Uprising in association withLBB & Friends Beach

Uprising: Charlie Watts on Breaking and Making Things

Production Company
London, UK
The Rogue director speaks to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about the ‘good people’ of the industry, seizing opportunities, and why making films is the best way to soak up everything life has to offer

Looking back at his childhood years, Charlie Watts, now a director in Rogue’s roster, sees a creative and active kid that was “constantly making and breaking things.” To him, activating those creative inclinations in his formative years was probably one of the culprits for his current passions. “I had a tendency, probably like most kids, to try it and worry about the consequences afterwards.” Probably an approach that rings true today for many ‘grown up’ creatives as well!

More specifically, Charlie was keen to experiment with art and drawing when growing up. “I loved drawing cartoons or ‘Star Wars’ characters,” he recalls. “I remember we went to Disneyland as kids, and on one of the tours around the studios we got to see the illustrations and animations in their rawest form. I came away thinking, ‘when I grow up I am going to draw characters for Disney!’.” 

That thought stuck with him for a while, up until the day came to pursue his university studies. “I did media in both college and university,” he admits, adding that it wasn’t until he graduated from university and became a runner that he really saw the business behind his artistic interests. “Nevertheless, I loved uni. It gives you so many life lessons and is a great space to grow - but in an academic sense, I think it would have been more beneficial to dive straight into the industry.” 

Charlie’s first ‘proper’ job in the industry was at McCann Erickson in their Manchester office - the city where he is still based today. “I was a junior videographer there, which was the official title. It was great starting out in an agency, as it opened my eyes to so many different aspects of the commercial world and filmmaking.” 

When it came to finding that position, however, Charlie notes that it was more a coincidence than something he sought out. “I was doing some work experience on a shoot, and started chatting with the agency producer,” he says. “I mentioned how I was struggling to get a job, one thing led to another, and I got a job interview with them that next week!”

He continues, “It’s so important to apply yourself and put yourself in those positions. Yes, I was working for free, but it got my foot in the door. There is no set path in the line of work really, you just have to be available and put yourself out there.” 

It was also in this experience that Charlie learned one of the most useful lessons in his early career: saying yes to opportunities more often. “I really have done some terrible bits of work experience and runner work,” he says. “But, they always teach you a little bit of something that you can add to your armoury. It might be someone you meet or a bit of advice you get along the way. For me, filmmaking is all about the people, so exposing myself to as many different people in the industry was pivotal to getting me where I am today.” 

This consistent stocking of the arsenal is also why he also struggles to pick out his ‘best’ work, as he believes that no matter if it was a passion project or a professional piece of work, he has learned something from every story he has told.

Rather, Charlie chooses to focus more on the continued journey of acquiring knowledge, through which he found another valuable lesson: the maxim that repetition is king. “Repeating, I would say, is something that a lot of my growth can be attributed to. When I started out, I would ‘borrow’ kit from the agency on weekends and go and make my own little films.” 

To this end, he says that this method was extremely helpful for him specifically, as he is very much somebody who learns on his feet, or out in the field. “I have never been a big reader or someone who looks at others for education,” he adds. “I love being out there and making, breaking and learning what works and what doesn’t.”

Although Charlie admits that this method - which forces him to get stuck in and work through it - is how he learns best, this experience has not quelled the daunting nature of riding the wave as a freelance filmmaker. “It’s all great when you are working and busy, the brain is firing and you are active. However, in between jobs, I do find the downtime tough. They say everyone needs a purpose, and when you don’t have a project it can be challenging.” 

To this end, Charlie has recently approached the navigation of this side of his career by focussing on improving his time management, as well as using external activities to keep him occupied. “I just need to keep myself occupied,” he says. “I aspire to keep working, to keep creating and to keep enjoying it. I find looking too far ahead or setting yourself big goals can become too overwhelming or heavy. I’m already winning, because my job is my passion.” 

And with that passion, for Charlie, also comes the benefit of travelling and meeting amazing people along the way, many of whom have become his ‘lifelong friends’. “To pinpoint what I love most about my job is impossible for me,” he continues. “I wish I could give a more profound answer than to just say my favourite part of my job is just how lucky I am to have this opportunity, and to call what I love work.”

And those opportunities only seem to be growing. In the 10 years since he left university, platforms like Instagram and TikTok came into existence - giving him ample opportunities for new work in which he can embrace that ongoing connection to his childhood self and break, make and dabble in everything - trying out every opportunity at least once. “It’s fantastic how things have changed and that today, we have all these platforms for creatives to have a voice,” Charlie says. “However, I find the old 22 concept antiquated. This idea that in order to win a job, you have to have something similar on the showreel to the brief is so ancient, but it still seems to linger around.” 

When it comes to his inspirations within the industry, Charlie talks about a particular ‘type’ of person, rather than singling out particular people. “It is so easy to get lost in this industry and believe the hype of what it is you are creating. I’ve come across enough of the people who value reels over relationships, or see their title as licence to walk over others,” he explains. “The industry we work in is tough enough without being tough on your peers, at the end of the day we are all out there trying to make our way through this turbulent terrain.”

He continues, “Good people, that is what I admire. Those relationships will last much longer than any commercial I will ever make, that’s for sure.”

Outside of the industry, Charlie says he is a runner, a Manchester United fan since early childhood, and somebody who loves watching Casey Neistat on YouTube (as of recently). Besides that, he is currently working on another passion project of his - a short documentary film set in Blackpool. “Some friends and I have been shooting it for a year now. It’s essentially a story of the people from the North of England, which is so special to me. It’s likely to be out this year. As well as that, just putting my energy into the run club. We’ve just signed our first brand deal, so that’s exciting and we have lots of fun stuff planned for 2023!”

Overall, Charlie Watts has remained curious - both for opportunities and for creativity, in its best and rawest forms. “I am like a sponge. I want to absorb as many experiences in my life as possible. To me, making films is a beautiful way to do that.”