What’s the running theme throughout your work? What do you like to discuss?
There’s two sides to my work. There is straight up comedy – I did a short film called Clownfish, another one called The Date and they are just very silly, fun pieces that people can watch and hopefully laugh at, and we don’t need to think about too much, they’re just enjoyable. And then the other side of my work is quite hard hitting drama. My film that launched my career properly was Passenger. That was a fifteen-minute short film a soldier who’d come back from service and was caught on the tube in a conversation. That was pretty dark, and then The Split last year was also quite a dark piece. But they’re plot driven dramas and Confection sits between both of these. It’s the first comedy/drama that I’ve done. For me it was like, ok, drama’s great and I love that, comedy’s great and I love that but is there a middle ground where we can find some sort of path that’s interesting, funny, sad and makes you think.
What was your inspiration?
With Confection, we actually found the story. Misfit Studios, the production company, and I wanted to find a new project, so we ran a script competition. We kept it open for two or three months, reading scripts, and we found one called Confection which was sent in to us. Really, it’s Lauren Bensted, the girl who wrote it, it’s her brainchild. Within a couple of pages of reading it, I knew that it was the story I wanted to make. My other films are in a couple of locations with a couple of actors – they’re pretty self-contained, which is probably what you want in a short film. And then me and AJ Leon, the producer at Misfit, read Confection and there’s like thirty cast, fifteen locations, there’s a chocolate factory, there’s the wrapping scene, there’s biking all over town, it’s much bigger in terms of scale than we ever thought we could do with a short film. But AJ and Misfit, their company’s ethos is the important thing is in the art, just getting it any which way. So we stuck with it and eventually pulled it together. We pushed shoots back, and actors couldn’t make it, we ended up shooting in October and we had our seventy-year-old actor going into the sea, and we had toddlers and a class full of kids… It was good though, I think it’s all come across all right. It was worth it.
Yeah. When you’re going through all this, when you’re trying to make your vision come true, what’s the thing that keeps you going?
For me, it’s the will to tell the best possible story at the end of the day. Making short films is super difficult, you can spend a lot of time and money and effort doing it, but what matters is that five minute, ten minute, half an hour film, whatever it is, it’s the will to make sure that it’s the best that it can be with what you have. We had a six-day shoot, which is quite a lot for a short film, and lots of the pieces you watch back and edit to get your first cut don’t fit together, there’s things missing so you go back and do another day’s pick-ups, and then there were still things missing so we did another couple of hours’ pick-ups just to try and get it right. So I guess just keep going, you’ve got to trust that the story you’re telling is worth it, and the effort you put in is worth it too.
Your film deals with human connections in a lot of different ways. Was there anything in there that you particularly related to when you were reading the script.
When I first read the script… For me it’s Eli. He’s this kind of misanthrope who is his own man. Even though people have expectations of how kids should behave these days, he doesn’t really abide by those. And he tells you in the opening scene that he tries to start his own cult, and he tries to be lactose intolerant – ridiculous things that you don’t really expect from kids. And that immediately sets him up as someone that is willing to try new and different things. So if you take that character and you put him in a scenario where he has to act responsibly and see how he does, I think that’s a pretty interesting dynamic. And then you get the locals around the village who compliment him and compliment the story, it was exciting to put it all together. So it was important for us to find something that fit in with that.
The whole ethos of The Misfits is, “grab a machete and cut down your own path in life”, right?
And how was it working with such a young star?
Oh he was great. He’s called Perry Millward, look out for him. We had auditions and we saw quite a few young actors. Perry was the last one we saw, and when he got the part he took it in his stride, nothing was too much trouble, he didn’t complain about anything – he was a natural. When you’ve got someone like that who can just take on the role, and given he’s in every scene acting opposite Esther Smith and Tony Way, and he’s at their level straight away. It’s so refreshing and so good to work with someone who’s that talented.
A few scenes in the film, particularly the baking scene about halfway through were filmed and edited to give a controlled chaos to the action. Were these scenes fun to work on, or more of a logistical nightmare?
I like the idea that, even though this is set in an English seaside town that is very normal by all accounts, each character in their own environments and settings have this kind of domain that they rule. So the wrapping scene and the kitchen scene are part of this slightly surreal element to the picture, which is hopefully a bit more exciting that just watching somebody wrap presents. They were ridiculous to film. The chocolate making scene, we shot it at one hundred frames-per-second, so super slow-mo, and it was my director of photography in and amongst the chocolate, and we just told the actors to go for it. So they were pouring chocolate, throwing flour, mixing, sieving, and we were just filming as much as we could. Then the editor just went to town on it, and edited to some sixties rock and roll type music, which was great. The classroom scene with all the paper going everywhere was exactly the same, we had a track, and we told the kids, there’s no teacher, just go for it. They were great, and it worked, it was great fun. The not fun bit was resetting and doing it all again.
We’ve kind of talked about it already and you said your next major step will be a feature, but what are you working on now?
Good question. I currently have an idea for a feature film which is about two brothers… I love people like Wes Anderson, and I love films that question very normal aspects of life and get us all thinking about a slightly bigger picture. Whether it’s as simple as just being kind, or appreciating people or whatever. Those little things we can all relate to, that really appeals to me. In the immediate future, we’ve got another short film we’re working on and we’re aiming to shoot that by the end of the year. So… yeah, that’s it.
Confection will be screening as part of the Short Fiction strand in the Cinemobile on Parker’s Piece at 11am on Monday 24th October.