Click on the names below, to read interviews with some of the cast and crew involved in the making of

 

SEAN BLOWERS & JOY MELLINS

ERIC DEACON

JASPER FFORDE

ANNETTE LYNTON-MASON

 

 

 

SEAN BLOWERS & JOY MELLINS - An Interview with...

JOY AND SEAN set up in February ‘99 to develop and produce new and exciting quality work for the film, television and expanding multi media industry.  They believe it is very important, that those involved with all their projects, ‘buy in’ early, where their shared enthusiasm and commitment will ultimately reflect on screen, providing a product that is not only quality, but is something everyone can be proud of.  The Short Film, , being a prime example.


Joy and Sean initially became involved with the project because of Sean’s friendship with writer Eric Deacon.  After reading the script, they felt it was ideal for a first project, offering Eric the opportunity to direct, and by applying the same strategy for each key member, Jasper Fforde, wanted to move to Director of Photography, this combination of ‘new comers’ and established talent enabled them to achieve the high production values they desired.


With their combined writing and acting backgrounds, they are able to communicate their ideas and enthusiasm, but without the huge support of companies like Lee Lighting, Panavision, Fuji film and Quantel they believe their goals would not be achieved.  For example, they approached Roger Sapsford who offered them the new 35m stock, providing fantastic rich colour and amazing clarity, whilst Lee and Panavision provided top of the range equipment and advice throughout.


Working on a budget of £20,000 when in real terms, to include the cost of Digital effects, would be in the region of £120,000, meant that as producers, they became production managers as well as securing the right locations, believing this brought a certain elegance to the piece.  Despite the work load, they feel that this ‘hands on’ approach throughout, allowed them to experience and nurture the entire process.

Joy and Sean explained the many highlights and scary moments of filming, times when they felt continually tested; from the ariel platform shot with 180ft crane, to the flooding of the tow path and the decision to drop and improvise scenes, but the excitement of bringing all these people together, acquiring the talent of John Swannel to cover the ‘stills’ and the opportunity to record the music at Brian May’s studio, on Freddie Mercury’s piano, made it all worthwhile and something they will always remember.


They both consider themselves very fortunate to work with such talent and are delighted with the results of their combined efforts.  Their hopes for the film now, are to be able to show at the many film festivals around the world, starting with Cannes in May, where they have been greatly assisted by Quantel, ( a large post production technology company) who have kindly offered the opportunity for a lunch screening.  They have high aspirations for the film, but ultimately, would also like to achieve the same success with their future projects. The Short film has been short-listed by the First Film Foundation, where if successful, they will have the opportunity to travel to L.A. and New York to promote and endeavor to raise the necessary funding for their feature slate.


sblowers@blackandwhitepictures.co.uk

jmellins@blackandwhitepictures.co.uk

 

 

ERIC DEACON - An Interview with...

After twenty years as an actor and seven screenwriting it seems to me to be a perfectly natural transition to want to direct my own scripts.  However, writer/directors in the UK can be viewed somewhat warily – especially coming from an acting background! – so I’ve been careful to try and learn my craft and not rush headlong into directing.


appears a deceptively simple film, classically shot and framed, elegantly lit and paced.  Yet for all that it has a dark underbelly that (I hope) begins to undermine our first assumptions.  When pushed, I describe it as a dark, comic, fable with a sting in the tail - but that’s just my take on it.


One of the main challenges of shooting a film like is that the story demands a cool, observed, feel, perhaps more ‘European’ than English.  To achieve this I used re-occurring tracking and crane shots to either reveal, or turn away from, the horror lurking beneath the ordinary surface of the narrative.  However, this can be risky, especially on a first film, since it obviously leaves you less choices in editing, consequently ‘pacing’ and ‘tone’ are critical – there being nothing to cut away to.  I was helped enormously in this by my DOP, Jasper Fforde, who although knowing the pitfalls, remained totally confident that we could pull it off.  That we have is in no little thanks to his skill.  Also to the support and hard work of Joy Mellins and Sean Blowers of , two of the most dedicated and talented producers I know.

 

> GO TO ERIC'S CV >>>

 

JASPER FFORDE - An Interview with...

 

How do you see the relationship between DOP and the Director?


