Dazed finds out the challenges of Collabor8ting on short films made for the big screen
Collabor8te is the combined brainchild of Rankin Film Productions, The Bureau and Dazed, and is sponsored by Nokia. It is a funding platform that gives aspiring filmmakers the chance to work alongside industry professionals, pioneering a new generation of British and Irish filmmakers. Now in its second year, we caught up with three Collabor8tors to find out how the scheme has aided their visions. The filmmakers below are part of those that submitted in 2013. They were shortlisted and awarded funding based on film treatment.
Dazed Digital: You said that when you made Beautiful Enough, you were surprised by the ‘dark’ and ‘uncomfortable’ outcome of the film. Were you surprised by the outcome of Tracks at all?
Claire Oakley: It wasn’t so much that I was surprised by the outcome of Beautiful Enough, since I always intended it to be dark and uncomfortable, but I was surprised at how hard it was to watch with an audience - I felt responsible for making them feel like that, which was a burden that I wasn’t prepared for. I haven’t seen Tracks with an audience yet but it will be tough in parts, I just hope I'm better prepared for that responsibiltiy now!
DD: Was it different to how you imagined?
Claire Oakley: It isn’t as abstract as I had imagined and that is because I was given such sincere and convincing performances by Gordon Brown and John Bell. I believe that when cutting a film your job is not to impose upon it your ideas of what it was or could be, but to do all you can to maintain the spirit of the film itself, and this ‘spirit' is something that comes into being on set, it is the result of the alchemy that occurs when the actors, director, crew, landscape and weather are brought together for those fugitive hours.
DD: Was making an adaptation of your own stage play a difficult or strange process?
Claire Oakley: Writing is always difficult! But adapting it wasn’t strange, the play always had this split identity for I had unwittingly always visualised it as a film. It was one of the first things I ever wrote and it was partly through the process of writing it that I realised I wanted to be a screenwriter, it was full of images and wasn’t written like most plays but more like a screenplay so it wasn’t that odd a process to adapt it, it was actually odder writing it as a stage play in the first place!
Dazed Digital: Which was the hardest process throughout this film making experience?
As always, relinquishing control. This has been my most ambitious short yet, and its scale required me to invest a great deal of trust into the numerous departments that assisted its production. I’m a control freak, but you’ve got to focus on the things in front of you and let other people do their job. Fortunately in this case, everybody did!
DD: You have often commented about your process of first creating dialogue. Do you feel that character construction is the most important process in script writing?
I don’t think it’s any more important than structure, I just happen to find it easier. My co-writer, Jonny Ensall, and I tend to very quickly flesh out a loose structure in order to create some parameters. Once that’s roughly in place, the fluidity with which we write our characters and their dialogue allows us to fill any structural gaps and refine the action more confidently. We keep talkative company, so we reflect on people saying a lot more funny stuff than they actually do.
DD: How did you capture character and dialogue in this short specifically?
It’s based on real people - that makes things a lot easier. None of this stuff actually happened, but it’s definitely the kind of shitty day I can imagine the real Luke, Ramo and Tommy having. Jonny and I grew up in Huddersfield, and there’s just something about the way people talk and behave up there that lives in a world of its own and prompts adaptation.
Dazed Digital: When discussing Michael Faber’s short story, you said you could picture it in your head instantly. Did you stick with this original vision? Or did things change throughout different stages of production?
Andy Taylor Smith: Film never ceases to amaze me how much of an exciting, organic, evolving process it is, I think it's unlike any other art form because of this. Different stages of production bring with it new challenges, new constraints and new surprises and I think the trick is to respond, adapt and embrace these while still retaining the core themes of the project. Serious Swimmers was no different in that respect I did have a very clear image of how I wanted the film to look during the writing process when your only limitation is your imagination. However, once you are in production other variables come into play such as budget, casting, location, equipment, performance and time; all of these have the potential to change the finished film, some are really exciting and others are frustrating but I wanted to embrace both as they are intrinsic aspects of filmmaking and it is these elements that make a finished film a unique experience.
DD: Was the shoot difficult due to the visceral, emotional content of the piece?
Andy Taylor Smith: Yes it really was, I knew from the writing stage that I wanted the relationship between the characters to be truthful and honest so it was my job to create a space that the actors could react to both physically and emotionally as individuals and with each other, part of that was that Gail and Anthony’s relationship should subtly evolve with each other over the course of the film, this style of approach, while really satisfying is actually really difficult to put into practice on a short film where time and budget is incredibly limited. I think perseverance paid off though which shows in the incredible performances by all the key cast.
DD: You stated that you wanted to stay truthful to the core themes of the story. Do you think you achieved this?
Andy Taylor Smith: Yes definitely, we kept hold of the key themes like a lifeline! We adapted certain scenes and moments, but the core themes are ever-present and vital to the story to convey the emotion of the situation.