5 minutes with Head of Film School Gary Barber


Introduce yourself…

I work as Head of Brighton Film School, which was relaunched six years ago to offer a wide range of film making courses delivered by industry professionals. I also make films – most recently Dreams are Free, which charts the life of acclaimed jazz musician Bobby Wellins.

Dreams Are Free

What inspires you to make film/ moving image?

The things that inspire me are stories. I’m interested in telling real people’s stories – I feel that real people are more interesting that fictional characters, and sometimes real people have the most fantastic stories to tell, stories that you wouldn’t believe if you wrote them down as fiction. But when they come from the mouths of real people, they sound pretty incredible.

How has Brighton and Hove influenced your work?

Having lived in Brighton now for 20 years, Brighton feels like home. Also, the light is fantastic, the sea, having creative people around… all of those things feed into me hopefully being a creative person.

What advice would you give to creative people working/ looking to work in the city?

Brighton’s a strange place really because it’s not the creative hub of the film and TV industry – that’s obviously London – but Brighton offers other things. It has its own creative community. Once you start to work in the local industry, you can make links with other people. Brighton is very creative – it’s a small place, and you find that everybody knows everybody. But it’s supportive, and it’s productive.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

At Brighton Film School, the most interesting part of my job is being surprised and excited by some of the new work that’s being produced by our students. Young people bring fresh ideas, and it’s interesting to see how they approach filmmaking, both fiction and factual. 

Being at the film school also feeds into my work as a filmmaker. I’m surrounded by creative students at the Film School, but also the fact that all my colleagues are working filmmakers.

We have writer/directors, producers, editors, art directors… My whole day is working and liaising with creative people. It can only support and inspire my own ideas and creative approach.


What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Helping my students achieve their goals and visions. My job is a management job essentially – I manage students learning, and try to make sure that they can achieve what they set out to make, so I have to sometimes say no, I have to sometimes help them achieve things that are on paper difficult to pull off. Shooting period costume dramas on farms, getting people to locations, shooting in a boxing ring and making sure a whole 20-person crew is there… So it’s just helping them create and get their films together.

The challenging thing about my own filmmaking is finding time, as I work six days a week at the Film School. Plus, my own films tend to take longer to make nowadays. My last documentary took over two years, and although it has screened at festivals, there are still changes to be made, so that will make it three years… So the most challenging thing is finding the time. But there’s always time if you want to make stories.

Dead or alive, who are the top three people you’d most like to collaborate with?

I suppose for me, the golden era of documentary filmmaking was during the 1960s in America, Direct Cinema. There are some outstanding directors that inspire me, people like Fred Wiseman, D.A Pennebaker… And closer to home is Nick Broomfield, who has been making challenging, creative, original documentaries for the last 30 years, and is still a working filmmaker, who inspires all documentary filmmakers.

If you could only take one film away with you on a desert island what would it be and why?

I think it’s going to have to be Gimme Shelter by D.A Pennebaker.


More information about Brighton Film School can be found at brightonfilmschool.co.uk

Dreams Are Free has previously screened at Cinecity Brighton. You can see it this August at Chichester Film Festivals.

More information about the film can be found at https://vimeo.com/dreamsarefree