points that a good story should have. But fortunately Doug had a bit more experience and was able to put those things into it. We shot the story back and fourth to each other. Seven drafts later and we were ready to roll and we started filming.
Now almost a year and a half later since starting this feature film I have written, produced, co-directed and acted in several shorts in and outside of film school. It’s been non stop. At one point I was multitasking 6 projects at once seeing each one of them through to completion. This includes the feature film with Doug, which we are now a few weeks away from going full speed ahead into post production.
Carrie: What does the creation process look like for making a film? Can you walk us through your process?
To begin the creation process of any film I undertake I first need a story. I am currently writing all of my own stuff and improving my craft. I have even spent the last couple of months watching, listening and reading anything ever recorded by Joseph Campbell to enable myself to become an even greater story teller.
After I have a completed screenplay I get together with key members of crew in my social network and see who is interested. Then once crew has committed I cast actors I know first and then fill in the other roles I need by having people from social media meet up. Then ask them to cold read some lines from the screenplay. Then joke around a bit and ask them to read some more after describing what the character is like and what is going on in the scene they are reading to see how they can deliver from that mindset.
Then its off to finalizing locations and paperwork.
Then actual filming and recording the video and sound.
Then Post Production, all the editing, ADR, pick ups, visual compositing and sound effects, music etc.
Then screen the film and make last changes.
Then the delivery of a finished product.
One step I left out which I have not started looking into until now is crowdfunding. I’m about to expand “Aurora” into a feature film and will need to seek funding to make the best quality movie we can. And I want to be able to start paying my cast and crew!
The other thing I have not had to do until now is find a reliable distributor for our film in order to get the most exposure out of it. I wont be experiencing this until Bloody Legends: Yara or the Aurora feature film are complete.
Carrie: How do you know when a film is finished?
I know a film is finished when we have a completed edit, picked out all the mistakes we can find and have composited in all the needed VFX, color grade, sound, music etc. When key participants in the making of the film are happy then we screen it!
Carrie: How important is collaboration to the filmmaking process? Can you share a story of positive collaboration?
Collaboration is crucial in the filmmaking process because you need to continually bounce ideas off of others and go with what works best. A great example would be most recently in my last couple of months at the advanced level of film school I started a project with another of my friends, Gareth Carr. We made a 10 minute short film for the Sydney SciFi film festival Project Sci-Fi competition. Here was an opportunity to utilize everything I have learned the past two years from film school. For this competition all participants had 30 days from the time they receive the task to create a film. Gareth and I got together and developed a story. We actually didn’t get started until 5 days in as we had other projects we needed to wrap up. In about a week we had the story we wanted. Gareth was great to bounce ideas off of. I was careful to make certain I could fit in as much of the what I like to call “Holy Grail” formula of the Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s journey. This stuff is crucial to even having a half way decent story!
As soon as we had the story I was on the phone and emails putting together a cast and crew. From my already existing network I was able to get everyone I needed committed to the project in a few days. I had an actress I had been talking to for the past couple of months but she had just become obliged to a contract for a TV show. So I immediately scheduled a casting for the lead actress and we did our recce (reconnaissance) for a place to shoot a day before we began filming.
After all of that the result was “Aurora.”
Out of 75 international finalists we won Best “Visual Effects” and were also nominated for “Best Cinematography” and “Best Film.” And what I think will blow most people minds is I did it all out of pocket for a whopping $150! $100 of it was for food and drinks and $50 for a taxi fare. Everyone volunteered and brought their own gear. It all came together like magic!
Carrie: How does being both an actor and filmmaker inform/influence one another?
Having worked both as an actor and a filmmaker has been a huge benefit in the quality of the work I am starting to produce. This insight has aided me to bridge the gap of the two worlds especially from the standpoint of the actor and the director. This is why so many actors move on to become directors because they have already been managed as an actor, so if you have leadership qualities it is just one step further to put on the directing hat and do the managing.
Carrie: What has been a major obstacle to your creativity and how have you overcome it?
I can’t think of any one obstacle. I mean there are always obstacles when making a film. Things just seem to pop up left and right it never goes smoothly at least in my limited experience. But every time we have completed a project we keep pushing on no matter what has arisen to get the job done safely and the best we can.
Carrie: Advice to burgeoning filmmakers?
I am myself at this point in my career still a burgeoning filmmaker. But looking around at others I have seen make it this far and who have not, I would say if filmmaking is truly what you want out of life then you need to keep honing your skills. Get books and watch YouTube videos and improve yourself to achieve your goals. And for myself I never let myself become too satisfied with my achievements. I always push myself to do better with each new project as I go.
Carrie: Name one creative resource you can’t live without.
YOUTUBE! Pretty much anything I ever needed help understanding there are tutorials on there to aid you on your creative journey!
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
For many years of my life Carl Sagan has been my biggest inspiration. His videos in the original “Cosmos” series enabled me to truly wake up as a human being.
Carrie: How do you define creativity?
I define creativity as the process of tapping into one’s core as an individual. It’s about finding the things that turn you on the most and sharing it with others in a way to connect with the world.
“Creativity is about finding the things that turn you on the most and sharing it with others…” (Click to Tweet)
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: How have you let your resources or finances hold you back from your creative goals and dreams? In what NEW ways can you consider limitations as a resource, much like Chris Wells did for Aurora? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below.
**Featured Image credit: Ruth Valasini**
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