Toby de Burgh picked up last year’s jury award at Exeter’s Two Short Nights festival for his film Distraction. He’s now making The Undertow with funding from South West Screen. He spoke to D&CFilm.
â€¢ Your first film Distraction had a nightmarish quality to it, and the one you’re working on now The Undertow has someone waking up on a rowing boad in the middle of a river. If you’re not inspired by dreams and subconscious, what are you inspired by?
Actually I am very often inspired by dreams. I don’t know what it says about me but I have a lot of very strange dreams. When I wrote The Undertow (five years ago) I was staying in a hotel next to the river in Bristol with work and one night I dreamt that I woke up floating on the river in a boat. With Distraction I was inspired by listening to my (very nice) neighbours having a rare argument one night. I wrote the script the next morning before breakfast. Actually though I think I get most of my ideas while in the trance â€“like state that is motorway driving. Somewhere between Bridgewater and Western-Super-Mare normally.
â€¢ Taking that inspiration theme, which filmmakers do you admire?
I always find that a difficult question to answer. I don’t think I really have a favourite or even favourites it sort of depends how I’m feeling at the time. I suppose at a pinch I’d have to say the two I come back to the most are Roman Polanski for the utter darkness and Terry Gilliam for the fun and pure escapism.
â€¢ Why did you get into film and what’s so special about filmmaking?
I got into making films only a few years ago when I was feeling a creative itch and was persuaded to do a night school (NCFE in Video Production at Exeter Phoenix). I had always enjoyed films but for some reason never thought about making one, it’s odd that just a few years later it’s so consuming my life!
I always enjoyed writing and art (drawing and sculpture) and with film I found a medium in which I could incorporate these and more -and exercise my passion for being a total control freak. Though I am getting better about the latter- especially when you realise that there’s so many talented people out there you can get to do stuff better than you could ever do it!
â€¢ The making of Distraction was fairly fraught. What has it taught you about filmmaking?
You learn a lot from these experiences, such as you can have as much great kit as you like but if you’re missing a 50p spacer you’re stuffed. Especially as the nearest place that sells one is miles away, and they’ve shut the road, and that anyhow it’s the wrong one. Luckily though one turned up in the skip behind the Devon Camera Centre. On the positive side Distraction taught me a lot about film lenses and lighting. It’s weird how using lens that you can’t zoom in on really makes you think about composition.
â€¢ For The Undertow you got a £10,000 bursary from the UK Film Council and Devon County Council. What did that involve?
I had to pitch the idea with some artwork and a script. The whole process was quite lengthy and involved responding to suggestions and developing the idea before the bursary was awarded. Even after the award there’s lots of development work to be undertaken, and a fair few stakeholders to satisfy. It’s an interesting process in that it really gives you an insight into how things work in the industry.
â€¢ What’s next after The Undertow?
I’ll probably have to go and spend some time in an institution somewhere for my own good and the good of the community. After that then I don’t know… Its funny how you have lots of other ideas when developing a main idea, so perhaps I’ll go and do some writing. There is also talk of some collaborative work that could be really interesting. Someone even mentioned 3D…
â€¢ Is there anything you’d like to add.
Just a big thank you to all who have responded to your article and the one in the paper. These things simply wouldn’t happen if kind people didn’t offer to give up their spare time.