Skillshare member Will Dolan is a filmmaker with a passion for telling great stories. He lives in the UK, where he runs an award-winning film production company, Firewood Pictures, and works as a Producer and Director on documentary, commercial and narrative projects. Will sat down with Skillshare to talk about his inspirations, aspirations, and share his advice for anyone interested in a creative career.
Hi Will! Thanks for sharing your story. Filmmaking sounds like it’s an exciting job. What’s your average workday like?
It really is! It’s hard to describe my day-to-day really - no two days are quite the same! Although I’m often on set, running a production company means that I spend more days in the office than out - doing various pre-production jobs to get things ready to shoot, as well as general business admin work such as invoicing, keeping our online portfolio up to date and keeping in touch with clients. Oh, and making regular trips to the coffee machine.
What inspires your work?
I get super inspired by different artists of all types. We live in an age where you have access to so many creators doing so much amazing stuff, and that are really willing to share their knowledge. I’m a huge fan of theatre - I grew up spending all my time at a local youth theatre called Playbox Theatre (I actually teach a film class there now too!). I’m also a massive geek for human psychology, so I love reading books and studies about human behaviour and why we do the things that we do. As a filmmaker I think that’s really important. If you want to make a real connection with someone you’ve got to know how they think, and what makes them tick
Let’s talk about your career. How did you know you wanted to be in film, and how did you get from that decision to where you are today?
When we were younger, My business partner and I started off by making some truly terrible sketches with some friends in our summer holidays one year at school, it may have been awful but we had so much fun, and we learned loads from our mistakes. The holidays finished but we wanted to keep going; and then someone asked us to make some videos for her business. We eagerly agreed, and it kind of grew from there. I finished school 2 years later and have been doing it full time ever since!
In the early days [Skillshare] was invaluable. I wanted to learn more about video editing using Premiere Pro and Skillshare had a ton of great courses on just that. It was really helpful when I was first learning to edit properly, and helped us develop systems and workflows that we still use today. I’ve also done courses that have really helped us with our client work...so they got better results from working together. Brian Peter’s ‘Introduction to Social Media Strategy’ was ace for that. Sure, social media isn’t what we do as a company, but that’s one of the best things about Skillshare; we’ve been able to develop our skills outside of the work we do, which then feeds back into getting the best results for our clients across the board. We probably wouldn’t be in the same position if Skillshare hadn’t been there for us, because it provided us with the foundations to loads of the work we do today.
That’s awesome! Any other classes that you found helpful?
I loved Aaron Draplin’s logo design course. There was just something so captivating about all of it - how it was shot, how his personality shone through, and of course, the content. After going through a few iterations from various designers we ended up designing our own logo for Firewood, which no doubt was heavily influenced by that course. We couldn’t be happier with it (although Aaron would probably have done a better job…!).
Personally, I love using Skillshare to learn about things I just want to know more about. Sounds obvious, right? But having a resource that has so much knowledge in it all in one place is brilliant. I recently did Elizabeth Weinberg’s ‘Photo Processing in Adobe Camera Raw’ course. I’ve been editing photos for years (I’m a keen photographer in my spare time), and this course helped me learn some extra techniques that have taken my photo editing to the next level. That kind of stuff is really great.
What’s next for you? Where do you see Firewood Pictures in five years?
I’d love for our team to grow, and to be working on bigger and more widely seen projects. We’re working with some amazing people at the moment, and have a real passion for telling great stories. I’m lucky enough now, but I want to be doing it on a larger scale! Oh, and I’d love to do some behind the scenes on some Star Wars related project. That would be amazing.
Any advice for would-be filmmakers or other artists who want to be in the industry?
Just make stuff. It doesn’t matter how good or bad, or how many mistakes you make - just keep creating. If we hadn’t made so many (really really really awful) films in the first year of being filmmakers we wouldn’t be where we are today. Don’t be afraid of making those mistakes, it's through these that you learn to get better and better.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity