Zam has experience in writing and directing shorts, commercials, documentaries, and TV dramas, and his first feature film Up There won the top prize at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February 2012. He has also won a number of other awards for his work in a range of different fields, and has been nominated for two BAFTAs.
What training have you received?
I went to university where I studied the theoretic aspects of cinema, but nothing especially practical. After this I did a series of menial jobs before ending up in scheme for the long term unemployed. There I was given access to basic film kit, and we started making short films; I wrote scripts that worked with the budgets and locations we had, so that was a great discipline.
I really recommend making no-budget shorts as a way in to both discover your craft and your voice; as you’re not exposed to pressures from funders concerning deadlines and budgets, you can just keep going until you’re happy.
What themes do you like to explore in your work.
I like the idea of taking something fantastical and putting it in to everyday terms. I also think I’m moved by the idea of personal responsibility, how we ought to relate to others, and how we don’t always have the vocabulary to express ourselves.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
Keep at it. It’s as simple and as shockingly blunt as that. There are no magic solutions, unfortunately. I also like that piece of advice from David Lynch; listen to the idea. This held me in good stead when I was thinking about converting the idea of Laid Off the short into Up There the feature.
Tell us the most significant moment in your career so far…
I think it was a night many years ago when I kept going with something—well beyond the point I would have usually stopped—to get it absolutely right. It was a real eye-opener in terms of knowing that I could do this. The first day of the Up There shoot was also pretty significant; it was the moment I discovered whether everything I’d been writing for months might actually work.
You’ll die happy when…
I’ve got a few more features under my belt. I’m really keen to improve my writing, and really communicate something to others. And raise a few laughs along the way, obviously.