Having directed the BAFTA-winning UK shows ‘Chewing Gum’ and ‘Famalam’, as well as hopping across the pond with various Apple TV and Netflix shows, Tom Marshall has made a name for himself since winning the BBC’s New Talent Award for his short film ‘bigboy_37’. More recently, Tom has directed Heinz’s ‘Operation Beanz’, championing their slogan ‘Beanz Meanz More’ and with 10 years of experience, we wanted to know about how it all began.
Quite the creative child, Tom describes himself as “always writing and drawing” with a particular focus on comics but also sketches that involved his family. He grew up in the north of England and says, “Northern and working class, Middlesbrough aint the most picture-postcard place, but the steelworks, the coast and council estate had their own sort of appeal… creatively!” Finding his own space to create and be creative, Tom calls his younger self a “bit of show off”, yet he found enjoyment in the small things too. “Loved football. Liked my action figures, and creating little fight scenes with them. I always remember figuring out that my action figures looked cooler if I put my eyes to the floor and looked up at them!”
While Tom did his due diligence after school, going to university and studying towards a career, his turning point came from a passion project that got him noticed. “My big break came from making lots of little short films in my own time! One of them called bigboy_74
did really well and got me noticed.” This short won the BBC’s New Talent Award, merging themes of suicide and dogging with comedy – getting him noticed both locally and internationally. Following this, opportunities came more easily: “Skins got me in to do some online episodes after seeing my short film bigboy_74, I remember it being very stressful and feeling out of my depth on day one. Then I remember a day feeling like I nailed it. And that’s pretty much how I feel from day to day even now!” He continues, “I was very lucky to be part of the ‘Coming Up’ scheme for Channel 4. That was a real golden ticket, and I’ve been directing for TV full time ever since.”
Tom’s family supported him and helped during his initial journey into the industry and it was through this that he learnt the importance of post-production. “My brother taught me how to edit very early on. And I really feel the edit is where you really learn the magic trick of film making,” says Tom. He always planned on being a film director, creating large scale productions and that was what he worked towards until his head was turned. “I had my sights set on being a film director, and then TV really swept me away, I liked how you actually got to make stuff.” Having now directed sitcoms for over 10 years, Tom has had the chance to continually develop his craft, though he says, “I’m 35, so I still feel I have a lot of craft to hone!”
Having worked on Netflix's ‘Space Force’, Channel 4’s Chewing Gum and Famalam as well as ‘Ted Lasso’ on AppleTV+, Tom explains his favourite aspect of them all, “The edit, lovely and cosy, but I also love seeing it all come together.” However, Tom is also a self-described extrovert and someone who loves working alongside people, so he continues creating things he’s proud of, surrounded by people he’s met. “I think in our industry if you create a handful of things you are proud of and you can see a lot of your input in the final product and, even better, they connect with other people, you are incredibly lucky,” he says. Part of working on things that he connects with means that he has been able to take the time to relish in the awards that have come his way, “I mean, Ted Lasso and all its Emmy glory has been pretty cool!”
The last 10 years have given Tom the time to think about the best ways to stay up to date with the industry, while also being able to run with his own ideas. He says, “Watch everyone else work! Get over the jealousy. And learn to appreciate it…. and then steal… I mean homage it.” Part of his comedic realm means he believes that risk taking is essential and shouldn’t be limited, which is why new software and increased opportunities for content sharing are what gets him excited. “The new short-form platforms, the speed you can go at, and the things you can achieve with domestic kit,” which also brings him on to what he’d like to see improve, “The speed of shooting - soo slow - no matter the budget!”
With a sense of funny embedded in his bones, it’s no surprise that Tom thinks the industry should “lighten up a bit” and take some inspiration from his personal inspiration: Edgar Wright. “From Spaced to One Night in Soho. I can’t see one miss on his IMDB.”
“Im still a bit of a raver… I know, tragic. But also awesome,” says Tom, when sharing his passions outside of the industry. He also credits music as something that keeps him going, as well as his dog. Having previously mentioned his love of all things short-form, you’d be happy to know that Tom is often found on social media platform TikTok, which he says “is very addictive”. He continues, “And some people are hilarious – isn’t it funny how quickly you forget its all people on their phones making stuff with zero budget?” Undoubtedly, people’s autonomy and comedic genuis, coupled with the fast pace of the app, are part of where Tom looks to for new inspration these days.
As Tom looks back to the pandemic and his pre-London location, he shares his goals of filming in places that he believes deserve more attention. “I want to make some stuff in my home town. The North East needs more representation.” Perhaps the most important part of what Tom and all directors do, boils down to their own personal motivation.
“I wanna make things that my mates will watch!”