Interviewed – April 2020
Hi Dom, thank you so much for answering our questions today. Why not start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
I am a freelance performer from Bristol and have been working out of the South West for just over ten years. As well as working freelance, I also manage Aim Low Productions producing both live and recorded media.
When and why did you form Aim Low Productions?
Aim Low first formed back in 2013, when I first started my professional training in Bristol. I knew that there were ideas I wanted to explore, and when I was just starting out there were a lot of creative friends and colleagues who I wanted to work with (some who wouldn’t consider themselves “creatives” that still work with the company today). But rather than waiting for permission from someone else, it made more sense just to go for it and start our own company. Through that we were able to start making work right away, both live and recorded, as well as on and offline. There was also a lot of naivety involved as, had I known what an undertaking creative producing would be, it might have been a bit overwhelming.
Aim Low has been a part of your life for a long time. How has the type of output you produce shifted through the years? And how have you kept audiences engaged during those transitions?
That’s a really great question that I would also be really curious to get an outside perspective on, as often the focus tends to just be project-to-project, exploring whatever the work needed.
I would say the biggest change in the output, from when we started to now, is a lot of the work that is produced now feels like it has a consistent artistic voice. Although this is something that would have been great to have since day one, I don’t think it would have come about as organically without being prepared to take chances and risks on different projects and mediums. This also means the work has a style and feel that is unique to the company that people want to be involved with.
Over the years, we have been really lucky that by making diverse work we have always had an audience with really diverse tastes. We have also succeeded at developing fans of the company that are interested in all of the work we produce, not just one aspect of it. This has meant that there has never really been a transition period as it is only something we have started thinking about in retrospect now that there is a body of work to reflect on.
You’re a very versatile man – you act, write, direct, produce, design, film, teach…and the list goes on. How do all your different crafts inform each other in your work?
If I’m completely honest, it is a little daunting to be described like that but I am incredibly flattered. I definitely try not to view all of these as separate crafts. Having a solid and practical understanding of what is involved in each role definitely informs all the work I do. Something that I have always been incredibly thankful for is having such a passion for specific stories or projects where I was willing to try my hand at a number of different jobs. I think that as the industry shifts and changes, and the tools for creating media become democratised, we will see fewer people working in only one specific role throughout their career.
A lot of your work is very ambitious in its design – the graffiti that appeared around Bath for hero without a face, or a number of the visual elements in Paying the Piper, for example, but it is often achieved with little to no budget. What inspires your approach to your method of creative problem-solving, and is it limited or helped by financial restraints?
Creative problem-solving is definitely helped by having limitations, be they monetary or otherwise, but it definitely doesn’t feel like that when you are in the middle of it. A big part of the creative process for me is avoiding the instinct to try and hide the fact that budgets were low or ideas were compromised, when actually the creative decisions that come about by embracing those things are some of the most engaging elements. It is a tough voice to silence but once I found that I could get over that hurdle, it was much easier to also embrace the ambitious nature of some of the work at the same time. Once I had gotten there it was a real joy to discover that there were things that I could get away with that other companies just couldn’t. It’s a really exciting wave to ride.
Aim Low operates from your base in Bristol – what are the benefits of being a creative in that city, as opposed to London, which everyone seems to automatically gravitate towards?
I love being in Bristol as I find the city really inspiring. Part of why Aim Low projects are so diverse is also down to the city being so diverse and that being reflected in the city’s creative output. There is something really accessible about the work being produced here that I think helps people feel that there is no barrier to entry when it comes to working as a creative. This is something that I have really come to appreciate more now that we have been showing our work further afield and touring with work.
What were you up to before the theatre shutdown?
As a company the shutdown has really taken away with one hand and given with the other. On one hand we were in the middle of some design and promotional work for another company that is still hoping to launch soon, as well as a live project collaborating with an artist we have worked with before. Both of which have had to be delayed until we are able to get back to functioning more normally. On the other hand we have some larger film projects we have been working on over the past few months, so we have been able to take more time in the pre-production phase. That thankfully has felt like a real luxury – being able to take more time than we would have had lockdown not taken place.
How have you been coping with this new existence of social distancing and staying indoors?
I would be lying if I was to say that it hasn’t been a challenge, but we have been very fortunate to be able to use this time as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. We have also been lucky that a lot of the equipment that we use for podcasts and video production have come in handy when remaining social online. That being said, it definitely feels like we are being held hostage by our internet router and as soon as the lights stop flashing we’ll really be in trouble.
What’s your top tip for other creatives struggling with quarantine life?
The importance of having a routine both daily and weekly is something that over the past few years has proven invaluable and over this period of time has really put me in good stead. This has been as simple as keeping meal times at the same time everyday, waking up at the same time and having clear time set aside for when work should start and stop. It has also been really necessary to keep reminding myself that, although this is an opportunity, it is important not to expect too much of myself either; which I think is a trait a lot of creatives share. There is no need for anyone to be putting extra pressure on themselves in what is already a difficult time.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do once the lockdown is lifted and we’re allowed outdoors again?
The first thing would definitely be a BBQ, I would love to catch up with friends and family over food. But, as great as Bristol is, I have sorely missed being able to travel outside of the city and soak up somewhere different for a while.
What’s next for Aim Low?
In the short term, we have been making changes to the way our podcasts are recorded which people have really engaged with. In the medium term, we are collaborating again with Takyon (the street artist from hero without a face) on his first gallery event incorporating a lot of theatrical elements which we are really excited about. And finally in the long term, before the end of the year, we will begin production on our first feature film project.
What do you love most about the industry, and what frustrates you the most?
I love that collaboration and teamwork are such a big part of the industry. It is the kind of work that when embarked on with others really builds lifelong relationships, that unfortunately aren’t really a part of a lot of other professions. The flip side of that, however, is I really can’t stand the competitive culture of the industry as I really don’t see a reason for it in the time we live in. There is plenty of room in the arts for any kind of expression you want and it has never been easier for your work to be seen by an audience. There are no gatekeepers and people who aren’t currently working with you are not competition.
What advice would you give to fresh-faced Dom from 2013, about to embark on his Aim Low adventure?
Not to be afraid if something has rough edges to it. Both if it has a very raw personal edge to it or being too scared to let your working show through in something that’s finished. There is a really difficult period of time where your own output doesn’t meet your taste but that is not something that I have found an audience has ever really worried about.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions – stay safe and keep washing your hands!
Interviewed by Ryan Mellish
Photography by Domenico
Find out more about Domenico and Aim Low here:
YouTube – Aim Low
Instagram – @dalopresti
Podcasts – Aim Low Podcast Network
Website – www.aimlowpro.com