Please tell me what your initial intention was when you wrote your film, Woods, and how did the script evolve?
My initial intention was to create something short and beautiful but with a dark emotional undertone. Finding an appropriate project took a lot longer than expected and after watching the breathtaking end to Under the Skin, I was inspired to head out to the woods and make something. I decided to self-produce and create a piece that was a culmination of a few concepts I’d wanted to get on screen.
The script fully evolved after watching Picnic at Hanging Rock. I was really interested in what may have happened to the girls; what might happen if they found themselves trapped in a perpetual limbo, alone in the wilderness and then witnessing something horrific. The style and story quickly evolved from there.
You’re not signed to a production company, so how did you go about producing the film?
Day to day I work in the art department, primarily as a buyer and source all kinds of strange and wonderful things. Working in the same way I created a hit list prioritising the different roles and items we’d need and tackled it from there. One of the key aspects was finding a strong crew and cast to venture to Epping Forest for a freezing February day with me. I was incredibly lucky and they really made the process an absolute pleasure.
I was also greatly helped by Evelyn Rooney, who came in at the end of preproduction and masterfully dealt with all the production aspects on set.
Tell us please about the shoot – was it all straight forward?
Being on set is my favourite place as a director and this was definitely one of my favourite shoots. Alongside directing I was involved in multiple jobs; constructing the massive black cube, leaf wrangling and being the 1st AD. The overall atmosphere was incredibly relaxed, calm and focussed. It really made a refreshing change from the intensity of the commercials I generally work on day to day.
Weather was certainly a factor I was concerned with going into production, as the week prior had been quite changeable. This meant that much of the mood would be decided on the day. I had prepped for every outcome and was met by bright, harsh, winter sunlight that actually suited the piece perfectly. I think it really added to the contrast between the beauty of the setting and the violence of the repetitive act.
What were the main challenges of the production and how did you resolve them?
The short, comprises of essentially six characters played by two actresses, this created a big costume/make up challenge. Questions such as; every time we reset, did the actresses come back fresh and clean? If so, would we need three repeat outfits?
I liked the idea that this cycle had been occurring for sometime and that the girls had the ability to break it, but their personalities meant that they could not escape it. To illustrate this we kept the girls in the same dresses, with remnants of other cycles and caked blood where they had previously been struck.
Working in the woods with a skeleton crew was always going to be a challenge, especially as it was a freezing day and the girls were in thin dresses. Thankfully Epping Forests Open Spaces Department were amazing and let us hire a space close to the woods. This meant the crew had somewhere to warm up and the cast somewhere to dress.
I wanted the shooting style to be that of a polished fashion film and so enlisted the brilliant Yiannis Manolopoulos to DOP and operate the steadicam. This lead to a pretty big endurance challenge as most of the shoot involved chasing the actresses through the uneven woods for fairly long takes. I think he masterfully overcame this and we got some really interesting, beautiful takes.
We featured your earlier film, Thyme. What have you been up to since shooting that?
Since THYME, I’ve been in development hell with a couple of different shorts and pitching slightly outlandish music video concepts. I’ve also made a few sci-fi genre shorts inspired by 70’s sci-fi’s such as Logan’s Run, Roller ball and Barbarella.
Most recently, I’ve been developing a short about a mid-twenties girl struggling in the East London Art scene. I think I’ve got something really exciting and am now on the hunt for funding, production companies and a strong producer.
Alongside this, I’ve been working in the art department on a variety of things from designing a surreal British Patriotic Fetish Sex Dungeon for a Jamie T music video to a dystopian sci-fi space for a Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired short. However generally it’s been quite straight edged commercials.
What are your future plans?
My plan is to continue moving up through the art department whilst also building up my directing to a point where it could eventually take over. Alongside my art scene short, I have just written a three page script inspired by the nasty endings of Black Mirror but set in a non sci-fi world. I plan to shoot it in early Jan.