• Panic Stations 1 directed by Jim Owen

  • Panic Stations 2 directed by Jim Owen

  • Panic Stations 3 directed by Jim Owen

Thursday 20th Feb

Cut to the chase

Partizan director and writer Jim Owen brilliantly wheedles out those uncomfortable moments of the first date in his series Panic Stations

Your vignettes focus on the foibles of relationships, usually the big awkward insecurities of relationships. Where does this observation come from – is it from looking at the external world or is it more an emotion you can tap into and follow? 

I suppose it comes from both those places. I live in Bermondsey, on the Old Kent Road,  so it’s really easy to find inspiration. That vegetable aisle at Tesco is a minefield.

A lot of the situations I write about are experiences we’ve all been through to one degree or another, I just try to take them to extremes. 

Relationships bring out the best and worst in people. Passion, jealously, desperation, neediness, humanity, a total lack of dignity. I am tickled by the worst stuff though, I don’t know why. I’m fascinated by the lengths people will go to get what they want, the integrity they’re prepared to sacrifice. One person’s passion, is another person’s direct route to a restraining order.  

You write and direct your own films. Please describe your creative process. Do you write to a set routine? 

If I’ve got some time set aside to write then yes, I’ll make the most of it pretty religiously, but the reality is I’m often writing whenever I can scrape time together between other projects. 

And the process is different for short and long work. Short, I’ll write dialogue and let conversations with characters play out, and whittle it down to the stuff that tickles me. For longer material a bit more planning goes into it. So I tell everyone, anyway.

And while you’re writing your dialogue-heavy scripts are you also storyboarding and thinking of the visuals or are they two separate processes? 

It really depends what it is. Commercials we board after we’ve won the job, and I did have a lot of the visuals in mind before I shot my last short film. But the type of thing I do often relies heavily on timing and delivery so to me it’s important to keep the actors centre stage. I read a nice quote, can’t remember who said it, I should probably Google it, but it was “actors tell your stories” and it’s true. I think it’s true anyway. Actually it was probably an actor that said it. 

Do you collaborate with the same actors often? And how do you go about directing your actors – are there lots of rehearsals and discussions before shooting?  

I’ve worked with Rachel a lot. The same things tickle us so we’re a natural fit, and she’s very talented so that helps. She’ll like that. Rachel always has a strong idea of what I’m after, and we pass a lot of our written material between us before things get shot and performed, to get an idea of what works. 

Al Green I’ve worked with a couple of times now and hopefully we’ll do more stuff together. When we did Panic Stations it helped that Al and I had previous. It just means we both know the tone and how the timing would probably work in the edit. It’s obvious really, but it does make a difference. 

If I’m doing a commercial I’ll always set aside some rehearsal time, but we didn’t rehearse Panic Stations. Everyone had the scripts early so the cast knew what it was about – that awkward moment at the end of a first date. Also, the cast were busy, and they were already being very generous with their time so it was a case of go out, shoot it and shape it in the edit.

Would you like to write and shoot longer format films?

Would love to. And I only want cash and a house with a pool in LA for my trouble. I’m easily pleased. And a car. 

What are you currently working on?

Finishing up a short film called Good Grief, which Rachel has written. It’s not strictly a comedy at all, it’s a sad and funny film. Be interesting to see what people make of it. 

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