What is Curlew Films?

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Curlew Films is the brand name used by me, artist-filmmaker & electronic musician Alistair I Macdonald, for my commercial video work. My more experimental artist video sits on another website, here.

Why bother with a brand name if Curlew Films is just one person?

The short answer is – have you tried googling “Alistair Macdonald”? There are hundreds of us. Even worse, there’s a composer called Alistair Macdonald based near me in Huddersfield. But there’s only one Curlew Films, and the brand name makes it much easier for me to distinguish myself from all those other pesky Alistair Macdonalds.

The slightly less short answer is that, once upon a time, I thought I should distinguish the more experimental, artist-film side of my practice from the more straightforwardly commercial side. Curlew Films was supposed to be the straight man to Alistair I Macdonald, the Dr Jeckyll to my Mr Hyde. But, as I ought to have realised from Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, the two are inseparable. Nobody wants a commercial filmmaker who isn’t artistic and successful artists are usually commercial. The skills and techniques from my artist-film work inform my commercial work and vice-versa, and nowadays I frequently find it difficult to distinguish between the two. (I make a lot of films about art, for artists, for instance.)

Nonetheless, it still helps to have two identities. People are more likely to bump into you that way. Just like you did.

About me

I’ve been a full time commercial filmmaker since 2013. Since then, I’ve been making the artist films, short films for charities, universities, town councils, businesses, media agencies, schools and, in fact, anyone else who needs a film making. I also video events (but not weddings).

I’ve not always been a filmmaker. I started my professional life as a philosophy teacher at Lancaster University, where I successfully studied for a PhD in Continental Philosophy. (Copies available to read for free!). After that, I worked in social care for a few years, working with people with learning and physical disabilities and poor mental health. Then I re-trained as a solicitor and ended up co-managing a large national law firm for five years before I realised I needed to do something more creative. Subsequently, I studied film at Manchester Metropolitan University and I completed a practice-based research masters degree in artist landscape film. (Again, copies available to read for free!) I’ve found that the skills and experience I gained in these different contexts have all helped me in my filmmaking and frequently I work with organisations and clients whose needs I understand better because of my background.

My artist-films have been shown at film festivals and galleries across the UK and Europe and I’ve been commissioned by arts organisations several times.

I’m based in the village of Marsden, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, but work across the UK and abroad. I like to work closely with clients at an early stage of a project to ensure that I can fully understand their needs and translate their initial ideas into high quality films at competitive rates.

I provide video ready for websites, YouTube channels, intranet or on disc. I can film in full HD or 4K, on or above ground or underwater. I offer a one or two (or three!) camera set up. As a composer and musician, I usually provide bespoke music for films. I can provide aerial, drone footage. I also provide full video editing services using the latest professional video editing software.

If you want to know more, or to discuss a project, please contact me through the contact page.

(Oh, and why “Curlew” films? That’s because I live in the Peak District and spend a lot of time on the hills and moors which are home to the curlew – a bird with a distinctive call and which is at once very local and very global.)