A conversation on a date while sitting in Dartmouth Park (London) led to Sam South writing, directing and starring in his film The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lighthouse Keeper, a tale about dreams, dreamers and happiness.
Sam studied Theatre Performance at Plymouth Uni, and The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lighthouse Keeper was largely shot in the East Devon coastal town of Beer. We wanted to find out more about this gentle, heart-warming, cheeseless film.
D&CFilm: In The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lighthouse Keeper you play George, who is really sweet and rather clueless, where did he spring from in your imagination?
Sam South: George is desperate to become a lighthouse keeper because he’s so afraid of growing up. It’s very ‘Peter Pan’ but that’s him; a big clueless kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing. I loved the idea of George. His positivity and how untouchable he is to anyone telling him this is a stupid idea.
He drives the film in the direction it goes because he’s not willing to give up on his dream, which is lovely until it’s not lovely anymore.
D&CFilm: It’s a gently observed, touching comedy, where everyone is somewhat of an oddball -where did the story come from?
Sam South: Firstly, thank you! I really wanted it to be an endearing and heart-warming story without the cheese of a lot of rom coms. I have a list of 3 (probably) impossible dreams I’d like to achieve and one of them is to live in a lighthouse.
A year and a half ago I was telling a girl about this list and we talked at great length about lighthouses. On the way home, I imagined the first scene. Sitting down and telling your parents you’re not going to go down the path they want and instead leaving to be a lighthouse keeper. I loved the lack of thought in this seemingly spur of the moment idea and the overbearing confidence of George. It’s silly. I like silly.
I got home and wrote for a couple of hours and the story grew from that first scene. Six months later we began shooting.
D&CFilm: The character Simon (Danny D’Anzieri) seems a classic foil for George, and there’s certainly a rapport -are there any plans for another outing with the two of them?
Sam South: Danny is one of the most naturally gifted comedy actors I’ve met. I knew from meeting him on a shoot years ago his timing was spot on and he added a lot to the role of Simon.
His dry tone was great for the role and perfectly counteracted George’s optimism. Simon will rub it in if things aren’t going George’s way but he does have an interest in George and welcomes his arrival as a form of entertainment.
I’m not sure if Simon and George will meet again but who knows. We both enjoy playing off each other and improvising and definitely have plans to make more films together.
D&CFilm: The film is set Beer, Devon and there are aerials and shots of the village and down the south coast including the Daymark near Dartmouth. And the final lighthouse was at Happisburgh, North Norfolk. How important (and how difficult) was it to find the right location?
Sam South: Beer (the village) is very close to my heart. I used to spend New Year’s Eve’s down in Beer when I was younger and knew what a beautiful little village it was. It was always going to be my first choice.
Devon is an incredibly beautiful county and I wanted to show off the beautiful British countryside.
Happisburgh lighthouse was perfect. It’s the lighthouse George dreams about. After looking at a lot of beautiful lighthouses this is the one George would have picked over all of them.
D&CFilm: There are some great images -where did you get your inspiration of the look of the film?
Sam South: I knew there would be moments in the film where we could really go all out to show off the locations and the great images you see are down to Adam Stocker, the DOP.
In the lighthouse montage, I had a rough plan in mind but knew Adam would find beautiful ways of filming and editing together the amazing shots we see.
We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from various stylish experimental shorts (Watchtowers of Turkey by Leonardo Dalessandri being still the best short film we’ve both ever seen) and I had a really strong vision on how I wanted the film to look.
D&CFilm: Does everybody need a dream?
Sam South: I’m going to try and not go all deep and meaningful here but I don’t think so, no. The message of this film is that you don’t need a dream to be happy. Sophie [Victoria Smith] in the film is a great example of this. It’s almost as if having a dream is a weight to bear and Sophie is free from this weight and is happy.
George confuses achieving a dream with being the key to his happiness. I think people can find happiness without needing a dream. George realises at the end that he can do anything he wants and doesn’t need a dream to dictate what he does next.
Dreams can be important to keep people driven and have something to focus on but I don’t think everyone needs one.
D&CFilm: And finally, what’s next for The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lighthouse Keeper and for you?
Sam South: The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lighthouse Keeper has already got into 3 film festivals and we’re hopeful for more success throughout this year.
I’m aiming to make 3 more short films this year and Adam and Sam, the other Mighty Colour filmmakers are hoping to shoot a very cool short in Scotland.
We are constantly writing and planning for the next few years to come. We love what we do and feel so lucky to be able to do it.
Our ultimate aim is to have made a feature by 2020. What that feature will be about we have no idea yet but we’re getting bigger and better every year and enjoying every moment.
D&CFilm: Thanks for your time, Sam. And good luck with the feature!