Cut From Cloth is a short film that takes personal experience and expands it for dramatic effect. In the process it tugs on teams of talent for something quite special. It’s directed by Tommy Gillard, and produced by Simeon Costello to ask how the story developed and how they managed to bag such a top team.
The story revolves around a funeral. Three estranged siblings gather round their father’s coffin to mourn and discuss their inheritance. So far, so macabre. But then they hear a knock from inside the casket.
D&CFilm: The idea for Cut From Cloth seems pretty dark. What is the story, and how did you come up with it?
Simeon Costello: It’s actually an oddly personal story to Tommy, the writer/director. Last year when he was writing the script he attended something like 6 or 7 funerals in the space of a year. Tommy is one of 5 siblings, the 3 oldest being about 15 years older than him.
So whilst being close to them as siblings, he is also quite detached from his elder siblings and was sort of able to observe them at a distance during times of mourning.
And because death is such an odd part of life, and effects people in different ways, the story spawned from our idea of how a family unit may react at a funeral if something totally extraordinary happened.
D&CFilm: You’ve been involved in all aspects of filmmaking – and now you’ve set up a production company – what sorts of story attract you, and how does Cut From Cloth fit into your body of work?
Simeon Costello: The sort of stories that attract me are ones with very human emotions and characters.
With Cut From Cloth, although the events that take place are out of the ordinary, the characters and how they react under the situation are all very human and I think the audience will be able to empathise with them.
Even though there’s a lot of comedy to be found we decided the film would be played quite straight, and not to laugh at the characters who have recently lost their father and are still in mourning. We had to be on their side, so that the audience would be on their side – which makes the events of the film all the more disturbing.
D&CFilm: You’ve got a great cast – tell us more about their roles and how you assembled them?
Simeon Costello: We were very lucky with our cast! The main role of William had actually been written with Emerson Pike in mind. Tommy and I had been to see Four of Swords ‘Frankenstein’ in which Emerson was playing the titular role and after seeing that performance knew we wanted to work with him.
A very early version of Cut From Cloth was stored in the back of Tommy’s mind so we started developing that, envisioning Emerson as the main character. We were worried about placing all of our eggs in one basket with Emerson, and so to try and convince him Tommy drew a picture of him on the script as the character in one of the film’s set pieces. Luckily Emerson liked it, as it was a bit of a risk! His exact words about the drawing were “flattering? No. Accurate? Yes”.
Katherine Drake who plays Olivia, William’s sister, came from putting a casting call out in local filmmaker’s groups and acting groups on Facebook.
I’d not worked with Katherine before, but had seen her in some short films. When we met her in the auditions, and then saw her improvise with Emerson during the call backs, we felt the two of them could genuinely have been siblings. We knew she was the perfect Olivia from the first minute of auditioning her.
We had worked with Alex Pearn before on our film Nowhere Place. Alex plays Edgar, the much younger brother of William and Olivia. We were actively trying to avoid working with actors we had already worked with, and so auditioned a fair few people for the role, but Alex kept playing in our minds. When we eventually asked him to do a tape, we confirmed our suspicions that he was the only person we wanted to play Edgar.
Grace was a difficult character to cast for. She’s an outsider to the family, married to William and expecting their first child. She’s had to help look after Edgar during Olivia’s absence and help her husband care for his father in his final moments.
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Our shortlist for Grace ended up being quite small, and during the auditions all the actors we saw were brilliant but just not right for the part. Melissa Dean, who we eventually cast as Grace, had sent us a self tape and it was a really convincing performance. We spoke to her on Skype and we all got on well and had similar ideas on what we wanted the character to be and were keen on developing Grace with Melissa.
But yeah, it was pretty nerve racking the day before Melissa was due on set as we’d still never met her properly and worried that we wouldn’t get on or would have very different ideas how we wanted Grace played. Those nerves instantly went when we met Melissa and she was the best Grace we could have found!
