Creative Conversations: Ted Simpson, Filmmaker at Just TrekDate: 16 May 2019
In partnership with Edinburgh-based photographer Ellie Morag, Creative Conversations is a mini-series born from her love of portraiture, and our desire to provide a platform to share the knowledge and experience of creative locals. In part 1 of the series, we meet Ted Simpson.
Ted is a filmmaker and director at Just Trek, a creative film production studio with an adventurous streak and a love for sharing real life stories.
On getting into filmmaking
I used to go on a lot of adventures, and still do. One time my mate bought a little GoPro and we started making films. I was always interested in watching adventure documentaries, and it was around the time I also got into political journalism, presenting and getting production experience. These interests collided at University, and I realised I really enjoyed the process of making films and shorts about adventures and news stories.
One of the most positive experiences of my career, and how I really got into filmmaking, was when some of my (now) friends set up a film festival for young filmmakers where you travel from London to Budapest and you make a film along the way. All the films are then screened in Budapest and there are prizes and awards. I did it straight after finishing University, after having never really done anything like that before, and we won a prize. On the way home I was thinking maybe I should just do thisand that’s what kicked me into gear. I set up my company and went for it.
I grew up thinking I wasn’t creative. My sister always did more creative subjects like art and graphics, while I was post-holed into History and Science. I now consider myself a creative person, but it took me a while to realise there are different types of creativity, it isn't black and white. Someone doesn't have to be ‘type A’ creative, i.e. they can draw - there are other ways of accessing creativity and thinking about it. I did a lot of drama in High School, which is a different creative form.
I also believe creativity is a skill. Learning how to use a camera is 100% a skill, as is directing and learning how to put a story together. I’m entirely self-taught and my career has been built on me having a lot of different work experience. I really believe anyone can be a filmmaker.
“You’re not born with it; you learn it over time.”
Part of the journey is recognising you’ll never quite create the vision in your head, but repeated trying, practicing and failing will get you close. That’s the fun bit. It’s not just that you have the ‘gift’ of creativity or not. The most important thing in my career has been resilience; repeatedly trying hard and not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
Everyone has the capacity to be creative, you just need the opportunity to embody it. Friends of mine come on trips to the highlands with me, kick into a gear they never knew they had, and start creating. I love seeing that. I really believe anyone can be a filmmaker, and anyone can learn to be creative.
On having a creative career and running a company
In business there’s an element of patience. Stuff doesn’t just happen overnight. You’ve need to let it build over time and be happy with the progress as it happens. For me, the great thing about having a creative career and running a company is that you can immerse yourself in the business side, and then when you’re tired of that you can immerse yourself in the creative side to make yourself feel better. It’s all a balance.
On being driven and mind-set
I’ve always been quite a driven person, and up until a few years ago that’s how I would have defined myself; more driven than creative. That came after I became a filmmaker. When I set up Just Trek, it was as much about the challenge and excitement of building a business, as it was the pursuit of capturing beautiful things.
I have a lung disease that was diagnosed whilst I was at University, and for a couple of years it put a downer on my life. Then one day, I woke up and thought ‘fuck it’. I wasn’t going to let an illness define me, and made the decision to become a more positive person.
Part of my drive comes from proving to myself that I can do things I thought I couldn’t. I’ve been dealt a bit of a crap hand, but it’s been cool turning my negative thoughts into positive ones. Once you convince yourself that you can do something big, you can do almost anything. I find that to be one of the most powerful mind-sets in life, and I’ve built my lifestyle and business around it.
As a freelancer it’s key to manage your own expectations, but think about every positive as a win and celebrate those wins regardless of how big or small. It all sounds a bit postcard positivity, but then again, perhaps we need that.
I love Edinburgh. I went to University here. I love how well formed it is - it’s the perfect size. It’s nice to dip in and out and all my friends are still here.
On what’s next
I’m currently working on a documentary. I did a lot of research, created a proposal and trailer and now I’m looking for funding. It’s an interesting process for me as I don’t have any traditional TV credits, so I don’t know how long it will take to get picked up and if it would be as quick as a traditional production company.
I’m trying to grow Just Trek over the next 10 years to be solely focused on documentary production, rather than centering on commercial videography. I love spending a long time on a project getting into the nuts and bolts of it.
Just go do. Just do it.
I know it’s all advertising slogans, but the name of my company is Just Trek and that came from going out and doing things. It’s part of an ethos that has dictated my life. If you’re proactive in what you want to do and repeatedly do it, you’ll get better. What you give out comes back in abundance.
Then as a side bar, know your worth. For those working in videography - if you want to make a film for free, absolutely go and make a film for free. But don’t ever worry about asking for money, because what we do is absolutely worth money.
ABOUT JUST TREK
ABOUT CREATIVE CONVERSATIONS
Creative Conversations is an innovative, cross art-form series profiling local individuals working within the creative industry. Delivered in partnership with photographer Ellie Morag, an Edinburgh based photographer represented by Crew Scotland. She specialises in lifestyle, street style and portraits. With a style that falls somewhere between documentary and portrait photography, she is inspired by movement, colour & narrative.
Locke aims to bring creative organisations and practitioners, producers and curators into productive conversations, to share their stories and the wide range of experience and expertise amongst them.
The Creative Conversations Photography Exhibition is running at Eden Locke, Edinburgh from 31st July - 31st August.