For this issue of our Create Your Own Vision series, we interviewed director, cameraman, and photographer George Hoagy Morris. Long time readers will remember Ollie Quinn sponsored the making of one of George's films. (see: here)
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
Hello! I'm George and I am based in Cardiff, Wales. I work in documentary film both directing and shooting documentaries on a wide range of subjects, from Cheerleaders to Killer Whales!
At OQ we are committed to championing individuals like yourself who create your own vision. Tell us how you got into photography and directing?
To be honest, I can't remember a time in which I didnt have a camera... I used to borrow my Dad's old Pentax ME Super 35mm and would photograph anything I could. The interest in filmmaking comes from my dad, he was a documentary director and would often take me on shoots as a kid. From a young age I was exposed to a variety of communities and cultures, from Irish Travellers, staying on RAF bases and even spending months with the families involved with the awful Aberfan disaster.
I grew to love meeting and spending time with different people, being invited into their homes and talking. Out of this I found that for me, documentary filmmaking is about spending time with and learning from others. That is probably why the clinical, technical side of shooting fiction has never really been where my heart lies.
You have worked on some amazing projects over the years including the Norwegian whale migration conservation trip that OQ supported back in 2020. What else have you been working on since we last caught up?
Gosh... I have been working on a real mixture of work to be honest! Most recently a few projects that have been broadcast are A Killing In Tiger Bay, Wild Isles and FRANK. Come to think of it, all are very different from each other!
A Killing In Tiger Bay is a three part true crime series made for BBC Two and tells the story of the brutal murder of Lynette White and the subsiquent massive miscarriage of justice that followed. Wild Isles is a feature documentary made by a new streaming service called New Yonder. It tells the story of several unsung heroes based around the U.K. working hard on different aspects of wildlife conservation. FRANK is a short fiction film made by the Jones Collective and National Theatre Wales, it is based on the life of and acted by Frank himself (keeping to those documentary roots..).
There are lots that haven't been broadcast yet and I can't speak about but I am directing and shooting a film for the BBC at the moment which I am really enjoying and can't wait to be able to talk about!
Can you give us 3 tips for an aspiring filmmaker who is looking to create beautiful stories like you do.
- Be honest and open with your contributors. I feel it's incredibly important to be open with the people you are making films about. I often see filmmakers that see their contributors as a challenge to crack to access their story, I have also seen filmmakers pushing subjects way too far to get tears on camera.
Firstly this is completely unacceptable and secondly I have found the opposite works much better for your film. Be yourself, be friendly, don't hide anything, if you are making a film about a tricky subject or you are wanting a contributor to discuss a hard subject then be honest, and tell them. They will respect you for it rather than resent you for surprising it upon them and being dishonest.
- Always say yes to an opportunity. Obviously there are times this rule cannot be followed, but as a general rule I try to say yes to as much as I can and I have found myself on some wonderful and strange adventures because of it..
- Find what makes you tick. Ultimately unless something excites or interests you then how can you be expected to make good work about it? If you have a passion to tell stories about something you love, then that will be the best work you make.
What impact do you hope your films have on their audience?
Honestly? I think every film and story should have a different impact. For example, I hope that after watching A Killing In Tiger Bay that people questioned how much they trust our Police force and I hope it showed people that institutional racism is real, and that it lives on. Then with something like Wild Isles I hope that people watching it were inspired by the subjects of the documentary and shown that individuals can make a difference to our environment and wildlife conservation.
Do you have any aspirations for the next few years? Is there a part of the world that you are desperate to capture for your work?
My aspirations are to make films about subjects I believe in and with people that have the right intentions. Oh and travel more... I always want to travel more haha.
Do you have any other creative interests outside of filmmaking and photography?
Food! Honestly, lockdown showed me that food might be the real love of my life, I spent hours cooking most days and nearly quit working in film to pursue a career in food. There is nothing better than spending a few hours baking, cooking and BBQing to then share it with friends!
Any funny moments to share from previous projects… animals stealing camera lenses? Monkey eat your sandwich?
Haha! Many but looking back, getting food poisoning while deep in the Pyrenees mountains while shooting a documentary for Channel 4 was pretty funny. Not at the time though... not at all.
I went to bed in this tiny mountain hut, after a day's hiking and filming, but it soon turned out that the rice I had eaten for dinner wasn't good, and I spent the next few hours producing strange liquid out of every orifice.
The only issue was that I had to leave the hut to produce this liquid every ten minutes or so, and this was less than ideal for several reasons.
The hut itself was used by sheep herders and was very high in the mountains. The ground was covered in snow and ice and I had to put my boots and ice kit on before leaving. Once out of the hut, with my head torch in hand I had to walk away from the hut so the crew didnt hear the onslaught that was about to occur. This was a challenge in itself, I'm sure any readers who have suffered food poisoning know the struggles of "holding back" I am talking about.
I was also followed by a flock of sheep, now.. I didnt know this before going to the Pyrenees but the sheep are guarded by these HUGE growling Pyrenean mountain dogs and do not like anyone approaching their sheep, especially at night. Oh and it turns out those dogs are guarding the sheep from the WILD BEAR that call that region home!!
So now I found myself squatting, looking out for a bear attack, with my trousers around my ankles and an audience of sheep and growling dogs. This process was repeated until dawn at which point our guides decided to walk me down off the mountain.
That night, those sheep truly saw the hideousness humanity is capable of.