DAVID reviews

17 September 2017

James Lees joins Outsider.

by Jason Stone


Outsider Films are extremely pleased to have added James Lees to their roster of directors. Lees's recent film for Beats featuring Conor McGregor caught a lot of people's attention with its gritty depiction of the Irish mixed martial artist's roots.

A few days ago DAVID spoke to Lees while the director pottered around the Joshua Tree National Park during a well-earned break.

Although James Lees is English, he's currently better known in the US and the much-praised Beats film has further boosted his profile, so how did he start working in the States?

"It was weird. I was signed to a company in the UK called Warp Films, largely on the back of short films funded by the Film Council and Channel 4, and then I was signed by a US company called Paydirt Pictures for US representation."

The work they would create was great, and was really fascinating, because it was from places around the UK that you can relate to.

James Lees on Shane Meadows and Lynne Ramsay.   


He describes how he started to get a lot of music video work through Paydirt before they decided to concentrate on commercials. They then put him in touch with Doomsday who began to represent him for Promos while he continued to get TVC work through Paydirt. With two US companies seeking work for him, he soon built a solid reputation and an excellent portfolio of work.

Before America there was Leicester. Lees was born in the Midlands city and forged his love of performance there. He picked up a camera for the first time in his teens before developing a fascination for the stage, joining the Leicester Haymarket Youth Theatre.

Film took over again when he moved to Farnham in Surrey to study at the Art College there and the thought of directing began to take over his life.

An early fascination with Stanley Kubrick migrated into an admiration for gritty British filmmakers like Shane Meadows and Lynne Ramsay: "The work they would create was great, and was really fascinating, because it was from places around the UK that you can relate to."

Meadows's and Ramsay's influence is very evident, especially their truthfulness: "Authenticity is a big, big thing to me. I want to create something that feels very real... even if it's in the realm of the fantastical, it needs to be very anchored and rooted in reality. When we buy into it, we should be completely taken with the story."

From this, it's clear that Lees has a broad notion of where authenticity can be found and that he's keen to demonstrate that it needn't be limited to films possessing a sense of the everyday: "Whether it's a story set in space, or it's some sort of crazy story where animation becomes comes part of it, it's all equally fascinating to me. It's about how we give the story a sense of authenticity so that people come on the journey with us."

Lees chose Outsider because it "feels like a nurturing family" even though "it's a big company with some really big directors and has been around for so many years. As soon as I started chatting to the guys there, they just felt like my kind of people... very down to earth"

For more on James Lees, talk to Simon Elbourne on 020 7636 6666 or via email at si@outsider.tv.

David Reviews is hand-crafted by Lovely Lenzie Ltd, 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.