Making a massive, mini musical is sure to test your filmmaking chops. Director Dom Lee is sharing his experience of making Between The Lines with filmmakers in Exeter, and the film is available to watch online. He told us what to expect
You’ll be talking about your overview about creating Between The Lines in Exeter. Without giving too much away, what’s your headline experience?
That making a musical is simultaneously both so much fun and incredibly difficult/stressful! It’s definitely the most complex project I’ve been part of but have absolutely no regrets. I got to work with an incredible group of people, with close friendships and collaborative partnerships being formed. Having gone on to work with some on other projects we lovingly joke ‘We’re now stuck with each other’.
How has making Between The Lines impacted your filmmaking?
I think it’s helped me decide the kind of films I enjoy making the most.
One aspect that’s really struck us about the whole production was how many people were involved. How collaborative was the process, was it more than you expected and how do you keep so many people engaged?
One of the great joys of filmmaking is working with others and getting their input. Both cast and crew chipped in with ideas throughout and it’s something I always try and encourage. A good idea is a good idea, it doesn’t matter where it comes from! I think if everyone feels a sense of ownership over what we are making then keeping people engaged should happen naturally. At the moment me and composer Grace Hancock decided to make the film, it was just us involved. By the end that number was around seventy.
The key collaboration was between me and Grace, who is an absolute music and lyrical genius. We had multiple chats and probably exchanged thousands of messages throughout. She mocked up demos for each song and from those we only really adjusted a couple of lyrics or changed some of the instrumental timings to allow for certain story beats to take place.
The other core members of the team were Producer Jeff Sleeman, who was brilliant at constructing everything from prop swords to sandwiches, Minna Gibbs-Nicholls who designed and made some truly wondrous costumes and choreographer Rebecca Melvin Phillips who devised some very creative moves for our cast. Our camera team was Adam Sweetman, Michael Gimenez and Timmy Hodgson who helped capture many great moments. All were part of the massive jigsaw puzzle that was Between the Lines and we would have struggled to make it without any one of them.
You were pretty innovative about sharing Between The Lines. How important is it to think of new ways of getting your film out there?
With so many films being made and released it’s vital – it’s so easy to miss things when you’re battling against social media algorithms. Last year we did some screenings of the film at Libraries around Devon which was a relevant and fun way to get the film seen by people who probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. We had 200 people come along in total and it was great seeing the response it gets with an audience.
We’re hoping to be doing a projection of the film in Princesshay as well in the week the film is released online. There’s a lyric in the film ‘You never know where it might lead’ which feels apt for trying this approuch. That and it’s nice to try different approaches and see what works.
Between The Lines is a wide-smile inducing chunk of fun – how much fun was it to make and what stood out for you?
It was a lot of fun to make! It’s an unashamedly positive film (someone described it as so sugary sweet you could get diabetes from watching it) so it was important that we had that kind of vibe during filming. Hopefully it comes across! We had a brilliant meet up in Rougemont Gardens before filming with many of the cast and crew and you could tell from that everyone was going to get on.
My favourite day would have to be filming our ‘Alice in Wonderland’ section which we did in some private woods on the edge of Dartmoor. We’d spent a lot of time filming in our library location (a school in Newton Abbot) until that point so it was a nice change to be outside. Costume/production designer extraordinaire Minna did the most incredible job making a Mad Hatters tea party and there was some amusing banter between cast/crew which made it a lot of fun.
Short musicals are a rarity, why is that?
I think because they are such a challenge and outside many filmmakers comfort zones (including mine). Also because the word ‘Musical’ is some peoples worst nightmare…
What’s next, and do you have any more musicals – short or feature – planned?
I directed a micro short film This Life of Ours back in April which is somewhere between a musical and a music video. That was made over a single night and filmed in Newton Abbot, my new favourite place for filmmaking it would seem. It’s very different from Between the Lines and the inspiration behind the story is more personal. It doesn’t have a release date yet but will be online in the next few months.
As for further musicals there’s different options we are considering. There’s also a few non-musical ideas I have for feature films so I’m in the early stages of the development process for those.
Between The Lines is online from 12 September
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