A new film from Oddbodies is tantalising prospect. Even more so when you hear that Mr Lamb, of Finding Mr Lamb, is ‘almost an embodiment of the moor itself’. They told us more about the darkly comic fairytale
Looks like you picked some fab days to film Finding Mr Lamb. What can you tell us about the film and the shoot?
We’ve been planning this film for a couple of years now.
The story was written for Paul by our good friend Sebastian Baczkiewicz an award-winning writer who’s become very well known for Radio 4 drama (Pilgrim, Prettiest Little Girl In Texas, Wunderkind, Count of Monte Christo etc) – during lockdown he wrote a number monolgues for various actor friends to do very simply to camera etc.
Mr Lamb was so full of striking imagery that Paul decided to adapt it into a short film instead. It’s a rather beautiful, darkly comic Faustian fairy tale really. A Dartmoor Beauty and the Beast or Rumplestiltskin with the character of Mr Lamb as almost an embodiment of the moor itself.
It was going to be shot in the early Spring last year, but after many delays we finally got going this Summer, not realising it was going to be one of the wettest Augusts ever!!
We were obsessively looking at the weather forecast in the days leading up to the shoot. With a lot of moor shots to do we were completely at the mercy of the weather. We lugged a pop-up tent and huge golf umbrella wherever we went to keep all the kit safe just in case it rained (which it did, quite a bit!) There was a lot of kit as some of the film was being shot on 16mm but we needed to cover it in digital too so had to take both cameras etc.
As always, with such a tiny budget, we had a tiny crew. Apart from our brilliant DoP Matt (who not only shot the whole thing but is now editing it too) the ‘crew’ were mainly the cast. And the cast were all our kids and their girlfriends!
Our daughter Ruby plays Cassie and also put together the costumes and did a lot of prop making for the set dressing with me.
Our son Otis plays Mr Lamb in the film and is playing cello and piano on the soundtrack. Our son Joe plays one of the servants and has written the closing track for the film as well as contributing to the overall soundtrack. It definitely turned into a family affair!!
Finding Mr Lamb has it own model house, and Oddbodies films have their own look and feel – how do you create that style, what can we expect in Finding Mr Lamb and what’s your inspiration?
Yes, we love a model house!
I think the Oddbodies’ aesthetic is inevitably very influenced by our theatre roots. Working with little or no budget forces you to be inventive and use what you already have around you which is a very theatrical way of approaching storytelling.
In this case, as with our films Penny For Them and Mrs Lustleigh’s Fancies, we have the moor to work with as it’s on our doorstep. We’re also very lucky that we have a couple of old outbuildings that give us the space to create our own sets as we did with Lustleigh’s and the Nature of Angrove and our feature length Diary of a Madman where we built whole rooms with movable walls
For Mr Lamb we were able to shoot a feast scene in a large black box of a room with candlelight etc
I think one of the key things about the way we make our films and how they end up with a very specific look is that we are quite obsessed with detail and always go the extra mile to try and make sure things look how we’ve imagined them. Also, we never throw anything away! Our place is like one big props house.
How would you describe your style and where does Finding Mr Lamb fit in your catalogue of films?
As I said earlier our style is pretty theatrical. We are definitely influenced by films that have that lush and otherworldly quality and don’t shy away from using things like models and back projection to tell the story. Preparing for this film, Paul was watching Felini’s Satyricon (which inspired the feast scene) and 8 and a Half which has inspired the way he’s approaching the sound. Its all foleyed in which creates a very atmospheric, slightly unsettling quality. Creating the music and sound is a really important part of the process for Paul. It did really help with the shoot that we didn’t have to worry about recording sync sound – it can be one of the most difficult aspects of making a film in our experience.
In terms of how Mr Lamb is going to fit in with our other films, I think it is has a lot of our trademark theatricality and is darkly comic which is what we love.
The script is by Sebastian Baczkiewicz. How did you get together and what attracted you to the story?
Sebastian is a very old friend of ours. We’ve known him for a hundred years, in fact both of us have performed in plays of his back in the mists of time. During lockdown he was looking for ways to make stuff with friends under the weird restrictions we all found ourselves under. He wrote a number of short monologues for various actor friends and this one was for Paul. He’s been to stay with us here on Dartmoor many times so knows the moor pretty well.
