Wale Atoyegbe likes making films about losers. And his short film Desperate Lies explores an incident in one loser’s life. We caught up with Wale to uncover the odd inspiration for the film, how the idea developed and the importance of having a clued up producer[Read more…] about ‘Technology is transforming human emotions into a con’ | Desperate Lies director Wale Atoyegbe
The Janner is filmmaker Zaki Syed’s first short. We featured the flick on D&CFilm, and we wanted to get under the skin of what it’s like to start the filmmaking journey. Here are some of the experiences of the actors and crew who took part in the making of The Janner.
Beard Envy, a new film from John Tomkins, has all that you would want from a short: cross-creative-fertilisation; a community of filmmakers interacting with the community at large; plus a strong sense of classic English eccentricity. And it’s fast-moving, surreal and funny.
The Janner is Zaki Syed’s first film. A tough thriller about a student trying to provide. We caught up with him to ask about the experience…
After watching The Cove 2 and catching up the more of his work, we dropped North Devon filmmaker Ryan Martin a line to find out about shooting and screening a film in a day, the characters in the RAMUK69 universe and classic movies in Barnstaple.
Alexis Kirke‘s new film A Boat takes on the task of recreating the experience of Lewy bodies type of dementia. It’s a pretty big ask, but he seems to have managed it. We popped him a few questions about how he got involved with representing dementia on screen and the top notch team he worked with.
A conversation on a date while sitting in Dartmouth Park (London) led to Sam South writing, directing and starring in his film The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lighthouse Keeper, a tale about dreams, dreamers and happiness.
Sam studied Theatre Performance at Plymouth Uni, and The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Lighthouse Keeper was largely shot in the East Devon coastal town of Beer. We wanted to find out more about this gentle, heart-warming, cheeseless film.
It’s about the power of film and the responsibility of filmmakers. Something that The Silent writer and director Karen Turner says during our interview is echoed not long after by Ridley Scott in his life-long BAFTA achievement award acceptance speech.
A young boxer fighting depression in the run-up to his first fight is Owain Astles’ Exeter Phoenix bursary winning short The Hardest Fight.
Turn an old joke on its head and you’re apt to start encroaching on a bizarre world of extremes. It’s an approach to life that can inspire a closer look at the edges of the world.
TRANSMISSION bubbles. The short film twists you around and gets in your belly as well as your head.
“It’s a privilege to do something you love, and not many people get to do that.” It’s the first line of Jake Cauty’s ice hockey documentary, Panthers, but you also get the idea that it’s something that he feels about filmmaking too.
To celebrate the DVD release of the enjoyably twisted I Am Not A Serial Killer – starring Christopher Lloyd and Max Records – Tom Leins caught up with the film’s Devon-based filmmakers: director Billy O’Brien and master puppeteer William Todd-Jones.
* Firstly, I believe that you both live in Chagford -how did you first cross paths, and how did this particular collaboration come about?
TODD: Billy called me in 1998 for a short film called ‘The Tale Of The Rat That Wrote’, he was writing and directing. He was looking for puppetry advice. It was a crazily ambitious project: Victorian London, puppet rats, big scale and fictional world. It’s a good example of not being afraid to pick up the phone to the right people. The finished film went on to win festivals all over the world, as well as being BAFTA nominated, so a good call!
BILLY: That was a freezing cold shoot in December ’98 at Chatham Docks in Kent so naturally I thought of Todd when we decided to make I Am Not A Serial Killer in the freezing cold of Minnesota in winter! Over the years we’ve worked on several projects together, we now live down the street from each other and so pop in to talk about the latest mad ideas!
* How has being based in Devon affected your respective careers -either positively or negatively?
TODD: Growing up in Wales, I found landscape and the secrets it has to tell inspirational and here on Dartmoor, it’s clear that each tor might have a tale poetic and epic in scale, with nature as an ever present, hugely powerful character. In the projects I get involved with, often it’s only the location that’s changed -it’s as much about people interacting with the environment, as it is about their personal stories they just happen to be set in Hogwarts, Narnia, Fantasia, or Outer Space.
BILLY: Coming from a farm in Cork I am well used to the rain here! And after ten years and my kids growing up here I love the wildness of Dartmoor and the community in Chagford. There is a great group of writers and artists living here, inspired I guess by the moor -Alan Lee, Brian and Wendy Froud and David Wyatt to shamelessly name drop a few amazing artists.
* I Am Not A Serial Killer is pure Americana. Have you considered working on a project closer to home, or have the number of lacklustre Dartmoor horror movies put you off that kind of endeavour?
