Following on from Duncan Cowles’ brilliant Taking Stock film at the end of last year, the director is back with a new film which again uses generic stock footage to piece together a very relatable narrative. Where Taking Stock touched a nerve with freelance creatives through Duncan’s own tale of trying to make a side hustle from selling stock footage online with little financial success, It’s Not Amazing Enough, commissioned by Ted, explores the panicky feeling of worrying your work might not quite be up to scratch.
Duncan was originally contacted by Ted at the tail end of 2017 following the release of Taking Stock through Channel 4’s Random Acts, “but the e-mail actually went into my spam, so it wasn’t until January that I saw it, by which point I actually didn’t have very long before their deadline for settling on an idea,” the director tells It’s Nice That. The concept for It’s Not Amazing Enough grew out of this less-than-ideal situation, as Duncan explains, “I had quite a few different ideas that I couldn’t decide on, and I was feeling the pressure of it needing to be good because of the brand of Ted and their audience and reach,” he says.
What followed was Duncan building a proposal from what he was feeling. “I just thought, why don’t I do something about indecisiveness, the pressures to excel and impress, and dwindling attention spans.” Modest and fretting a little about the film, the director actually thought Ted would reject the concept, “although I always expect everyone to reject everything so I should maybe be more positive,” he says. “Getting your hopes up can be a dangerous thing when you’re a freelancer.”
It’s Not Amazing Enough uses similar visual tropes to Taking Stock, featuring everyday elements while running along with Duncan’s voiceover. Using footage from a day when the filmmaker had “been stuck in the house one day and wanted to get out for a bit of fresh air one night so decided to go and film some stuff,” he explains. “Sometimes I do that if I feel like I’ve had a bad day, or not done anything useful, I just head out with my camera and film stuff. It sort of just makes me feel better, and more often than not the footages prove useful at some point.”
Useful it definitely is. As shots switch from insects to cows, sunsets to technology and Duncan’s running commentary deems them “not amazing enough,", the film settles on a train (something Duncan initially believes is amazing), before switching the music in the hope it will improve it further. “I’ve always enjoyed a good train ride, especially if you get a decent view of the sea or whatever out the window and a wee coffee and a muffin to enjoy,” says the director on why he decided to use trains as a representation of amazement. “I’m not like a trainspotter or anything like that, I just think they’re pretty enjoyable things I suppose planes are probably more amazing from a technology point of view, or space stations, but I didn’t have any footage of them.”
Although pointing out how ridiculous the creative industry can be at times isn’t at the forefront of Duncan’s directing work, he really does have a knack for it, and thankfully he enjoys it too, “I’ll always like pointing out how absurd a lot of what we do is at times,” he says.
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