Film Editor Jade Matlock sits down with Ioan Ings, founder of Akron Productions, to talk about filmmaking in a global pandemic
So, first of all, why don’t you say who you are, and what you do!
My name is Ioan Ings and I run Akron Productions, a business that does promotional filmmaking and photography. I also work on film sets in the camera department.
What inspired you to set this all up? Because it’s not an easy decision, is it? You don’t just wake up one morning and go, you know, this is what I’m going to do today. So what made you do it?
I was in school, and I realised that all of the subjects that I was doing in my A levels were just not what I was enjoying. I was doing History and was like ‘eh, this is fine, but it’s not something I want to do’. It’s interesting, but not the path I want to follow. And at that point, I’d been doing filmmaking for two years, so I knew that it was what I wanted to do. I tried choosing A levels that would fit around that but I realised that none of them worked. So I was just like, I’m going to leave school and just… do my own thing, because I knew it was what I wanted to do. That’s kind of what inspired it… lack of A levels.
Fair enough! Obviously you were in school when you first started to set it up and then you left, but what’s been the most satisfying thing for you since you left? What was the moment that made you think you’d made a good decision?
Ooh, that’s a hell of a question! Any time I’ve been on a film set afterwards… I think there was one that I was on literally two months afterwards, I was on a film set, and there were all these famous people! Rhod Gilbert was there and Isy Suttie from Peep Show was on set and I was just looking around like ‘What on Earth am I doing?’. If I had just done the A levels, I’d never get to experience this. I had to just take a moment as I was looking around to be like ‘What am I doing? This is insane!’ Like, what I’m doing right now is making this film with these people that I’ve watched on telly for years and it’s those sorts of moments where I know why I’ve done this.
Also, last year we got to produce a short film with the Ancient History department. It was, like, doing with university students older than us and again that was a moment like ‘I am teaching these people who are older than me how to make films’ and it’s just really odd! At the end of it, we got to watch the film in this big cinema and it was packed. I made a film that everyone is watching! It was such an insane moment where I was so glad with the choices that I’d decided to make.
I think it’s important to point out that you’re my age, you’re 20 years old and you’re doing this! You’ve not been doing this for ten years and you’re looking around and people from Peep Show are there, you know? You would be in university if you weren’t doing what you’re doing.
Yeah, exactly! In some ways, I’m seeing this as my university. I’ve taken these past three years just to try out every single thing in the film industry and then see where it all goes afterwards. I’m experiencing my own university experience – it sounds really pretentious but it’s true.
You don’t sound pretentious at all! You’re just on the job training, you’re setting yourself up. So, I’m assuming that things like what you’ve just described aren’t your day-to-day stuff, right? What’s the work that you’re more likely to pick up and do more frequently than others?
It’s a lot of promotional filmmaking. Filmmaking with local businesses to produce promotional content for them to put online. The last one, just before lockdown happened, was that I produced a promotional video for a company called ‘Welsh Otter’ – they’re a company that creates Welsh products and sells them. We’re talking Welsh blankets, furniture, that sort of thing. I got to make a video with them and it got, like, 250,000 views on Facebook. And that’s my favourite thing to do because it’s taking these small local businesses in Wales and giving them a platform. That’s the majority of what I do.
I like that! So, you mentioned COVID and lockdown earlier, how has that affected doing things at the moment? Because obviously this has been going on for six or seven months now, so that’s a good chunk of time that you could be working on projects. How has it affected you from that side of things?
Massively. The majority of my work is promotional filmmaking so that’s relying on businesses, and businesses can’t fund a filmmaker if they can barely fund themselves. And events, I do a lot of live camera operating and that sort of thing, and there are no events until late next year. They’re the two biggest parts of making my business and they’re all just… they’re gone. There was literally one day, about a week before it looked like lockdown was happening, where I just got ten emails being like ‘This is cancelled, this is cancelled, this is cancelled’ just in one day. I was sitting there and it was like ‘yep, I’ve got nothing now’. Ever since lockdown there’s been bits and pieces but nothing compared to what it was before – which is quite sad.
You have been working since COVID happened, obviously safely and everything, but how is it different working on a set in a pandemic against how you’d normally do things?
I’ve just come off a feature film working in the camera department and it’s just so weird. Everyone’s obviously wearing masks and it’s just something that you would see in a Stanley Kubrick future dystopian film where these filmmakers are trying to make a film but no one is allowed near each other. You have to work completely differently, you have to think about everything you’re doing. In the camera department, it would be my job to change the camera batteries and hand it back over to someone else but usually you don’t even think about it. You pop the batteries in and hand it over. But you can’t do that. You have to sanitise your hands, pop the batteries on, sanitise your hands again, sanitise everything you’ve touched and then hand it over. It’s completely different – it’s so odd!
Usually departments would mix with each other, we’d all help each other out, but there’s just none of that. We had a camera department bubble and no one is allowed to touch the camera department’s stuff, everyone has to have their own individual bubble and it’s so weird.
I should think it probably requires a lot more communication on your end as well, doesn’t it? Because obviously you’re so close to each other but now you’re having to stay six feet apart and everything like that- it’s impressive! At least there’s some hope, somewhere, for the film industry with all of this. With films being pushed back to 2021, it’s felt everywhere.
There’s been no help, either. The Government hasn’t really done anything. The amount of stuff that they’ve put out, like that advert! I’m sure everyone’s seen the one with the ballet dancer, it’s just like… what are you doing? They’ve just sort of left the industry to rot, really. I think it would be really interesting to talk to a politician and be like ‘what did you do in the lockdown then if you think the arts industry isn’t that important?’ They’re not going to say staring at a wall – they’re going to say they were reading books, watching telly, watching films… it’s ridiculous!
The thing is, as well, they haven’t even considered that their advert was made by people in the arts industry!
Yeah! Someone would have had to take that photo!
I think you’re right, though. Even on our end, you’re in the trenches getting it made and we’re on the other end trying to guide people to films that aren’t even coming out! It’s effecting everyone and I think the film industry is one of those that’s been hit particularly hard. It’s an endless cycle of ‘What do we do?’
Exactly. Unless there’s some big support scheme, which I can’t see happening, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen with cinemas, even if there’s new films to show, no one is going to go and see them. Like, what are they going to do? It’s a bit of a pickle, really.