The story is very visual so Paul decided to adapt it into a short film rather than do it as a talking head style monologue. It’s a curious little story and instantly appealed to our darkly comic sensibility. We love a fairytale, and this is a bit like a short Dartmoor version of Beauty and the Beast, I think.
Who are your cast and crew for Finding Mr Lamb?
See above!! Cast (doubled as crew) are our kids and their girlfriends.
Most importantly, I must mention how the whole project was finally chivvied into being by our wonderful friend Gary Barber because if it wasn’t for him we’d probably still be talking about it rather than being in post production.
Gary was a filmmaker and founder of the Brighton Film School. We’d been talking to him about the piece, and all the frustrations we’d been having with timing and availability etc (we’d originally been trying to shoot it with our friend the incredible DoP Mary Farbrother but time ran out on us and she got really busy with other projects). Gary got fed up with all the procrastination and decided to take matters into his own hands. He asked another old friend, the brilliant Matt Page to come and work with us on it. He then put up a budget to cover expenses and set us on the way. Matt is Brighton-based and doesn’t drive so he had to come down to Dartmoor by train for the initial rekkie. He and Paul had loads of conversations back and forth about the look of it and how we were going to achieve it. etc
It was quite difficult for Matt to get into our world at first as he is much more of a structured filmmaker whose work he would describe as natural realism. I think he was a bit bemused by Paul’s more freewheeling approach!
He really embraced it when it came to the actual shoot though and the resulting footage is just stunning. Also, as a sweet full circle, Mary’s daughter Agatha, who’s been studying film at Exeter College, came to work as Matt’s camera assistant for the shoot, which was really lovely.
Gary was very ill with prostate cancer in the last weeks building up to the shoot. He was producing a number of projects from his hospital bed as his creative drive was irrepressible.
Unbearably for us Gary died just a few days before we started filming. It was bitter sweet setting out on the first day without being able to send him updates. I’m fairly sure he would have been pleased with how it’s all turning out. Hopefully, we’ll be premiering the film at Cine City in Brighton later in the year in his honour.
Creatively, Oddbodies are multi-facetted, how do you decide what would make a good film, rather than any of your other disciplines? And what are the extra challenges or joys of making films?
We absolutely love making films. If it wasn’t for the small issue of needing a budget I think we’d be making them all the time!
To be honest, we have a whole heap of stories and ‘scripts in progress’ that we’d love to turn into films but it’s the logistics that dictate what we make in the end.
Mr Lamb seemed like a great idea for a little short and we felt confident we could make something beautiful in a fairly simple way.
The whole process of filmmaking is a joyful one for us because unlike with most of the theatre we make and the visual art that I do, we get to work collaboratively with a great big bunch of other people. All the films we’ve made have been shot here at our base on Dartmoor so we often end up with a big group of people living and eating together for the duration of the shoot. With Mr Lamb there were eleven people to be fed three times a day for five days which was quite something.
Everyone just got stuck in and it worked amazingly well – it really is the very best kind of exhausting.
So far, what’s surprised you about making Finding Mr Lamb?
It’s been a few years since our last film so we’d forgotten how long things can take. Just getting a few seconds long shot of that model house took quite a few hours to set up! We thought that not having sync sound would make the process of putting it all together a lot easier but in all honesty I’m not sure that’s the case.
Getting the voiceover right is crucial – Paul’s recorded it a fair number of times to try and get it just so. It’s not something you can stop and start, it needs to be done in a continuous take which is quite gruelling for an actor! Putting the foley and music together is also really time consuming, not to mention the editing! Matt is taking on this task. He’s done quite a few rough cuts already and it’s looking wonderful. He’s still waiting for the 16mm to come back from the developers which will be a whole other layer to it. It’s all so time consuming but hopefully very rewarding.
When can we get to see Finding Mr Lamb, and where can we catch your back catalogue?
Well we’re hoping to have the film ready to enter into Two Short Nights at the Phoenix and the Cornwall Film Festival, both of which have screened our previous films over the years. We’ll let you know as soon as we have any news.
In the meantime, if people would like to watch any of our previous films they’re all up on our Oddbodies Vimeo page, so be sure to take a look!
Thank you! Looking forward to it!
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