Keith Wilhelm Kopp is short film director from Vancouver, Washington, currently based in Bath where he is working to transition into feature films. Keith graduated from the Masters in Scriptwriting course at Bath Spa University in 2016 and was happy to talk to milk about his work since the MA.
It’s been a crazy couple years since leaving the MA at Corsham Court – I’ve had one of my short films screened on a Sky TV channel, I attended a talent development module with Creative England and earlier in March I bagged my first best director award.
Before applying to Bath Spa University I had already been directing short films for eight years. I went to an intense film school in London where I had the experience of working on numerous films and had Gus Van Sant as a mentor (apologies for the name drop). The problem I found, though, is that I spent three years learning the technical aspects of filmmaking and not story. I knew something was missing in my films and I had to go in search of it.
It was really eye opening being mentored on the MA by Robin Mukherjee and Ursula Sarma, whose professional work spans TV, film and theatre. I felt like both lecturers managed to pull the elements of story apart for me and made me rethink the kind of stories I wanted to tell. I am a director, not a writer, but the course allowed me to better understand the writer’s process and this made me more confident at directing scripts.
Another thing I owe to the MA is meeting my long-term collaborator, writer Laurence Guy. Without his wry sensibilities and complex characters I wouldn’t have gained my recent success. Laurence and I made three shorts together and they have formed a kind of trilogy about the soldier’s journey. We are currently developing a feature film loosely based on some of my experiences in the army but set in the Severn Estuary. Fingers crossed funding is in the mail!
I have two pieces of advice for anybody thinking about venturing onto the film director career path. The first is to always be making videos. Even if you’re making of stuff on your phone with no money or friends – this allows you to fail and even though it sucks at the time, failure is great. This is how you learn the craft without spending loads of your resources. I have lost count of how many shorts I have made (some of which no one will ever see) but I can tell you the ones I spent the most money on were not always my best films.
My final thought is that persistence is key. I have come to learn that sometimes craft comes second to just being the person who is good at listening to the word ‘no’ and then writing another ten emails that night to secure a location or find some financing for social media marketing. You need to be Andy Dufresne. Persistence is key!
Twitter @KeithKopp / Instagram Keith_Wilhelm_Kopp / Website kwkopp.com