The relationship between a cameraman and a Director is all about collaboration.  The Director has to have a good idea of what he wants and the cameraman has to be able to translate those thoughts into pictures.  To me this is of equal importance to making the images look as good as possible - pretty pictures are all very well but if my image isn’t somehow strengthening the story and reflecting the action within the script, then I will have failed at my job. First and foremost I believe that a film will pass or fail on the script, acting and direction - an excellent film will not be spoilt by average lighting, but a striking lighting job will definitely not save a stinker.

 

Do you see lighting and camerawork as separate entities?

Most definitely.  What I have to do on the film set is much the same job as the composer or editor provide from the comfort of their studios - I provide a tempo and atmosphere to what is going on between the actors.  Generally speaking, lighting is more about atmosphere and emotion; dark and moody, bright and sunny, cool, warm - it’s about setting a general scene which might more readily convey the story to the audience.  Camerawork, on the other hand, is more about tempo and pace - fast tracks, slow tracks, extreme close-ups, wide shots, cranes - all to provide the film with rhythm and pace.  Again, this is all to help convey the story to the audience and heighten the emotions in the acting and script.

 

Do you use many different film stocks?

I’m afraid I don’t.  Perhaps I should.  I’ve read accounts from excellent cameramen who like to carry six or seven different film stocks for different moods and lighting conditions but to be honest I find the difference so subtle that the same could be managed by over or underexposing, filtration, or varying my lighting.  In the past I have usually used Eastman stock but on I was introduced to Fuji.  I was very pleasantly surprised by the overall effect; the grain was very fine and the colours especially bright - the greens especially.  So in all I usually carry both fast or slow stocks, typically 500 and 125ASA unless I shoot with 16mm, in which case I never go faster than 250ASA to keep the grain down.

 

Do you usually shoot on Panavision equipment?

Whenever I can.  Panavision and I have a professional relationship that goes back more than ten years.  I know them well and they know me and are always highly supportive.  I usually ask for the Panaflex G2 with Primo lenses - The G2 because it was my favourite camera as an assistant, does everything it is supposed to and - more pointlessly but no less important - it says film the same way as Titan cranes, Fisher booms and arc lights do.  This might sound overwhelmingly sad to many but I wanted to get into films since the age of nine, and many of the crew pictures I could find in ‘Sight and Sound’ had a large Panaflex or PVSR in the frame.  We no longer have arc lights, Fisher booms or Titan cranes but we do still have Panaflexes - so I like to use them.  On a more serious note I find the Primos an excellent set of lenses in almost all situations.  Sometimes they are too sharp and need softening with a black pro-mist or a net on the rear (or both) but on I shot everything clean to give a harder, more brittle edge to the action.

 

What about Lee Lighting?

Lee’s have supplied the lights on my last three projects and have never failed to give an excellent service.  Pat McEnally at Lee’s and Hugh Whittaker at Panavision both have a very positive approach to the extraordinarily expensive world of film production.  Both companies have unused gear on the shelves most days so it makes very good sense indeed to let it out at peppercorn rates to those genuinely trying to get a toehold in the film production world.  It’s a very far-sighted tactic that makes abundantly good business sense - I hope they carry on in this manner for years to come and all those companies that they have helped remember who helped them.

 

Do you usually use the same crew?

Whenever I can.  One’s own crew is all important.  A whinger or a clot in the wrong place has the potential to cause huge harm to the production both in time and morale - and morale can be crucial on a production that has little or no budget.  I was once dumped with a loader on a film I couldn’t stand and who hated me - I vowed that I would always use people I liked and trusted or not do the job.  It’s a good rule to follow; loyalty is an underused commodity these days.
Low budget films are a good opportunity for crew to either jump up a grade or cement ties with other crew members - or simply to have a laugh and gain some experience.  Film-making is hard work but it should also be enjoyable; the hours we work require a certain ‘lightness’ to the proceedings that I try very hard to instigate.  I used the most excellent Tammo Van Hoorn as focus and Kirsti Abernethy as loader.  Tammo was jumping up a grade and had more to gain than did Kirsti, so I am especially thankful to her.  My gaffer was a splendid chap named Joe Allen who has now done three shorts with me, the most recent one being ‘Tip of my Tongue’ for Greenwich films - also shortlisted for the First Film Foundation.  He and I get along very well, although I do get the feeling that he would like me to stop fiddling with the lamps myself...

 

How did you get to hear about Sean and Joy and ?

