Meet the Alumni: Rob Ayling (MA Directing)
By Danny Kelly
04 April 2017
In recent weeks it’s not only the seasons that have changed, so too have some of our postgraduate students. Towards the beginning of March, we welcomed a new batch of creatives to our MA courses, while later in the month we bid farewell to a cohort of our existing students, who all screened their final graduation projects at West London’s Everyman cinema. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d catch up with one of our most in demand postgraduate alumni – Director Rob Ayling.
Since leaving Met in 2014, Rob has been extremely proactive. His graduation film Listen to Me continues to screen at film festivals nationwide, and in the last week, the short was voted to second place in Shooting People’s Film of the Month competition. Rob has also been regularly commissioned for both videographer and editing work; creating corporate videos, covering entertainment & cultural events and also offering his services to non-profit organisations.
Read our interview with Rob about his busy last two years…
What initially inspired you to make Listen to Me?
Listen To Me is a short film that deals with the subject matter of domestic violence, which I have a personal connection with. I’ve always questioned and – where safe to do so – challenged the actions of those who feel it’s completely acceptable to control someone’s life through fear and isolation. The film was an opportunity to not only answer questions but to raise more of them. My intention as a writer/director was to engage audiences in a delicate subject matter not only through the characters but by connecting with them organically; relating the film’s technology to the voyeuristic experience of eavesdropping and delving deeper into the psychological aspects of abuse.
I’m a huge fan of thrillers and, as I developed the story of Listen To Me, I soon realised that making the film of this genre and placing the audience in the position of the protagonist would be the most appropriate way to engage with the film’s themes.
The film has been on a long and successful journey since you graduated – what have been some the most memorable moments?
I’ve been able to screen Listen To Me at some prestigious film festivals such as the BAFTA recognised London Short Film Festival, Aesthetica Short Film Festival as well as the East End Film festival, where it was nominated for the Best UK Short Film. A festival highlight for me personally was screening it at the final night of the Bath Film Festival where it opened for Hsio-Hsien Hou’s The Assassin, which Sight & Sound magazine named the best film of 2015. Additionally, I have been able to screen the film at domestic violence conferences, where the audiences have acknowledged and appreciated what the film is trying to say. Listen To Me has been a successful calling card for me as a film director.
You made the short alongside a crew of other MA students – do you still keep in touch with your fellow coursemates?
Since graduating in 2014, I’ve been able to collaborate with some great filmmakers that I met at MetFilm School, some of whom I call very close friends. Whether it’s reading each other’s scripts or utilising other skills besides directing, I have continued to collaborate with my fellow course mates in various projects, ranging from short films, corporate videos, music videos and feature film productions. A notable collaboration was in 2016 with fellow graduate, Paul Romero Mendez, where we co-directed and produced a television pilot for Channel 4, which starred Andy Jaye (ITV, C4 presenter, Talk Radio DJ) and Spin Doctors lead singer, Chris Barron.
You’ve also built up an impressive portfolio as a videographer, working with some reputable organisations. How significant have these client-commissioned projects been for you?
My videography work has enabled me to not only travel across the world but help develop my skills in filming and editing, especially when the work has to meet certain deadlines. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate and deliver on a variety of different client-commissioned projects. Working on non-profit organisation films have been notably rewarding as the video content I create is being used to raise awareness.
What are your future career aspirations?
My future career aspirations are to be directing feature films and television. Whether that be my own material or another writer’s, I want to be able to tell stories to a wide range of audiences that can be both meaningful and entertaining. At this time, I am currently developing my first feature film, which I hope to get into production very soon.
What piece of advice would you like to give our new MA students?
The biggest piece of advice I would give to the new MA students is to not be afraid to experiment or take risks in filmmaking. You’re at film school to learn and develop your craft, go out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with ambitious storytelling and you’ll be a better filmmaker for doing so. My experience at film school was enhanced by the people I met. With that in mind, another piece of advice I’d give is to collaborate with your fellow MA students as much as you can because, at the end of the day, collaboration is key in filmmaking.