We also had a quick cameo from Charlie Coldfield, as the executor of the inheritance. We’d both worked with Charlie before and absolutely love having him on set, and so were delighted when he agreed to come down and play a small but valuable part.
D&CFilm: And how did you find your crew?
Simeon Costello: We’re very fortunate to be friends with a lot of talented people. Most people who worked on Cut From Cloth had worked with us before; many of whom since had gone on to launch their careers in TV and Film and were still kind enough to come and work for peanuts, despite having just worked on a show with Benedict Cumberbatch or coming straight of the new Peter Strickland film set.
Boris Hallvig, our cinematographer, has such a brilliant eye for detail and an eye for the shots, so Tommy was keen to work with him again after the short documentary they had made together. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things camera – we had a technical issue with the camera towards the end of the first day, and were at a loss with what to do. Boris knew that a cheap Chinese handycam had a similar problem in the 90s, and by remembering how that was fixed managed to solve our issue!
The film is visually stunning and we have Boris and his camera team to thank for that.
Finding a Production Designer was probably the most difficult role to fill. I probably must of contacted 30 or 40 people before we found Elinor. Tommy and I had compiled a list of films that we thought had great art direction and style and scouted the credits for all names in the art department and did a fair amount of Googling to get in contact with these people.
We eventually found Elinor Puttick, who had worked as the Art Director on a local film ‘Grendal Toots.’ She’d since moved to London and had been working in the art department on shows like Silent Witness but came down to Devon to meet with us. And hopefully once you see the film, you’ll agree with me, did a fantastic job on all the set design and props!
D&CFilm: Who did the score?
Simeon Costello: We had an original score composed by a brilliant musician called Henry Frampton, with help from another brilliant musician called John Robertson.
Boris knew Henry through playing table tennis, and Henry’s studio is only a 5 minute drive from where we shot the film. Tommy and Henry sat together in their studio at the bottom of the garden through the summer and scored the film using live instruments replaced by synthetic sounds, which meant they could really experiment and fine-tune to get the music exactly right. I think it’s fair to say it paid off!
D&CFilm: Cut From Cloth will get its premiere at Two Short Nights, how significant is that given that this is a film that really draws on Exeter talent? And how do you see the health of filmmaking in the city and the South West?
Simeon Costello: I’m thrilled that Cut From Cloth is getting it’s premiere at Two Short Nights. This will be the third year I’ve had a film showing. 2SN is such a lovely festival and definitely draws a good crowd.
Exeter definitely has a lot of creatives within it, so it’s been a pleasure to have worked with so many of them on Cut From Cloth.
Opportunities like the film commissions Exeter Phoenix offer, as well as the great industry events on at this year’s 2SN are brilliant and really help the development of local filmmakers.
D&CFilm: What have you got planned next for Cut From Cloth, and for you and your production company Spinning Path?
Simeon Costello: We’ve been submitting to a fair few film festivals so fingers crossed it will get selected and seen! We’re both really proud with this film so want as many people to see and enjoy it as possible.
This’ll be the first of many films produced by Spinning Path. We’ve got another film in the festival ‘Can of Man’ which you can see in the 48 hour film challenge screening straight after the Local Talent screening at Two Short Nights.
We’re very keen to work with some new writers and directors. We have a script written by Boris Hallvig in early developments and are looking for new people to collaborate with whilst also producing our own films.
Since finishing Cut From Cloth, we have shot another short Through the Wall, which is currently in post-production.
D&CFilm: What can you tell me about Through the Wall?
Simeon Costello: Through the Wall is a short drama shot on 16mm film. Sean and Mollie and trying to enjoy their dinner but tensions are heightened when they hear some shouting coming from the neighbouring house.
D&CFilm: Cheers Simeon!
Cut From Cloth is at the Local Talent screening at the Exeter Phoenix during the Two Short Nights fest.
(Tickets for the local talent screening have sold out but you can be added to a wait list if you call the box office 01392 667080).