Hopscotching through styles and genres, Dom Lee has jumped out of a short musical with a cast of plenty to Croak, a small dramatic piece focusing on the desperation of two people at the end of their tether.
Part lament, part mystery, it’s a two-hander that sees strangers reluctantly grow together as their situation pushes and pulls them through these moments of their destiny. Croak is a far cry from his previous film Between The Lines, a musical fantasy that uses a library as a jumping-off point to song, dance and imagination.
Honing and amplifying
Dom has a talent for honing and amplifying emotion, whether it’s the uplifting fun of Between The Lines, the low-key edge-of-apocalypse of Rocketshed, or the tragedy and resilient rebuilding of Fort Box.
Croak won an Exeter Phoenix commission and will be premiered at the Two Short Nights film festival in the city. It is the second film Dom won an Exeter Phoenix Commission for, the first being the short, sharp, Rocketshed. But Dom is a little tight-lipped about what to expect. “I think it could be a film where the less you know about it before watching the better,” he says.
The story revolves around the relationship between Maz, played by Elizabeth A Hill, a disgraced former TV presenter, and Alec Hopkin’s desperate stranger, Jos.
After an early working screening of Croak a group of filmmakers discussed the film with Dom, and asked about the departure in both style and approach, why the darker tone and why the title Croak?
“The title is a subtle hint about what the film is about,” says Dom.
And why the new approach?
“To try a different genre. I may find making musical comedies, or happier films is my preferred type of film to make. I wanted to experiment making films in a very different thing to what I’ve made before,” he says.
It’s not just tone. For Croak, Dom has jumped into a new way of working. He co-wrote the film remotely with Heather Ross, who is based in Edinburgh. It was an email back-and-forth that developed the script, the themes and the ideas of the screenplay.
“This was the first time I’d co-written something since Bliss (my final year Uni film). Between The Lines was me and Grace [the composer], but we never ‘wrote’ it together as such. Writing with someone else is interesting. It was enjoyable to bounce the ideas off someone rather than just staring at a flashing courser wondering why doesn’t this scene work,” laughs Dom.
One sense of continuity comes with cinematographer Billy Abbott, who worked with Dom on his first foray into the musical genre on the narrative film Counsellors.
For the post-production, Dom has called on film editor Jacob Saul, another departure from his usual set-up.
“It’s something I’ve been meaning to try for a while, rather than doing the editing myself,” he says. Dom has a knack of pulling people together to inspire and explore and end up at a new unexpected destination – whether that’s for filmmakers or for audiences.
Croak premieres at Two Short Nights at the Exeter Phoenix
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