Behind the Lens – A Gaz Fareham interview with Jack Reid

Taken from Carpology's ESP supplement, Gaz Fareham recently interviewed ESP Filmmaker Jack Reid to find out what it was like working with angling icon Terry Hearn...

Returning the punt to the boat house

GF Just to begin, could you give us a brief introduction to yourself and your background 

JR My name is Jack Reid, I’m from Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, I’m 31 now although I still get asked for ID more often that I should (laughing). Background is a bit of everything really, I’ve worked dead end jobs, travelled, worked freelance as a cameraman and editor. I have a degree in Archaeology and a Masters in Filmmaking with a specialism in the archaeology/history field.

GF Can you expand a little on the formal training you’ve had in film/photography?

JR Without wanting to bog you down in detail, I did the degree in Archaeology because I love the outdoors and the past, but within University Bristol you have a lot of media and film making happening within that particular field, so I thought ‘well, I’m either going to be down a pit whatever the weather ‘troweling’ away for diddly squat, or I can take a more vocational slant on it and so I did the MA in Documentary Practice and Film Making with an aim to having a specialism in the historical side of things. The master plan was either to get a nice job at the BBC or similar or come away with a set of good transferable skills. Making a film about Iron Age Britain in many ways is no different to making a film about river carping. I was surrounded by lots of interesting, motivated people and so once I was out of the gates from there it was just a case of buying the kit on an interest free credit card and getting out there working. Initially it was everything from a production company, Catering Agencies, to Financial Planning Services, to Wedding Flash Mob dance choreography - literally anything that paid. I worked like that in Bristol for a good few years, but I’ve always had a strong interest in fishing and fishing photography and got my breakthrough in angling with the role at Korda.   

GF How did you get into that role working in film/photography in the industry?

JR I saw the ad online, and applied. I almost didn’t apply as I thought they would be inundated with applicants. Style choice aside, Korda have high production quality, so I was fast tracked quite quickly on that front in the high speed environment. I was in the company for 2.5-3 years and made many good friends now outside the company and also within. 

GF How did the transition to ESP come about?

JR I had a few options on the table. ESP were looking for some time for someone to fit their mould in terms of style and ethos. Being a manufacturing based company with a strong sense of tradition, media and marketing was never the main focus letting the products do the talking. Obviously the company created a strong base from doing just that but there was potential to do a lot more on the film front and make more use of some of their anglers. I felt the company was very much in line with my own tastes and my view of the industry, and it felt like somewhere I could be really happy and get well behind the work. Who wouldn’t want lots of autonomy and to work with true angling icons?  I’ve been here just over a year now and have nothing but total admiration for the environment the Drennan family cultivate as a workplace and also the purity of the brands.  

GF In a really short space of time you have produced some really beautiful and well received content, the new films with Terry in particular have been a major recent talking point within carp circles, and have been highly praised – did you feel any sense of pressure working on those as your first jobs?

JR My first piece was a film with Martin at Milton Abbas which was a fairly traditional film but with a cinematic edge, and at that point I think people realised there would be more film content coming from ESP. The first proper job I worked on had all the stops pulled out and felt like a film that needed to be made in some ways, a full Terry cinematic experience. I didn’t feel any pressure at all making that film itself, it was literally just me, a couple of rucksacks and a tripod in reality and the fishing was always the focus. To make a good film with someone though it is the relationship that is key and so the success of it in some ways was reliant on me and Terry getting on well. The actual making of that film honestly wasn’t difficult in the slightest, even though I feel it is probably one of the best films I’ve made, it was also one of the easiest in a way. It was just a joy to shoot, and I think I probably had a grin on my face the whole time. It was almost like you couldn’t set a shot up wrong, there were no second takes, we just strolled through it and stopped to capture it along the way. When it came to put it together, instead of clocking off at 5, I found myself working away until midnight totally into it. 

GF There is a particular ‘feel’ to those videos – a slower pace, more traditional maybe in some ways, was that a conscious decision and was is it a collaboration of sorts – I imagine Terry being keen to have some creative involvement?

JR I suppose it was traditional in terms of content, and there is nothing in there to ‘date’ it as such but there is still some more pacy synths and ambient music in there that worked nicely I thought - they aren’t too dreamy. Terry was happy to let us do our thing and see what we came up with. Although he was never coming around the back of the camera to check shots, we were continually talking it all through. In some ways, I was just filming his experience of things. He knows the shots already because he is living it if that makes sense? He is a good photographer and that helps. Most of the films have been brewed quickly, and I try not to overthink them. They are usually put together in a shorter space of time than you might expect and I think that helps translate into them feeling authentic and personal.

