With extensive cuts in government funding, it has been a tough year for the British film industry. Nevertheless, new British work continues to lead the way at Edinburgh International Film Festival who will be hosting the launch of Collabor8te on the 16th June at 14.15. An exciting new initiative, Collabor8te brings together the teams behind Rankin Film, independent production company, The Bureau, and DazedTV to produce, fund and distribute eight short films by the best British talent throughout 2012. “Since we are well equipped with the latest camera and editing technology, have a great production team, and are partnered with DazedTV.com, we felt like we already had the perfect production and distribution structure in place. The Bureau were able to advise us on how to open up a call for quality script submissions and will be helping us to develop the eight scripts we finally decide on.”
Rankin explains; “We hope to continue the scheme beyond 2012 with the aim of developing and producing micro-budget feature films in the years to come.” With an emphasis on script development, collaboration and education, Collabor8te will pair new talent with more experienced professionals from new writers with seasoned directors to newcomer actors captured by renowned directors of photography. “On a personal level”, Rankin continues, “I really hope this scheme will help to encourage novel new collaborations, get people together to create an energized new community of filmmakers and create an inspiring body of new short films.”
To celebrate the launch, Collabor8te will be screening a diverse mix of four British narrative shorts by new and slightly more established talent that are exemplary of the type of work it will look to produce at the Festival. ‘Man and Boy’ by David Leon and Marcus McSweeney is a drama inspired by the case of Scott Campbell, who fell to his death from a tower block in 2008 after trying to flee a mob who thought he had sexually assaulted a boy. Made on a budget of just £5,000 it went on to win Best Short Film at Tribecca earlier this year. Also showing dark comedy Gee Gee by Peter Straughan, writer of ‘Men Who Stare at Goats’, Hello Carter, written and directed by Antony Wilcox and Joanna Coates’s lyrical short, ‘Where Are They Now?'. “They all represent a particular way to be truthful to their vision while succeeding to engage an audience, rather than alienating it” explains Valentina Brazzini from The Bureau. “We hope Collabora8te will be able to produce narrative shorts that break the conventions and are able to speak to their viewers.” Here we catch up with three of the directors to find out more…
Antony Wilcox, director of 'Hello Carter'
Dazed Digital: You have worked as an AD with some of the greats including Michael Winterbottom, Lars von Trier and Terence Davies. What do you think they taught you?
Antony Wilcox: I've been very lucky to work with lots of brilliant, inspiring directors so what I have learned has been hugely varied. Guy Ritchie's approach to directing is unsurprisingly very different to Lars Von Trier's, for example! It's how you choose to tell that story that is always going to be subjective. I've soaked up everything I possibly could as an assistant director - it's been an incredible way to learn.
DD: You wrote and directed Hello Carter. Do you think it’s easier or harder to direct your own script?
Antony Wilcox: I'm sure it varies from person to person, but for me it's definitely easier (or less difficult) to direct from my own scripts as I'm able to carry such an intimate, instinctive understanding of the characters and situations onto the set with me. This allows more time to worry about all the other million things you need to worry about as a director.
DD: Could you tell me a little about the film and how it came about?
Antony Wilcox: I wanted to make a short film that would have a story and character that would appeal to a wide audience. And I wanted it to be largely comedic. But I also wanted to put all that into something that looked, sounded and felt very cinematic. So the shooting style, the music, the casting was all done in a way to deliberately fight against the comedy that was on the page. I feel in the UK we have a tendency to think comedy has to be a certain way and can't be cinematic - but people like the Coen brothers have proved otherwise.
DD: What were some of the challenges involved in making the film?
Antony Wilcox: Every single minute of prepping and making any film is a challenge! It was a year and a half after I wrote the first draft of the script until we filmed it. The main challenges, though were: Finding the money to do it in the first place. I worked with a brilliant producer, Julian Bird, who in the end took all that stuff off my hands. We had a budget of £8K that was all privately raised through various contacts of Julian's. Coordinating the availability of the cast and crew I wanted - which is why I waited as long as I did to make it - I got everyone in the end! Then, the main challenge, forgetting all that stuff, along with all the smaller problems that always crop up, and concentrating on putting every momement and emotion on the screen that you'd always imagined would be there.
DD: What do you think the future is for British cinema?
Antony Wilcox: Exciting, without doubt. I think the significance of the demise of the film council was overblown a little bit - it'll be back, probably stronger, just in a different guise. And our pool of creative and technical talent can compete with anywhere in the world - so there's no excuse really!
DD: What is your all time favourite short?
Antony Wilcox: I'm always bad at saying what my favourite films are. I think Luke Snellin's 'Mixtape', that won the Virgin Media Shorts competition last year, is really outstanding and everything a short film should be. So let's say that one today.
David Leon, director of 'Man and Boy'
Dazed Digital: Man and Boy was your directorial debut. What made you decide to give it a go?