I heard about quite by chance.  Someone handed me a much photocopied script and proposal by Eric Deacon which outlined his positive philosophy about film-making, something which I could strongly identify with.  I was intrigued enough to want to have a go at this because I had attempted several short dramas in the past and felt that my DOP career lay somewhere along the lines of drama rather than commercials.  Sadly, I’m someone who blabbers like an imbecile when cold-calling on the ‘phone so instead I sent a CV and letter of intent to Sean Blowers and Joy Mellins, the co-producers of the project.  Sean and Joy, on the lookout for someone with feature experience and with a six week deadline to meet called me a few days later, introduced themselves and I met Eric Deacon a week after that.
The two great thing about is that they love film and they love to talk - Eric especially - and good communication is what it’s all about.  Eric has very clear ideas about what he wants, something that is a godsend to a DOP - many modern directors only have a clear idea of what they don’t want - and they only know what they do when every other alternative has been rejected. I could sense that Eric was watching me very carefully for the first day to make sure he could trust me, but when he did he was happy to hand over more of the reins to me.

 

How did you go about working out an overall lighting plan for ?

First and foremost I think is a small story -a paragraph, if you will- in a much larger book.  Eric wanted us to sweep down into a small section of London life and then sweep up and out at the end of it.  In between these two ‘bookends’ are basically three elements:
The hotel room where The Woman calls on the phone
The hotel where John and Annie live their strange existence
The darkened flat where The Woman's two victims lie
The film is basically a mixture of these elements with a number of small shots added to give punctuation marks to the story and to smooth along the transitions between day and night, locations and the movement of time.  The contrast between the darkened flat and the hotel room should be the strongest.  The flat was always slightly cold and dismal with drawn curtains and slow tracks moving around the colourless furniture.  The Woman's hotel room was always bright and sunny which I thought was a good contrast to her dark thoughts - as a character The Woman would have been far more at home in the flat than she was in the hotel.
The Woman I lit purposefully harsh - the scene where she meets John outside the room was side lit with a single Kino-Flo.  Since the print stock in use these days is quite contrasty I wanted the blacks to go deep black so the shots of her at night were achieved using single lamps and little fill - when we discussed the project at the outset I decided to light for film rather than telecine; with TK I would have lit even more contrasty and underexposed a bit so the telecine operator would have had little choice but to let it all go a bit dark.  In my limited experience of telecine operators, they make every scene look like a glorious sunny day, irrespective of what is written on the neg sheets.

 

Were budgetary constraints a large problem?

On the contrary - budgetary constraints are actually rather fun.  It dictates a good level of planning and homework but also allows for a certain degree of inventiveness.  The initial crane down was meant to be all in one shot but the massive ‘Akilar’ crane was far too pricey, so we shot it from a remote head ratchet-strapped to the bottom of a cherry picker which then slowly descended, picked up the 1st AD walking along the road and going with him past a parked truck.  We then switched to a conventional crane and used the wipe of the truck moving off to switch from one crane to the other. From there we were able to track in to The Woman in the phone box, a prop placed there for our use.  The final crane shot of the film was shot the same day as the first; we only wanted to pay for the crane and grips for one day, and there was a large build of a ten foot high rostrum to allow the crane to actually reach the window of the supposed bathroom. It turned out very well in that peculiar way that some difficult shots sometimes do - we had an AD inside the room who let the net curtain fall, then we zoomed first and picked up the movement on the crane, moving the camera up and out over the Thames with hardly a bump.

 

What was the biggest problem you had as DOP?

Time, crucially.  When things go a bit pear shaped it is very tempting to save an hour’s lighting by pointing a 2.5Kw at the ceiling and yelling ‘Lit!’ - but the project will suffer for it.  There were many logistical problems about shooting in the hotel room as the exterior of the hotel was actually a mile away from the interior, so it was not possible for us ever to see the windows in the hotel as they simply didn’t match.  This meant the camera had to have it’s back to the window on every shot - something that doesn’t bode well if one is trying to make the images look half decent.  As it was we were moving at a huge rate to get what we wanted in the can without ridiculously long hours - when people work for free it is unfair and insulting to still be there at 2:00 AM.  So for the most part we shot the hotel sequences with the camera at the window looking in.  I decided early on to run off local power; a generator with all the attendant distribution is a major event and we simply don’t have the resources in time or money to make it work.  2.5KW HMIs can run off plugs in the wall, and as long as you take them off a different ring main if running tungsten as well, so much the better.  I used very little lights, as I usually do.  Out of a reasonably long list the entire usage over the whole shoot probably looks like this:

2 X 2.5Kw HMIs
1 X 1.2 Kw HMI
2 X Redheads
2 X Mizars
1 X Blonde
1 X 4’ 4 bank Kino-flo.
1 X HMI sungun.
I had a lot more that I didn’t use; it’s surprising what one can do with a small amount of light.

