Indie Shorts Awards Cannes

How to make a successful short film by Award Winner Stephen Gallacher

Discover the secrets shared by Stephen Gallacher on his filmmaking process.

Stephen, how do you plan to use the experience and recognition from your film in your future projects? 

“This film has helped me so much already. It was a huge part of how I secured my first TV directing gig for McDonald & Dodds at ITV/Mammoth Screen. It helped me secure my mentor Peter Hoar and has been a very personal and cathartic journey as well. I am hugely grateful to the amazing cast and crew, some of which I work with regularly, including Blair Mowat my composer who pushed me to make this film better when I couldn’t figure it out. I am very grateful for that collaboration and experience as it is something that has helped me in every aspect of my journey, constantly pushing to make things better even if you’re struggling to see how to do it. So to sum up, this experience has helped me really push myself creatively, professionally and personally to build a stronger career, make fantastic connections and to pursue bigger and even more rewarding projects.”


How has this film changed you as an artist and filmmaker? 

“This film allowed me to grow as a filmmaker, through every aspect of the film. My previous film Unexpected Item, I loved, but I made it quite safe, and I didn’t allow myself the freedom I did with this film, and that freedom has pushed me to be as creative as possible with everything I do. This film gave me a confidence I hadn’t had before which is that ‘I know what I’m doing’ – I have terrible imposter syndrome so it’s always lingering in the back of my mind as to whether I should be where I am but this film cemented that I should be and I think having that confidence has changed me to be braver in my creativity going forward.”


Were there any unexpected setbacks during the making or production of the film? If so, how did you handle them? 

“Oh my god there were so many, scheduling conflicts, covid, pushing the shoot back, a very long post production period (when you’re getting exceptional people to do you favours, they’re usually very busy too so you have to be patient). Covid was a big one, we lost our original location, we had cast who could no longer do the shoot, then could, but we’d already re-cast (and I wouldn’t change them for the world!) the other big one was the picture lock, my editor and I just couldn’t find the emotional weight in the story, it was there during the script and during shoot (people cried whilst watching these incredible performers in the room) but it was falling flat in the edit and we couldn’t figure out why. My exec Sashi had the idea of opening with the ‘selling the car scene’ which definitely helped, it brought conflict to the opening few minutes of the film. I also watched a Sorkin masterclass where he said ‘Intention and obstacle’ and it clicked – we got rid of a lot of the care home scenes, which took us away from Harold & Mary, we decided to just book end the film with them, then we brought the Doctor scene forward, again giving us an intention ‘will Mary put him in a home’ this meant that everything after was an obstacle, and then the ending is fore filling the intention but it’s too late.  This was a great challenge and one Josh (the editor) and I felt very proud to overcome and feel like we found the emotional weight. Sashi watched it and clapped down the phone – we knew we had the film.”


Which five tips would you share to anyone who might want to, like you, create an award winning film? 

  1. “Be honest with what you want to make – make sure you care about the project”
  2. “Be creative! Don’t hold back from doing something challenging” 
  3. “Get the best crew around you, they will lift you up and bring your ideas to life”
  4. “Don’t be afraid to listen to your cast, they may have some awesome ideas, and when they ask questions, it’s because they care!”
  5. “Enjoy it, it’s the best thing you can do, be prepped, and then enjoy the process.” 


Thank you Stephen for taking the time to answer our questions. It was a pleasure having you at our festival and we hope to see you again to have fresher conversations together and get updates on your future projects.