Jordan Carroll: “I love finding new locations to film and create a world in”
Jordan Carroll is an award-winning film director, cinematographer and editor based in Sheffield, operating nationwide and specialising in documentary and promotional videos as well as music content for TV, cinema and social media platforms. Over the years he’s worked on a range of projects promoting the Steel City creative scene including videos for iconic venues, exhibitions and artists. Away from work, Jordan can often be found enjoying the city’s outdoors culture, traversing the Peak District camera in hand, continuing to capture those vibrant images and moments in life.
How did you first start making films?
Early on I was into MTV and skate culture. I really liked the DIY nature of the sport and how they filmed themselves with VHS tapes and fisheye lenses. MTV tapped into this style in the early days and was very rough and ready with most of its content. I was given the opportunity by my high school to drop a week of work experience to take part in a music video competition called ‘MTV Boom’. I was given a one-minute track by Graham Coxon and had to make a video with a small team. We ended up filming me three times to play all the members of the band and then glued it all together into one shot. We got to go to London on a school trip as some of our videos were shortlisted, and ultimately our team won the competition. Some of the judges worked for big agencies and I was given work experience down in Soho at 15/16, living out of a hostel one summer. How my school allowed it I’ll never know. But those early on-set experiences on big label music videos really sparked my interest.
What inspired you to continue down that path?
I think working in a creative field as a job seemed like a whole new world. I was from a working-class part of Hull and everybody ended up in the same kind of labour/service jobs. I knew that wasn’t for me. I felt out of place by the way I dressed, how I behaved, and now what I wanted to be when I was older. I knew I had to leave Hull back then, and film production was that escape for me. I do what I do now because it gives me immense freedom. The freedom to pick my own hours, take time off when I want and go on holiday when I feel the time is right. I also really like diversity and every day is different. There’s the challenge of getting out there into the world and making a name for yourself.
Could you talk us through your creative process today?
Film and video can be quite formulaic, which is both good and bad. It’s good because you follow a pattern and get very good at it, but it’s bad because if you’re not careful you can fall into a trap of making the same content and getting bored. Most promos I make take a day to film and two to edit. So it becomes quite straightforward when advising quotes and timescales. You also have a set way of telling a story and how you show it. However, when I work in a more traditional cinema setting, that all goes out the window. I usually stick to the camera department, working long days overcoming different challenges in new environments. I like fluttering back and forth between my promo work and film. They both offer different challenges, but the great thing about film is that I’m surrounded by a team who all specialise in their own area, and together we make art.
What spaces or sources do you tend to turn to for creative kicks?
I really love spaces in the real world. In film, you can get stuck on a set, behind a camera or behind a laptop. But I really like to travel, swim and exercise. With all these things it’s about getting back into the real world and seeing what’s around. The Peaks are an obvious place to escape and feel inspired, but I also like to travel further afield to places like Wales and the Lakes. If that fails, a gentle stroll through town can be fun, too. Even just to take a break from work and grab a coffee. My office is towards the canal area of Sheffield, and I really like the old world feeling around there. The Five Weirs Walk is full of character and takes you back in time a bit. Any chance to get a breath of fresh air, maybe with a camera in hand, can spark all sorts of ideas for future projects.
Do you have specific ethos when it comes to your work?
As work has become more stable in recent years, I’ve started to prioritise myself over chasing the money. I’ve realised that my job is great, but it shouldn’t be my whole identity. I need to pursue things away from that space and look after myself. I am very lucky to work as a freelancer and don’t take it for granted. But if I worked a standard 9-5, 5 days a week doing it then I might as well have a full-time job somewhere else. So when it’s a little quieter I embrace it and go rock climbing or have a lazy day. Because sometimes it gets very intense, and I work 14 hour days for weeks on end with no days off in sight.
My office is towards the canal area of Sheffield, and I really like the old world feeling around there. The Five Weirs Walk is full of character and takes you back in time a bit. Any chance to get a breath of fresh air, maybe with a camera in hand, can spark all sorts of ideas for future projects.
How important is it for you to be part of a thriving creative community? On that note, how has Sheffield inspired what you do?
Sheffield is great because of its size. And being a filmmaker is great because you meet so many people to be in your films. I’ve really learned a lot about the amazing creatives in this city by documenting them and collaborating with them. It creates a reverb effect for me because their work inspires me and new ideas come from that. Early on in Sheffield I was very into urban exploration and the city was awash with old factories and spaces you could explore and that informed my work. Now that it is regenerating and those places don’t exist as much, I’ve explored further afield to the edges of the city and the canals. Buildings have a profound effect on me; I love finding new locations to film and create a world in.
What pieces of work are you most proud of and why?
The films I love the most are usually the small ones that feel honest and organic; those films have less pressure and you can call more of the shots. A couple of years ago I made a poetry film with Nadia Emam called To My Father, which we shot at sunrise in Winnats Pass one summer. It was just the two of us and we had so much fun filming it and editing it. It all came together so nicely and I think we ended up with a beautiful little piece. That film opened up so many doors for me in the narrative film space as a cinematographer and furthered my career. It just goes to show what passion projects can do for you.