Get To Know: Ryan Francis

The Bristol filmmaker and founder of Latent Pictures speaks about his experiences

9 March 2021

Where did your filmmaking career begin?

At the age of 16, no teacher had faith in me except for one: Rebecca Hughes. She forced me to take A Level Media Studies because she believed that I was super creative. Although I failed the course, the film that I made for it won in the 16-18-year-old category at the Bristol International Film Festival. I left school and got a full-time job as a banker. Fast forward to 2012, and I had created the biggest urban comedy show in the South West, with no support or guidance. I reached out to Rebecca to thank her for believing in me, and she was so impressed with the show that she reached out to some buddies who organised the BFI Film Academy Bristol at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. It was from here that my career began. 

What were some initial challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?

The challenges that I faced were really rough! I quickly realised that no matter how hungry, energetic or enthusiastic I was, being a working-class Black boy in a white middle-class-centric industry was a massive problem. 

As a young self-shooter, I was told by organisations like the BBC that I was "too ambitious" to be hired for their entry level apprenticeship roles. I can sit here and tell stories like this all day.

Naturally, I'm a bubbly guy and a tryer at heart. I've always had to fight against the odds, so it has been easy for me to overcome these problems and just keep pushing forward. Also, I knew that not all people in the industry are bad. 

What was your inspiration for your short film

During this dark time when the film industry neglected me (although I was a C300 MK 2 owner and operator) I was so angry and hateful towards it. Please bare in mind, I had sacrificed so much at this point to try and impress and appease the industry. The only way that I thought I could express my feelings was by creating Black in a Box. What I didn't realise when I released the film was that it spoke to so many other people, like LGBTQ+ and other marginalised filmmakers. 

What did you learn from the experience of making this film?

It just taught me how to channel my hate, anger, questions and thoughts towards the industry into creativity. 

Why did you decide to found Latent Pictures and how is it funded?

I founded Latent Pictures during this dark period because my attitude was very much, ‘The industry doesn't care about people like me, soI'll help others and do it myself’. The name "Latent", is a reference to all of the “latent talent” or “hidden potential” that the industry consistently rejects because they are generally afraid to let marginalised people in. It's also a nod to Dragon Ball Z - the character Gohan had “latent potential” hidden within him and the Gods understood this, so they took him in regardless of him being an earthling and trained him to master that potential. I just want to take talented people in and train them to surpass me. Latent Pictures isn't funded. It's all me. I honestly have no idea how I do it - it is very unsustainable! 

What has the experience of running it been like so far?

It's amazing because I'm genuinely investing my time into developing others who would never get a chance in the industry. This makes me so happy, I can't explain it. However, I am only one man, there is only so much I can do. It's even harder when you have no money, plus I'm trying to seek opportunities for myself while trying to train/develop people’s careers. So far though, I have managed to get a working-class Black actor onto a NFTS course, which is unheard of, and I recently helped a white working-class filmmaker to make his first film and get his first runner-up award at a film festival. So, I'm pretty chuffed!

What advice would you give to regional filmmakers, who might feel up against it because they're not based in London?

Unfortunately, I don't believe I have useful advice for regional filmmakers, however, I can speak as a working-class filmmaker. Just be yourself and never change to fit into an industry that doesn't want you. Express how you want to be perceived, and then proceed to kick ass. 

Photo credit: Watson Media