Makers At Heart | Pitch Designer Rich Wheatley on directing his latest short film ‘IF THEY COME’ & the importance of having industry mentors

Community April 8, 2021

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Everything we do as a team makes great ideas come to life. We are thinkers, designers, artists, directors, producers, developers, colourists, coders, technicians, editors, animators, writers, doers and makers.

In our Makers At Heart series, we introduce the people behind the projects to hear more about their inspirations, motivations and creative insights. We spoke to Pitch Designer Rich Wheatley about directing his latest short film ‘IF THEY COME’ and the importance of finding a mentor in your industry.


Tell us a little bit about your role at The Mill and how long you have worked here?

I started at The Mill in February of 2020, it was actually the perfect time to start because we needed to work hard on pitches and creatively solve new challenges, which evolved every week. 

I work as a Pitch Designer, working alongside some incredibly talented Creative Directors, Producers and Creative Strategists who never cease to amaze me. There is a limitless pool of talent and it changes on every job. It’s brilliant to see how teams adapt and change according to the brief.


You have recently directed a short film ‘If They Come’. Can you tell us a little bit about the project and how it came to fruition?

As well as working on pitches at The Mill, I also direct my own projects. My recent short ‘IF THEY COME’ follows a stowaway, Viktor, as he smuggles himself across a border in the hope of a new home. 

The project was self-initiated and we didn’t have much resource to get it made. So with an amazing skeleton crew, we managed to approach the idea in a way that helped the story and was practical.

It’s really useful to be able to take an idea right back to its core and focus on the fundamental elements of storytelling. Our entire approach was born out of the confines we were working in. We decided to focus on the singularity of the main character, this helped thematically and practically when it came to shooting.

What career advice would you give to your younger self? 

I’d say headhunt a mentor wherever you’re working, someone who can help guide you and share their experience. It’s a great way to find out what your skills and weaknesses are. Someone who can be brutally honest with you and tell you what you need to improve, but also boost your confidence when you need it.

As well as this, I’d definitely say work in a way that is true to yourself, realising that the things you might be anxious about may actually be your strengths. It took me a while to realise that the aspects I thought were holding me back, were actually the most useful things I had in my toolbox.


What is keeping you inspired during this period?

I’ve been working on a lot of really interesting projects, it’s great to deep dive into the archive of Mill work and reference in pitches we’re working on. It’s amazing to see bits of work that are ingrained in my memory from years ago that were created at The Mill. We were recently working on a job with face augmentation and probably one of the earliest examples of this was Playstation ‘Mental Wealth’, directed by Chris Cunningham who collaborated with artists at The Mill. Seeing the legacy of work and where it is today is keeping me really inspired.

Check out more Makers At Heart features here and get in touch with our VFX team regarding any upcoming projects here. You can also check out more of Rich’s personal work via his website.