Wing and Fussell -the filmmaking double act from Devon and Cornwall who have their two latest films at two film festivals in the next two weeks (do you see where we’re going with this?) -continue their conversation with D+CFilm in a series of features with the them.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Clay: For me, inspiration is in the detail of life. It’s the boring everyday things that we do and say, the nuances of our behaviour that I get the most from. I love the contradictions and complexities of people. I refuse to take life seriously, which I think is why I feel the strongest connection with comedy.
Ash: As you get older your writing gets stronger, and that’s down to life experience. I watch a lot of movies and there are details that inspire me, but it’s also the mundane moments in life that cause a chain reaction of ideas. It can come from anywhere.
What’s the biggest expense?
Clay: It tends to be the logistical things, unfortunately. Food and expenses for cast and crew tend to feature very highly on a film’s accounts. While these things don’t get directly on screen, I think it’s very important to ensure people are well fed and not out of pocket if they are working for free. It’s the least you can do and I think a happy cast and crew will work harder for you and it creates trust, which is invaluable.
Ash: Food, accommodation and travel. These three things are the biggest, but also essential. It keeps the cast and crew happy and provides them with a solid base for a good performance, in front or behind the camera. Everyone on the set should be treated with respect, no matter what role they’re doing. Everyone’s goal is the same, to tell a great story.
How easy is it to put together cast and crew?
Clay: We haven’t had any major problems. We made a decision early on that we wanted to raise the game with each film so have progressively increased our production values and got bigger and bigger crews. On Robbing Peter we decided what crew we needed and managed to fill all the roles. The vast majority of crew for Robbing Peter were locals, which was great.
Ash: Post everywhere! Ask for demo/show reels. Sit down and watch through everything and read through their experience. You make the best judgement call you can and pull together the team that would most suit that story.
What plans do you have for the future?
Clay: We are focusing now on making a feature. I think we’ve done enough shorts and learnt a great deal from it, but we really want to take it to the next level and do something on a much bigger scale.
Ash: Features! We’re currently adapting a US screenplay for the European market and then we’re working on our first feature. There’s only so much story development you can do with a short film, we want to flesh our characters out and go further with our ideas. That needs to be a feature.
You’ve mention that you want to promote the film industry in the South West. What measures do you think you’ll have to put in place to make sure that happens?
Clay: It’s all about collaboration and discovering who is out there. We know from the cast and crew calls we have put out for out shorts that there is a wealth of talent around. We are certain that our first feature will be based and shot in the South West and we intend to source as much of the cast and crew from the area as possible. In the longer term, it would be great to create a production studio down here so that there were more technical resources available to encourage filmmakers down here to create.
Ash: We want to work with Devon and Cornwall-based cast and crew where possible. I also think there is a lack of facilities in the area, everything is spread out, there seems to be a bit of snobbery about it. That would be something we are interested in changing should we be in the position to do so. It would be great to have somewhere that oversees every part of production all under one roof, one big studio that accommodates and facilitates people’s interest in filmmaking, form any background. This generates interest on the film front, work front and tourist front.
Winning finance is always hard, what headway have you made in finding big finance and how have you funded your films so far?
Clay: Funding is a nightmare to be honest. The kind of films we tend to write don’t tend to go down too well with funding bodies as they seem to be more interested in films that are either more arthouse or are political. So far we have self financed our films. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about financing shorts, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth worrying about. If you want to make a film, just write something that’s achievable with the money you can get. You can’t spend your life pandering to other people’s artistic vision, you have to just follow your own. If people want to give you money for it that’s great, if they don’t, then just make the film anyway.
Ash: I remember the feedback I received from a regional film council on A Hard Day’s Knight, they said, and I quote: ‘It would have been better if the main character rescued a princess from a castle at the end.’
I’m not unrealistic and I respect any investor or studio who puts money your way. But hearing several comments like that made me realise the only way to get any benefit would be to self-finance while we create our style and storytelling. We were making short films and some funders want to change the type of films you make for their own interests. Ours ideas are more mainstream and character driven, they’re dramas. At this time we want to entertain people with our ideas, not change the world.
Describe a day on set/in post production?
Clay: A day on set during Robbing Peter was very very long. Get up around 6am after a terrible night’s sleep, make sure people will have things to eat for breakfast. Get people prepared for the shoot. Once everyone is fed and watered get down to the first shot of the day -which is always the longest regardless of how simple of it is. Then it’s about relaxing into the shoot keeping focus and remembering the 10,000 things you have to get right to keep the pace/continuity/energy of the film as you need it.
Ash: On the first day of the shoot it’s usually a slow start, I find that a very common thing, especially with the first take. After that everything speeds up and the cast and crew find their rhythm. Once people become comfortable and get to know each other, that’s when you become most efficient.
We (myself and Clay) usually start by going through the shot list and script while the actors are eating breakfast, we’ll then block the scene together before going through it with the DoP. When breakfast is finished the actors are then put into make-up. While the crew setup the scene we usually rehearse with the actors. As soon as the crew is ready we get everyone to their positions.
This is then repeated throughout the day.
Do you have any hommages in your films? Shots or scenes that are inspired by other movies?
There’s a few -John Carpenter, Ridley Scott and of course a wee bit of the Coen Brothers. We’ll leave it to the viewers to find out which films in which scenes!
What would be your dream project?
Clay/Ash: A multi-million pound surreal dark comedy, basically Fargo set in Cornwall.
â€¢ Stay tuned to D+CFilm for more from the filmmaking pair along with a week-full of top filmmaking tips from Ashley Wing and Clayton Fussell.
(image: Clayton Fussell and Ashley Wing)
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