BILLY: That’s funny, as I’m in the middle of writing a pretty crazy folk horror musical set on Dartmoor. I follow story -I Am Not A Serial Killer was adapted from a book of the same name and set in the Mid-West. It was great to go over there and help make it come to life. Similarly ever since I moved to Dartmoor I’ve wanted to shoot something here but as you point out, it’s pretty unforgiving on films. Somehow Dartmoor shows up the weakness in films shot here. I suppose what I mean is, it’s hard to capture the magic and your story better be bloody good. This crazy one I’m working on does it for me.
TODD: As with Billy, it is characters and story that are key for me. When the right story emerges from the moor mists, I’ll be there.
* Which films -if any -were an influence on the look and feel of I Am Not A Serial Killer?
BILLY: Well we spent six years getting this off the ground and over that time I scouted a lot of the Mid-West on various trips. In our van myself the producer and cameraman all old friends for whom this was a passion project, we must have discussed dozens of films driving around. Ones that stand out were Rivers Edge, Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Let The Right One In, and anything from the 1970s really.
* What were the biggest challenges in getting the film made?
TODD: The appalling cold that made the black goo freeze onto Christopher Lloyd’s glove-less hands, meaning that I had to chip his fingers out before we could go for another take.
BILLY: I didn’t mind the cold because at long last we were making the film – all those days and nights waiting for finance to click, that was terrible. And hanging on there, hoping the money came, none of us giving up -including Todd -that was the biggest challenge. Being on location in this beautiful place, the Iron Ranges, about a hundred miles from the Canadian border in the middle of the continent and in blinding white snow with the temperatures about minus 20C, well that was fun. You don’t get to experience that every day of the week. It is what we do this business for.
* Conversely, what were the high-points?
TODD: Becoming a fully endorsed member of The Wolf Club. (Maybe not.)
BILLY: That. is not even funny! Put it this way Rural Minnesota in the depths of winter has some scary clubs you do not want to get involved with. I think we all ran away fast!
TODD: Wheels of cheese.
BILLY: Oh yeah, I forgot them. On Sundays, nowhere was open except one Saloon where we’d play pool and watch the local drunk fights kick off. If peckish there was always the frozen pizza selection. Including the infamous Wheel of Cheese.
TODD: Being able to point a camera in any direction in Virginia Minnesota and have it be perfect. And when as Chris stand-in, I was driving Crowley’s Cadillac for scenes for which Mr Lloyd didn’t need to be visible, I had the local police wave me through stop lights when its brakes failed.
BILLY: The Caddy was like a large boat, swaying gently over the snow, and that first morning, when you pressed the brakes and it continued to sway gently straight through the red light
* Perhaps unfairly -I hadn’t realised how active Christopher Lloyd was these days. How did he come to be involved with the film?
BILLY: He loved the script, said he hadn’t been offered such an interesting role as Mr. Crowley before. Lovely man. Threw himself into it, never complained about the freezing conditions once.
TODD: I’d worked with Chris on Who Framed Roger Rabbit years ago and knew of his ability to create characters that were larger than life. We knew that for Crowley, Chris would need be much closer to himself than his usually asked for Back to the Future, Doc Brown-type performance. Billy kept pushing for the real Chris and I worked with him to keep the moments where the monster manifests as similarly real.
BILLY: Yes that’s right, at the London Film Festival in October Chris on stage reminded me of this! I’d forgotten I kept telling him to ‘Drain it out!’. In fairness to Chris, by day two of the shoot he’d completely clicked the realism we were after and loved that we didn’t just want an echo of his earlier famous performances.
* I was very impressed with Max Records in the film -he seems like he has a bright future ahead of him. It is a pretty intense role for a young actor -how difficult was it to cast?
BILLY: Well we met Max when he was 13 and gave him the role then, even though he was too young. He’s incredible and when we met him it was immediately obvious why Spike Jonze had plucked him from nowhere to play Max in Where The Wild Things Are.
TODD: To walk the line of a diagnosed sociopath, who also has normal levels of teenage angst, whilst dealing with the corpses coming through your single mum’s mortuary, plus being conflicted about the attention you’re having from girls, and withstanding the desire to react to the bullies could easily have gone into cliche. Instead Max found the centre of John Wayne Cleaver and held onto it even when (as has to happen) we shot out of order. This is why he was rightly nominated in the Best Actor category at this year’s British Independent Film Awards. Max is a also a fan of Dartmoor, having stayed here a couple of times. The outdoors is a place where he can leave behind the characters he so deftly plays and explore the Wild Things in nature. He also rather likes the ale to be had in the local hostelry.