GF In technical terms, what sort of kit are you shooting on?

JR I don’t like to put too much emphasis on kit, but like a lot of people these days I’m using the Sony’s, the A7R Mk3 in particular. A lot of it is shot with one camera. Terry is a big fan of the more traditional colour systems though and that Canon ‘look’ that he has always shot himself, those rich reds, proper greens and true colours, and so we didn’t want the films to look radically different to that so there’s some custom tinkering to give our films that particular look compared to other stuff being shot out there.

GF Are you doing all the editing and post production yourself?

JR Yes, I film them, edit them and then a few of us watch them to critique and make sure everyone is in alignment and happy with them before they go out.  

A common position to be in as a film maker

GF What plans have you got for the future, anything exciting you can let us in on?

JR  I was up until 1am last night actually editing a new film we’ve shot with Terry, I’m not 100% sure when it will be out yet, probably by time people are reading this. This one has been shot over a much longer timeframe, whereas the others haven’t necessarily been indicative of Terry’s week to week fishing as they have been one off ‘special’ trips. We all know the majority of Terry’s fishing is very much finger on the pulse, angling for a family of fish with a few particular big uns in mind and that is exactly what this next film will be.

GF Where do you find your own inspiration in terms of film and photography?

JR In terms of angling inspirations, I like the old stuff, I was not an angler when VHS was the main source, but the bits that got me going in the early days were the rough cut YouTube bits, old flashes from the past namely from people like Martin Bowler or John Darling if it was air rifle related. I’m not a huge film fan generally actually, there is too much choice out there and I never commit to watching anything. I probably watch one or two films a year! Photography wise I was into the Subsurface stuff when that came around as I felt it reflected what I was interested in myself and it seemed to regenerate peoples interest in photography. If the setting is right, and you have someone interesting in front of the camera, and there is a narrative in mind then usually it is a winner.    

GF Where do you see film making within carp fishing going in the next 5-10 years?

JR I think it will get harder, and maybe even is already at that saturation point, where it will be harder for people to produce content that will stand out. If people are hungry for endless material then they can have that these days, but for filmmakers to stand out, that will become more difficult I think. It cost much to get some good kit these days, but content will always be king, Alfie Russel’s piece for example years ago on the Walthamstow river, lots of it was shoddy GoPro footage but that film really had that ‘fire’ to win hearts and minds because the content was great. You can have the very best camera, on the best tripod and the best drone or whatever but that won’t give you that extra element really required to produce memorable film.

GF There’s lots of keen budding photographers and videographers out there, loads of people cutting little edits and shooting nice work, what advice would you give to anyone looking to get noticed and get into the industry?

Terry with THAT fully

JR I think there is a lot of people out there with cameras, DSLR’s are very affordable these days, a couple of nice lenses and you can be set up with everything you need and I imagine most people think the job market in angling is completely saturated, but the reality is there is a very small amount of people that tick all the boxes required to be a filmmaker for an angling company. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find people who can shoot shots, make a sequence, tell a story and put it together well. Most companies are crying out for good videographers, so the opportunities are definitely out there. Even though I had one myself, I definitely don’t think you need a formal education in media of filmmaking, it helps, but everything you need to know is out there free on YouTube these days in reality. Your portfolio is everything, and your CV is secondary. If you have to do some free jobs to create content then that is definitely useful, I gave weeks of my life up working for free on a few jobs at the beginning of my freelancing to get going, it all goes on the show reel. One of the biggest questions I get asked is ‘You must get the rods out on all these filming trips surely?’ but I never fish, you just can’t. Carp angling is cluttered and agro on its own with all the kit, let alone having all the filming bits too! If the angler needs to move onto a wind, then you need to be able to be mobile. Plus I like to fish my own venues rather than just chucking them out randomly along the way…

GF Just to close, what are your own personal aspirations for filmmaking over the next few years?

JR I think probably not to look too far ahead, but obviously hopefully just to keep being able to make films and content that the old and new school, young and old alike can enjoy watching. Drennan/ESP in many ways was a foundation of British coarse fishing tackle, so in a sense, it is the originator and something to be really proud of. If we can make blockbusters whilst staying loyal to the ethos of the brands, then that is good enough for me!

GF Brilliant, thanks for your time Jack, and good luck with the future projects.