Rodney almost feels as if he could be a down-the-road neighbour of Pauline’s – what draws you to get under the skin of these suburban eccentric characters?
I love wondering what goes on in living rooms and back gardens. Especially somewhere like London, where there is no such thing as uniformity. And in the suburbs, I think, it becomes more pronounced. Because the streets and houses are uniform, and superficially dull… but the people are anything but. Perhaps it’s because I’m too polite, but I do like listening to the oddballs and bores who you come across outside of Central London. Lifelong suburbanites. In amongst all of their madness there’s always a quiet pathos or dignity. So maybe these stories are my attempt to get people to think twice about mad cat ladies and bag men who stand on the corner…
How did Rodney, naughty Rodney, first come to life – and what triggered the plot?
Precisely the desire to tell another one of these stories. I found myself in the lucky position of being able to make a new short film and – for the first time in a long time – I sat down with a blank piece of paper and began to wonder. There were men like Rodney all over Lewisham when I was growing up, and strange legends would always build up about them amongst kids at primary school – so that’s always been a source of fascination. And then I was watching a weird combination of classic American documentaries like Grey Gardens and Gates of Heaven, alongside trashy true crime and Channel 5 programs like the Nightmare Neighbour Next Door. And then there always has to be a dead cat or missing dog in everything I make, so I thought ‘why not make it more central, this time?’
Are you a disciplined writer – please describe your writing routine and when do you know the script is ready to shoot?
I think I’m disciplined. I hope I am. I’m disciplined to the extent that I do it every day, even if only for 5 minutes (but hopefully for longer) which at least means that I’m thinking subconsciously about what I’m writing all day, every day. I always write in the mornings, as early as possible. And I’m a great believer in just writing something, anything, even if it’s rubbish, because then at least you can go back through and work on it to make it better. Rather than obsessively and precisely planning everything, which is what most screenwriting books tell you to do. And then it’s ready on the day we’ve got in the diary to shoot! And even then it’s not ready because you’ll tweak lines with actors, and condense scenes and beats when you realise there’s a simpler way to do it on the day… and then you re-write it again, in the edit!
Was it a straight forward production?
It was. I have a group of people – HoDs, friends, family members – who I bring back on every shoot. Obviously there are always some change ups – Paul Özgür, who shot this, I hadn’t worked with before, but now he’s part of the clan… but this approach means that my productions are always generally smooth. That said, there’s always one element which metastasizes on every job, depending on the script, and this time it was the Art Department, which became a humungous task, with so many graves to make and Rodney’s entire house to design, so that’s where I enlisted a lot of help from my family and I also painted a fair few graves myself, just to avoid sending my Production Designer to an early grave!
What part of the filmmaking process do you enjoy the most?
The shoot is the best. I know that some directors suffer through it, and it’s all about the writing or the edit, but I love being on set and pushing it all through. That feels like it’s what the job’s about, and when things are going well on a shoot, there’s nothing better.
What are you working on now?
Usually I’d say ‘not much’, but I’m in the edit for something very big at the moment, which will be released in installments over the first half of the year… and indeed the first part may even already be out when you read this! (Ed: Indeed it is – take a look at Fred’s new music video for Years & Years, Sanctify here).
Anything else you’d like to share?
Just that you haven’t heard the last from the world of Pauline, Rodney and Woodhouse… there’s something else coming, hopefully sooner rather than later, that’s going to kick everything up a gear…!
Production Company: Blink
Writer & Director: Fred Rowson
Executive Producer: Paul Weston
Producers: Rob Jelley, Paul Weston, Corin Taylor
Production Manager: Abi Jones
DoP: Paul Ozgur
1st AD: Rory Shaw
Art Director: Ollie Hogan
Assistant Art Directors: Tors Beadle, Jack Booth
Art Department Assistants: Edward Soolia, Emine Oktay
Graves & Titles Artwork: Martin Rowson
Book Cover Artwork: Rose Rowson
Newspaper Design: Marisa Wasboonma
Wardrobe Stylist: Hannah Hopkins
Wardrobe Assistant: Rachel Owen
Focus Puller: Toby Goodger
Clapper Loaders: Sam Hayes, Kit Mackenzie
Gaffer: Vincent Prunier
Electrician: Greg Probert
Additional Photography: Edgar Dubrovski
Casting Director: Kharmel Cochrane
Location Scout: Isabella Ramsay
Hair and Make-Up: Emma Croft
Sound Recordist: Calum Sample
Runners: Ethan Iveson, Isaac Sneade, Ryan O’Connor
Post Production: Framestore London
Post Production Producer: Chris Anthon
Edit & Sound: Final Cut London
Editor: Ryan Beck
Edit Producer: Laura Harris
Assistant Editor: Elyse Raphael
Sound Designer: Fred Pearson
Animation: Chris Bristow
Flame Op: Katie Rhodes
Colourist: Edwin Metternich
Original Music: FATHER
Music Supervisor: Connie Edwards