David Leon: I'd been working as an actor for about 6/7 years and got into it because of my love of film. The more work I did the more I realised how much film is a Directors medium.
DD: What do you think the experience taught you?
David Leon: It taught me everything and left me craving the need to know more. The beauty of it is that you can never know enough, whether it be technical or creative, there are always new inspirations and influences.
DD: Man and Boy is based on the real life case of Scott Campbell. What was it about his story that captured your interest?
David Leon: Cinematically it was the injustice of the situation and the fact that in character terms the roles were reversed. The antagonist in reality is an underage boy who doesn't have the maturity to understand the consequences of his actions and as a result, the events which unfold. However the empathy lies with the character most people would immediately associate with being evil. It makes you question your perceptions and raises the idea of whether people deserve a second chance.
DD: The film's narrative is non linear, shifting perspective, time and location. What do you think the effect of that is on the audience/ what position do you think that puts them in?
David Leon: It was a choice that was made early on in development. It was felt that in order to keep suspense the story couldn't be told in a linear fashion. By cutting back and forth in time you continually re evaluate where your sympathy lies and who to root for. When it transpires that what you imagined to be the case is not, I hope it challenges people to not always judge a book by it's cover.
DD: Man and Boy features some well known actors including Geoff Bell and Eddie Marsan. How did you work with them on their performance?
David Leon: I'm a big believer in casting well and creating an environment whereby people feel like they can make mistakes. As long it is part of a constructive process I think that's how people eventually produce moments of brilliance. Character is so important because I believe above all in lasts far longer in the memory than plot so getting good performances is key.
DD: What are some of the challenges involved in making a short as opposed to a feature length film?
David Leon: I think time and resources are the biggest challenge. You're doing everything on your own, producing, scouting locations, hiring equipment... It all results in limited time to think creatively, you have to really make time to sit down and prepare for the scenes ahead in the way that ultimately matters most.
DD: What is your all time favourite short film?
David Leon: Paddy Considine's short Dog Altogether is very powerful and has a definite feature sensibility, it stays with you and feels like it's part of something much bigger. Soft which is Directed by Simon Ellis is a brilliant example of how to use the medium to it's fullest, it works within the constraints of 19 minutes or so brilliantly with an excellent ending.
Joanna Coates, director of 'Where Are They Now'
Dazed Digital: What was the idea behind 'Where Are They Now' and how did the film come about?
Joanna Coates: It's a melding of several things I love - I wanted to play with real modern fables and myths. Everyone knows the 'story arc' of a band's career, so I used that as a way into something more personal, about life, growing up, escape and return, 'The North', ideas of alternative culture being eroded, or mutating. I was playing with a 'realist' style, that singularly British Aesthetic found in Alan Clarke, The Au Pairs, Richard Billingham etc. I reference it, but I strip it down into its barest elements, to abstract it slightly and them let a dreaminess blossom. I like things to be romantic, transcendent, but still restrained: grim dreamy realism. The male character was inspired by someone I used to know briefly, my neighbour when I lived in Leeds. He was pretty charismatic - I have no idea where he ended up. And I like words, combining words and images in powerful ways is weirdly kind of underestimated. Werner Herzog for example, uses narration so powerfully and I wanted the sounds and voiceover in Where Are They Now to work as much as the images - not in a theatrical way of course, but complementing and enhancing the images.
DD: It seems to be a film very particularly about a northern music scene. Could you tell me about that?
Joanna Coates: To a large extent its my youth and the youth of most people I know. Most people I know are involved in music and I design album covers sometimes as well. I think famous Northern music scenes have indelibly affected British culture, its just part of our psyche. But although the film is set in the North, I'm simply trying to conjure the unique feel and importance of places that are Non-London, where time moves at a different rhythm and ideas develop in privacy more. I wanted that sense of being somewhere else. The music in the film is all written by Johnny White, aka Fairewell (previously The Rollercoaster Project). We were a couple for 6 years and he is from Sheffield so that sense of a northern landscape is really important to me. I also wanted to capture a particular musical moment that I think is fading forever - pre digital, pre major label, slightly different values - the music world now is simply different, I don't think anyone would disagree.
DD: What are you working on next?
Joanna Coates: I'm currently shooting a feature-length documentary about a famous dancer, and I'm writing a feature-length drama: a dirty, artful, spooky thriller set in outer London.
DD: What is your all time favourite short film?
Joanna Coates: Either Jacques Demy's 'Le sabotier du Val de Loire' (1956) or Alan Clarke's 'Christine'
Collabor8te will be opening submissions for short film scripts late summer 2011. Jefferson Hack, Rankin and Bureau's Valentina Brazzini will be officially launch Collabor8te at EIFF. This Thursday 16th at 14.15 at filmhouse 2.