 

How did you block out the way the scenes were shot?

Eric is more of an actor’s director so he left much of the blocking to me.  I’d tell him how I thought it would all go together, we would discuss it and if he liked it, then that’s what we would do.  Eric understood the importance of sticking with the plan - he never changed the way we were to shoot a scene unless it was possible to grab an extra close up or run the action for a little longer to allow him more options in the cutting room.
The bathroom scene with John and Annie finding something nasty in the toilet was originally a six shot scene but was whittled down to four to save time as soon as the actors had a run through; it is somehow surprising how much a scene can change - and often for the better- when the thesps run it for themselves.  Instead of rigidly telling them where to go, Eric and I just let them run it, changing things here and there to make the acting work better for the camera - since I had my back to the window I couldn’t move the camera much for fear of seeing the camera shadow.

 

Would you liked to have changed anything?

Of course?  What DOP wouldn’t?  I suppose the scene I was most unhappy with was the one where The Woman enters the hotel and finds the dog shit on the carpet.  It was a large scene and tricky to do simply and easily and quickly, something that needed to be precisely that as we were behind schedule and desperately needed to catch up.  It was one of those DOP dilemmas where I had to weigh up what was important for the shoot and what was important to me.  I needed several towers with at least 6KW of light into the (2nd story) windows but didn’t have them; To light the scene from within and gel and net the windows would have taken a long time, so I lit it the quickest and easiest way that I thought. The outcome put us back on schedule but I am not happy with the lighting in the scene; it is all so flat and uninteresting. The camerawork told the story and the actors did a sterling job - I was only sorry I didn’t have longer to light it properly.
The only other time I would have liked a take two was after the exchange between The Woman and John at the door.  The Woman had to psyche herself up for the emotional scene and the time she throws the tray about was our one and only go at it; you can tell by my dodgy framing that I had no idea what she was going to do.  I would have liked to have gone again but Eric was happy as it was; I think he was right.

 

What is it like working with cats?

Agony and ecstasy combined.  We shot with the cats first because they were the most highly paid individuals on the shoot.  When everything goes well it is wonderful, but when it doesn’t, all thoughts of cute little Tiddles goes out the window.  In general cats will walk in a straight line, sleep, and sit and lick their paws - that’s it.  So buoyed by the initial success when it walked in the door (riotous applause all round) we tried to get the cat to jump on the bed, but nothing doing.  After two rolls of expensive film stock the cat disappeared underneath the bed and did a crap on the carpet - so we wrapped for lunch.  The second cat was older and moved slower so in the end we knocked the original plan on the head and worked out the scene to what the cat would actually do - a case of the cat’s tail wagging the production.  I hope this is of use; give me a call if you have any queries.

> GO TO JASPER'S CV >>>

 

ANNETTE LYNTON-MASON - An Interview with...


Having raised two children, what was it like coming back to play such a dramatic role ?

Exhausting!  Seriously, it was a wonderful opportunity, I loved the script and the people were so nice to me.  Everyone worked as a team and we actually had a lot of fun.

 

How did you get involved ?

Eric, the writer and director has been a friend for a long time and asked me if I’d be interested, so I looked at the script and was asked to the studios to meet the producers.  I was slightly nervous, because I didn’t know them or what they wanted, but fortunately, we hit it off straight away and they invited me on board.  I was thrilled, everyone on the team had so much commitment and energy - it just felt right.

 

How did you feel about your character?

She was obviously on the edge and somewhat distant at times.  It was quite tiring to get into character, but also rewarding.
What was it like working with a first time director?  I never thought of Eric in that way, he was just wonderfully reassuring and very supportive, I just didn’t want to let him down.,

 

Did you feel you were given enough support from other members of cast and crew ?

Yes definitely, everyone was terrific, Joy and Sean were great and on hand throughout, whilst working with John and Annie was a real delight.

 

What now ?

Well, working on has definitely given me the bug and I’ve been fortunate enough to have received another offer, to work on a feature length film, which is fantastic - its early days of course, but fingers crossed.

> GO TO ANNETTE'S CV >>>