* What projects are you working on next? Are further collaborations on the cards?
BILLY: Yes, we’re chatting all the time about quirky, odd ideas. Always great to brainstorm with Todd over a beer.
TODD: I think there’s something in the beer!
* Finally, what advice would you give to other filmmakers based in the Westcountry?
BILLY: I think really there are few excuses today, you can shoot, record sound and edit to a professional level very cheaply. So the key is as ever, story. After that directing is two simple questions: where do I put the camera? And what do I say to the actors? That’s your job. Just get out there and shoot. As Beckett said ‘Try. Fail. Try again. Fail better.’ You learn every time. Years ago, I guess you’d have had to go to London from Devon/Cornwall. I ended up there from Cork. But today you have it all at your fingertips via the internet. If you’re a more experienced shooter then I would put in a plea to try shooting some film. It’s special, and can make your film special. Digital is here to stay but it’s worth experimenting with 16mm and 35mm, before it’s all gone. Labs like iDailies near London will be pleased to help, I’m sure. Personally I love it.
TODD: The boundaries are only the ones you build.
The creature shots we needed for the conclusion of I Am Not A Serial Killer required a scale version of the mortuary set, so we built it in Billy’s garage. I’ve built creatures and puppets that have been performed across the world, before millions of people, from materials supplied by the local hardware stores.
Put down the glass and get on with it.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is out now on DVD via Bulldog Film Distribution.
Director George Griffiths has ‘become infatuated with the creative process of documentary film making’. We got in touch and asked why, and to find out more about his Exeter Phoenix RAW Film Commission documentary, The Visions in the Dark, about people with Charles Bonnet Syndrome.
An inquisitive eye and the sense of a good story are ideal attributes for a filmmaker, and Luke Hagan displayed them both as he unearthed (which sounds so much nicer than ‘stumbled on’) the story of one of the world’s top designers who lives and works in Exeter.
For multifaceted filmmaker Dom Lee, 2016 has been an exhausting, epic and fantastical journey. Not only did he create a fort entirely out of cardboard boxes, but he also fashioned a spaceship out of a garden shed.
Owain Astles first took to the streets of Bristol to film interviews with homeless people in an attempt to counter the negativity he’d come across, but he had no idea of the reaction he’d get, or what his Sleeping Rough film would grow into.
The past, according to LP Hartley, is a foreign country. LP was, of course, being metaphorical, but for filmmaker Bethan Highgate-Betts in her film Pink that’s exactly what it is. And in addition to time-travel-country-hopping she also aims to cross cultural divides, bridge age division and open up our eyes to the people around us.
Rupert Green’s Twitter profile says ‘I like to laugh and cook and draw, and I don’t like ironing’. He doesn’t say where he stands on scaring people, but that’s what his new film is set to do.
You’ve just returned from the cinema and what an experience: the music, the action, the story, the special effects and those edge-of-your-seat moments! If you’re an independent filmmaker or film fan you might dream one day of making such a film. So you’ve decided to make to make a feature film, not only that, but fund it independently, gather a wonderful team and five hundred supporters from around the world. Simon Cox, director of sci-fi feature film Kaleidoscope Man, has done just that. I was intrigued to find out more , so I caught up with him.
If you’re stuck waiting for public transport, what better way to spend your time than to work out new film ideas. That’s exactly what Simeon Costello did and it bagged him the Exeter Phoenix documentary bursary.
“As a filmmaker who doesn’t drive, I spend a lot of time on buses and trains,” said Simeon.[Read more…] about On the buses: Simeon Costello is a filmmaker going places (profile)
Writer, actor and director Louis John Brzozka is making Rewind, a webseries based on the Life is Strange computer game. We got in touch to find out what inspired him to take it on, how he got the cast and crew together and what we can look forward to from him in the future…
Short film IT Girl aims to explore our relationship with social media. With just hours before the KickStarter crowdfunder for the film closed -and after they reached their target! -we caught up with writer Richard Gosling to find out about his relationship with the online world and where the idea for the story came from.
‘IT GIRL is a short film idea created by writer Richard Gosling and director Simon Lex,’ says its KickStarter blurb. With just three days to go before the crowd funding campaign ends with the target in sight, we got in touch with director Simon to cover his relationship with social media, serendipity and ‘new build communities’.
The Long Shot is filmmaker Karen Turner’s debut documentary. It’s about Paralympian athlete and mountain biker James Bevis. We caught up with Karen before the film’s Exeter Phoenix premiere and found out about amazing stories, the art of interviewing and the limitless possibilities of writing and filmmaking.