Life is a novelty, says filmmaker Georgia Gregory-Morris, whose film Don’t Feed The Horses picked up an award at the ANINA festival. We caught up with Georgia and stepped into her joyously bizarre world.
Your films are bold and beautifully unique. What inspires them and are there any themes that run through them?
Firstly, thank you very much for the lovely words! Summarising the inspiration behind our work is tricky, but I would say it stems from a love of all things absurd. Life is a novelty, and with all its intricacies and nuances, there are budding ideas everywhere! Even the most mundane of details should never be overlooked. Reality is just waiting to be warped.
What attracts you to the surreal worlds your films inhabit?
Surrealism allows me to push boundaries. I see it as a celebration of the unconscious mind and the opportunity to ditch conventions. The mind is limitless and offbeat, so why aren’t films? I think you find the most original pieces when you experiment with structure. There’s not one way of doing anything, the world is abstract, not black or white.
On the JuJu Films Instagram, you talk a little about the creative process behind Off Key, what is the creative process and who are the creative minds you work with?
There’s a handful of crew members who I’ve worked with on multiple occasions not only for their knowledge of their craft, but equally their passion for pushing boundaries and experimenting, Filip Tkáč (sound designer of Don’t Feed the Horses and Off-Key) and Esme Wallace (director of photography in Off-Key and Gardener aka the hand in Outside) to name a couple.
I set up the production company, Get Bitter, with my sister Abby Gregory-Morris. She has an extraordinary brain and creates the most fascinating, engaging worlds. Her boundless creativity and ruthless ambition inspires me day by day to keep pursuing my own work. Outside (2021) and Don’t Feed the Horses (2022) are both collisions of Abby’s controlled and creative concepts and my highly visual brain and theatrical direction. It’s that shared drive that keeps us pushing forward and exploring the creative scene. Expect so much more, we’re only just getting started!
The main obstacle when creating Off-Key was to convince everyone on board to embrace the absurd! It was a really fun and enjoyable process, particularly in cast and crew brainstorming sessions. I found it helpful using a theme as the spine for all the audial and visual elements. Disharmony, was the word I chose to unite the acting, props and audio. An example of this would be the weighting of the set design, juxtaposing cluttered spaces with vast emptiness. I intended for everything to feel a little uncomfortable, a little eerie…a little off!
Are actors easy to convince to enter your worlds, and how do you find them?
In my short time creating, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with so many fantastic actors (Rosie Lea-Sparkle, Ben Delany, Anna Scutt, Gerry Gun, Pacey Jackson and Sam Meridew to name a few), and learned so much from each of them. I know a few of the actors found it quite cathartic, like a stress ball equivalent of a role where you get to let loose and reconnect with those chaotic instincts.
I’m going to use Ingólfur Arason (who played Hugh Bliss, the harmonium-wielding hooligan in Off-Key) as an example of one of the most terrific actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Ingó has a phenomenal commitment to the craft of acting, throughout Off-Key’s ten hour shooting days, he would remain in character for the entire duration. He also shares that passion for pushing boundaries and embracing the abstract, which is why he is always welcome in my films. Ingó will hopefully be playing a lead role in our upcoming production, Never Meet Your Heroes.
How do you manage to balance the humour, weirdness, bright, colourful darkness and fun in your films – is it through the writing, filming or editing?
I would say the writing sets the tone and introduces the balance. Once there is a clear narrative established, I find you can be as chaotic as you like! The writing is the stability, it prevents the piece from straying too far off-road (and by off-road I mean into the anti-reality depths of the imagination)!
Don’t Feed the Horses is the best example of this, it is essentially the story of someone looking for their missing welly and finding an absurd solution to their problem. This straightforward narrative is just dressed up in theatre and chaos!
In the surprising films you make, what has surprised you most, during the making or from the reactions to them?
If it’s okay, I’m going to use an example to answer this question.
My favourite reaction to any of my work would be Abby watching Don’t Feed the Horses for the first time. When writing Bootless’ avante-garde adventure, she imagined it executed in a completely different tone, something more sombre and dark. I went away and absurd-ified everything through the direction, from performance to props and colour schemes. Abby wasn’t on set for this production and therefore wasn’t aware of this (she just saw me stocking up on excessive amounts of blue and yellow things). When I showed her the rough cut she was extremely taken back, not expecting the bright and lively characterisation at all. Although primarily unsure, Abby grew to love seeing her screenplay through a blue and yellow lens!
What can you tell us about Never Meet Your Heroes?
Never Meet Your Heroes is a web-series consisting of ten three-minute episodes.
Superfan meets Superhero turns Supervillain.
I would describe it as a superhero-themed tragedy.
Characters drive this narrative! There’s far more focus on the protagonists’ development, unlike my previous work which is more heavily focused on the world building and concept. I really want to prove that I’m not a one trick Crunchling (context, Crunchling is the name of one of the ominous ponies from Don’t Feed the Horses). I’m so excited to direct my first web-series, I want to emphasise the performance and really allow the characters time to ruminate… and Blossom.
We really want to abolish limitations and just let this abstract world come to life, that’s why we will be self-producing it and posting all episodes on Youtube (under the account @GetBitter). Never Meet Your Heroes is scripted to a low budget because we are determined to make this story accessible to everyone, even without the funding!
If you like superheroes, mysterious powers and peanut allergies, don’t blink in 2024.
Thank you, Georgia!
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