When we caught up with filmmaker Owain Astles about his Exeter Phoenix bursary micro short The Hardest Fight, we took the opportunity to ask about another of the films, Sleeping Rough, which is set to get its first airing.
We interviewed Owain about Sleeping Rough way back in 2015, when he was at the early stages of the heartfelt and passionate project.
What’s been happening since?
“The film is a lot longer than planned,” said Owain.
It was orginally thought to be about half an hour in length as the film follows three stories that buff up against each other rather than interlock.
“It’s going to be about an hour eventually.
“A lot of the dialogue is improvised – it’s very documentary style with the three different storylines. It wasn’t possible to compress them into half an hour, so we ended up going for the longer format.”
But that doesn’t mean that the short format and the added opportunities that shorter films could bring is being abandoned.
“We were thinking about potentially splitting it up into its three different storylines – they are almost entirely separate – and submitting them to various short film festivals,” said Owain.
In making the film, the script had no dialogue. Instead it was based on scenarios lifted out of interviews, and these were then improvised.
“The actors were incredible and did a really brilliant job,” said Owain. “A lot of them were from Cardboard Citizens – they had experience of homelessness in one way or another and they were very, very talented actors, which was great.
“They managed to do things I would never have scripted.”
Although all the dialogue was improvised during filming, there was plenty of rehearsals beforehand for each actor to build on the situation and background of their characters. If that wasn’t ambitious enough, Owain threw some more ‘authenticity’ into the mix.
“There’s a scene where Jack, who is one of the main characters, has been on the streets for a while and hasn’t spoke to his mum. He goes to a phone booth and calls her.
“We had the actor, Nolan, go to a real phone booth, use real money and call the woman who was playing his mum, who was in London at the time. We had a sound recordist up in a studio in London recording her live while she was speaking through the phone to Jack – Nolan – who was recording on location in Bristol. Somehow it went really smoothly. It just worked.”
Sleeping Rough will premiere in autumn, and it will be screened at the Big Issue’s Big Sleep Out in London in November.
The film will also be touring schools towards the end of September, where it will be screened with an educational pack raising awareness around the issues that can lead to homelessness, spotting the warning signs and making people aware of the services that are available.
They are also working with Open Cinema, who run workshops and screenings to disadvantaged communities.
Pop over to the Sleeping Rough site to keep up-to-date with the film and screenings.