You’ve had considerable success on the festival circuit with your film Thyme. Please tell us how the film came about?
Thyme was my graduation film at the Arts University Bournemouth and the story/script came from our production designer Aimée Bick. On first reading it I straightaway saw a striking and stylised world in the same vein of the Coen’s Hudsucker Proxy but translated into a near dystopian 50s Britain. From then onwards we developed a look for the film and were fortunate to find locations in Dorset to tie it all together.
Did you have any choice over which films you became involved with at uni or were you simply assigned to teams by your tutors and had to get on with it?
Our amount of choice varied with each project. With our graduation films the tutors decided which scripts were going to be made and then we had to prove to the writers that we were the right directors for the films. On previous films, such as my short The Chair, the tutors advised who should direct each film but we could swap if we heavily disagreed.
Did you collaborate closely with the writer of the film or is it your interpretation of her script?
I collaborated closely with the writer once I had received the script. Due to both of us having art department backgrounds a lot of the early work was to craft a believable world that would reflect the internal narrative of the film. The problem was that we kept making it even bigger so it had tunnels, decaying buildings and steam trains, so a large part of the later process was toning down and simplifying our ideas. We also began with far too many thyme/time related puns so, apart from one, those all went.
The art direction is very distinctive. Did you always imagine the film to be set in this period and style?
From the outset I had wanted it to be in a dystopian 50’s Britain but this was a problem as a 50’s kitchen is hard to come by or expensive. Through a stroke of luck our associate producer had heard of a £3.3million house in Sandbanks that had been built in the 30’s and never touched since the 50’s. The wonderful owners allowed us to shoot the kitchen and home scenes there and also let the actors and myself sleep and rehearse there. The colouring of the kitchen also allowed us to create the two separate worlds we had intended, one of his aspirations, full of vibrant colours and warmth and the other of his grey, dull office life.
What were the most difficult aspects of making the film?
Initially funding. The university gave us some money, paid for our stock/processing and gave us most of the equipment but constructing sets and filling giant offices can be pricey. Thankfully after some kindness on Indiegogo and putting on a few events we could achieve our dreams.
The other difficulty was finding an office space. As we were not a company and only wanted the space for a limited time we struggled to find a suitable office space. I suggested Bournemouth’s largest rentable space the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) and somehow they accepted and gave us their huge circular event space, mostly used for ice skating.
What’s your favourite part of the film making process?
It’s always the rehearsals and shoot, where all the planning and meetings finally come to fruition. I love working with actors and developing real characters that until then had only ever been in my imagination. The shoot is just a continuation of that feeling; there is a kind of proud fatherly feeling about watching something you’ve co-created finally come alive in front of you. It’s probably also why filmmakers keep remaking Frankenstein.
What have you been up to over the past year?
I have mostly been working in the art department, primarily art directing lower budget shorts, commercials and music videos. It’s a job that I truly love as like a director you get into the minds of the characters and create the world that they live in. Having worked on the décor team at Secret Garden Party for the past few years, this summer I came up with the concept of a Psychedelic Lighthouse, which I co-designed. The 7m working lighthouse was to guide revellers home psychedelically and ended up having a breathtaking 30 man fire show at its base. My art department work can be seen here.
What’s your Plan A?
My plan is to continue directing on the side, I have a new short film that I am writing at the moment which is also visually heavy but more of a film noir conspiracy movie. I also have a music video in the works; kind of a Wizard of Oz meets Stardust narrative and would love to be signed so I could direct more of those. I will also continue working in the art department; my ambition is to move further into the set dressing side of things.