Born in Stockport on the outskirts of Manchester, Charlie Watts grew up with the hard-working spirit of the English northwest instilled in him. It’s an attitude seeps through his work as a director - his reel is full of projects made on a shoestring budget without any brief or client. While working as an editor at McCann Manchester, Charlie spent his weekends running around town with a DSLR, shooting short films and honing his skills as a director.
It paid off. Now he’s represented by Manchester-based production company Chief. Having worked with brands like Umbro, adidas and Reebok as well as bands such as local indie heroes Blossoms, he’s got a formidable reel serving as his foundation. LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Charlie.
LBB> Why did you decide to make the move to Chief?
Charlie> Chief had been on my radar for quite a while, I had always admired the work they were doing. I remember looking at their roster and seeing young directors and talent, which can be rare in the north. To me they were the ones pushing the boat around Manchester and making the best work.
LBB> What is it about the team there that clicks for you?
Charlie> I’d say it’s that everyone has a genuine interest in filmmaking in some shape or form. Chief have always championed bringing through talent and giving people a chance. You look around the office and a lot of people have progressed through the ranks. I think that’s great because it shows when we have new people join the team – everyone can help and relate to one another.
LBB> How did you first get into the industry? What was your very first job in the industry?
Charlie> My first proper job in the industry was at an ad agency as an editor (McCann Manchester). I was fresh out of university and didn’t have much experience as an editor apart from a module at uni. I remember my first day I was shitting myself, but I think that’s a good thing as it made me learn fast and on the job. I look back on those two years editing as so beneficial, it has really aided my progression as a director.
LBB> Where did you learn your craft?
Charlie> I would say when it comes to filmmaking and directing, it was very much self-taught and born out of frustration. I get agitated very easily and as much as I loved editing, sitting in a suite for eight hours a day really wasn’t me. I bought myself a 7D and a 50mm lens and would shoot everything and anything on the weekend, then use the software at work to cut little films.
LBB> And which creative talents in directing have inspired you in your own career?
Charlie> I wouldn’t say it was one particular individual but instead multiple. When I first started out I would search through Vimeo and watch endless amounts of short films, music videos and commercials. It was like a game, I would try and find the best piece of work that was on there which was made with the most minimal kit – no budget, one camera, one actor, one location. It resonated with me a lot at the time because those were exactly my circumstances and it inspired me to get out and shoot. I think kids out of uni need to do more of that. Yes, being a runner and doing work experience is beneficial but if your passion is in making stuff – don’t waste too much time watching others do it!
LBB> What was your first creative milestone in the industry – the project you worked on that you were super proud of?
Charlie> I don’t really have any strong ones in particular, neither do I try to look at moments as a milestone. I tried to keep pushing myself to make better and bigger stuff. I guess I do look back on when I got repped as a director as a ‘milestone’. Three years prior to that I DM’d Colin (CEO of Chief) on Instagram and told him: “You don't know me, but in two years I will be on your roster as a director.” OK – I was a year off, but I was true to my word.
LBB> And what recent projects are you proudest of and why?
Charlie> I would say my recent short documentary KING ARTHUR. It was a project which I shot over the course of five months and had a crew of around 30 people in total. Everyone invested in the project and offered up their skills and services for free; it’s a very humbling feeling when you look around on set and know people are there because they believe in the story you are trying to tell.
LBB> Do you have any personal or side projects on the go?
Charlie> I have been shooting a feature doco this year on a Stockport-based band. I can’t say much more so I will leave you guessing.
LBB> What really drives you creatively?
Charlie> That’s a very good question, one I don’t really have a definitive answer to. It is just a feeling I have and need to make stuff that I feel represents me as a person. I think all creatives have that need to make something that ultimately sparks a reaction from an audience.
LBB> Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
Charlie> I am a keen runner. My 5k a day is often the best part of my day as it gives me time to just clear my head. I actually find it really useful for thinking time.