With a feature film preparing to land, the indie production company King-Collins take difficult subjects head on. We chatted to director Luke Abbott and producer Jason Collins about what drives their filmmaking
D&CFilm: What can you tell us about your feature From The Ground?
Jason Collins: From The Ground tackles head on the devastating effect that losing a child to an unsolved murder has on the parents. The film raises awareness on many issues including depression, nurture-induced social anxiety and ultimately in our film, reoccurring bereavement. We felt it was important to weave fact-based generic research into the plot and with that said much time was spent during the film’s pre-production researching with the serious crime squad. Although not based on any one particular case, From The Ground follows a generic documented framework of family break down. We understand that our film is potentially quite a tough watch, but the balance to this is what we hope to be a thought-provoking awareness, of socially taboo and awkward subject matter.
D&CFilm: The King-Collins web-mini series Kitten is a fast-moving thriller – where did the idea come form, how long did it take to shoot and what’s the appeal of a web mini-series?
Luke Abbott: After getting trapped in From the Ground, which was a very long-term project, I was attracted to going back to a small set-up – it was a four-day shoot, split over a month – and working with a new team. The storyline is very simple, but, inspired by Vince Gillan’s story-telling style from Breaking Bad. I wanted to play around with the chronology of the script to come up with a thriller that kept you guessing. That’s why web series are so dear to me; I love the idea of adding cliff-hangers and checking in with my audience in between episodes – seeing where they think it is going to go and how their opinions of each character changes throughout the course of the story, which you rarely get to do with a feature film. It was also a new experience to put Silver Levy-So in charge of the cinematography and try my hand at acting in front of the camera on my own project.
D&CFilm: What attracts you to a story?
Jason Collins: In my opinion the most attractive part of the story is the desire for us as filmmakers to be brave and raise awareness on a subject matter that is hard to approach. We appreciate that this cannot be classed as an entertaining film in the wider sense, however, we hope that it will be received in the spirit in which we approached it’s production, that of accepting the reality of how people’s lives are torn apart by the negative actions of others.
D&CFilm: What are the barriers to your filmmaking and how do you overcome them?
Luke Abbott: Someone said to me that Hollywood has the money, but the indie film world has the time. I half agree with that – it is definitely refreshing to work without the constraints of a corporate producer setting deadlines, but I also believe free reign with time is the death of a lot of projects – including my own. At the moment, I am trying to approach each script as the audience member rather than the director. Would I pay for this film? Am I getting bored with the exposition right now? At the same time, I always direct every scene as I write them, so I know the project will ultimately be cost-effective. It’s a challenge and I cannot say I have overcome those barriers just yet, but I still have a few good swings in me.
D&CFilm: How do you find your cast and crew or is there a core number of people you go back to?
Luke Abbott: At King-Collins, we love a team atmosphere. Repeat cast and crew (Jemma Carlin-Wells, Mike Alsford), have come from people that create a fun atmosphere on set. We can’t afford equity wages and filming is a drawn-out process. We need people that make the experience fun. At the same time, I love to work with new people – when you cast a fresh actor and it goes well, it brings such a vibrance to a project.
D&CFilm: King-Collins makes social awareness films – Shadow or Skin Deep, for example. What has led you down that route and what do you think filmmakers can do to raise issues? That leads into a question we tend to ask, what do you think the role of the filmmaker / artist is in society?
Jason Collins: When a film is made it does, in some lesser or larger way, leave its mark on the audience and perhaps even a small part of society.
That is a responsibility that the filmmaker must take incredibly seriously especially when the film encompasses issues that socially can be negative triggers for people within its audience. We are all touched in some degree by the negativity of events that, as a society we have to live alongside year upon year. I do believe that if one has the ability to raise awareness and provoke some mental stimulation, that may just lead towards even the smallest increased understanding, it is that sense of social duty that should drive us as film makers forward.
D&CFilm: We’ve talked a bit about subject matter, but are there any themes stylistically, visually or ‘narratively’ that you come back to, and where do you look for inspiration?
Luke Abbott: Again, right now, I am thinking about what audiences want to see. But at the same time, From the Ground has dealt with such heavy issues, me and Jason aren’t ready to give that up. I like bringing intelligence and social issues to genre films.
D&CFilm: When you’re not making films, what do you get up to?
Luke Abbott: I work as a teaching assistant in Torquay. Childcare is as big a part of my life as filmmaking and I like to think it keeps me grounded as a film practitioner.
I am deeply creative person and when combined with a sense of being able to contribute some positive energy back into society I am at my happiest.
Jason Collins: During my spare time I am devoting as much time to my family as possible, we enjoy trips away and time spent exploring local South West landscape. My career as an actor has, over more recent years, led me in Psychiatric role play which I supply to the leading hospitals throughout the South West counties. This allows me to use my acting passion to some teaching use and offer safe environments for medical students to learn within.
D&CFilm: And where can we keep up-to-date with your developments?
Luke Abbott: Our short films, social awareness ads and web series can be found to watch, for free, on our Youtube channel – simply search for King-Collins and you’ll find us. Our features, like From The Ground will hopefully be available online in the very near future. You can follow me on Instagram @lukekingabbott to get the news as soon as it drops.
D&CFilm: Thanks for your time, Jason and Luke!
top image: Jason directing Joe Evans on the set of From the Ground. Courtesy of Mike Alsford