Your films for Rudimental and now this film War with Heaven for Louis M^ttrs reflect the meaner, harder side of life. What draws you to telling these powerful stories with a brutal but redemptive thread throughout them?
My inspiration comes from my own life story. Before I was the positive person I am today I was a very negative person and influenced others negatively. I’m reformed now and my redemption is what drives me – I want to try to influence others through my work and to show a deeper side to the sub-culture that has grown around the black market of illegal drugs. I’m tired of film-makers exploiting this culture to their own ends, creating an unrealistic, tabloid image which is alienating people further from the general public. I want to create better empathy and understanding of the problems in the mainstream “straight” world.
Did you write the narrative for War with Heaven?
I write my own stuff but work closely with people with more street experience than me. I have a few different “advisers” who are reformed characters who want to change society like me. The main guy I work with spent a long time in prison and in serious criminal circles before getting clean and becoming a psychotherapist helping other addicts. I work with these guys to get guidance on my ideas- to make them believable on a street level but also psychologically. But the basic ideas and story arcs come from me- I draw from my own experiences and people I know or have known in the past and also from 30 years of being a film fanatic.
What was behind your inspiration to write this particular script, exploring the themes of violence?
My father left us when I was quite young and I was brought up in a household full of women. Through my teenage years I was trying to look for a father figure and was trying to find it in all the wrong places- with drug-dealers, steroid freaks and bad guys. I used to aspire to be like that but I never really fitted in. It always ended in trouble which just escalated out of control. Anyway I’ve seen a lot of disturbing stuff in my time – I guess this is my way of working through it. Plus you need a little drama to make things interesting!! I also love the idea of creating these monstrous characters and then getting you to feel sorry for them. Its a hard trick!
The cast are well drawn characters with powerful performances. Did you know exactly who you were after in the casting or did the characters reveal themselves in the casting process?
It was my first time working with actors and actually because this film had no real deadline (the artist is still unsigned) I was casting this for about 3 months. The really hard role to fill was the lead – the homeless guy. I kept pushing back the shoot because I wasn’t happy and then I found Mustafa. I left that first meeting with him punching the air. He’s truly an incredible talent.
What were the main challenges of the production and how did you resolve them?
Casting, as I mentioned, then we had a shoot date in London and the council blocked us at the last minute from flying the drone camera. Then I was flying to Thailand for the 2nd Rudimental promo so it didn’t get shot for another month. We shot the majority of it in Neath, South Wales with a great production company called Like an Egg who really pulled out all the stops. The other problem was budget – we did the whole thing with a tiny budget.
What is your process for creating a script – do you hole yourself up in a studio and get the visual ideas and story down on paper and repeatedly refine them?
Its all instinct really. With a music video it comes first and foremost from the track. With this one it just came to me listening to it – the idea just fitted the tone and lyrics so well. I have several half processed ideas a lot of the time and I stretch and adapt them to fit the music. Once I have the basic idea I just visualise it all in my head while listening to the music over and over again then start to write it down and refine it a few times.
Did you work with your usual crew and cinematographer?
I did – me and Luke (Jacobs the DoP) are practically inseparable these days. I see more of him than I do my wife.
WAR WITH HEAVEN
Written and Directed by Josh Cole joshcole.co.uk
Produced by Keiran McGaughey likeanegg.com
Cinematographer: Luke Jacobs lukejacobsdop.tumblr.com
Sound Recordist: Nick Davies linkedin.com/pub/nicholas-davies/28/225/770
Camera Asst. Chris McGaughey likeanegg.com
Make-up: Amy Riley linkedin.com/pub/amy-riley/72/261/ba8
Psychotherapist: Steve Fatuga linkedin.com/pub/stephen-fatuga/13/360/388
Fight Co-Ordinator: Kevin McCurdy kevinmccurdy.com
Octocopter: Graham Tolhurst and Ben Keene cloud12.co.uk
Health and Safety Officer: Gareth Evans likeanegg.com
Styling: Yasmine Akkaz yasmineakkaz.com
Runners: Mia Sands and Theo Wellington
Sound Engineer: Nick Davies linkedin.com/pub/nicholas-davies/28/225/770
Titles: Dave Legion davelegion.com