Directors

Hiromasa Yonebayashi on When Marnie Was There

06 Jun, 2016 Posted in: Directors, Interview

As Studio Ghibli’s latest animation, When Marnie Was There, hits UK cinema screens, Michael Leader speaks with director Hiromasa Yonebayashi…

There are so many emotional aspects interweaving throughout the film, about growing up, friendship, being adopted, about being an outsider to the mainstream culture. But then you also have the time-slip plot and the genre workings of fantasy-tinged melodrama. What was the essence of the film for you?

The central theme of this film is Anna, who closes herself outside of the world. Her gradual change was very important. At the beginning she is expressionless, but through her interchange with Marnie and beautiful nature you gradually see her expression coming back. By the end of the film she’s almost a different girl. To depict that change in one film was very important.

It’s the influential moments in friendship and relationships that create that change.

At first, she closes herself off to others. Anna didn’t notice but her stepmother Yoriko loved her but she didn’t realise. When she moved to the countryside with her auntie and saw Marnie, all the beautiful nature and her peers, she gradually realised that actually the people around her love her.

This and your previous film, Arrietty, are both adaptations of English-language children’s books from half a century ago. I’d like to know what it was that you saw that was relevant about these books to modern day children, and what excited you about retelling these stories.

I think that’s because we depict human beings, not just children, as having to struggle with interaction is relevant through time and people. With Marnie, she is isolated and she hates herself because she has closed herself off from the world. Children these days are connected to friends and others through SMS, they can connect with them anytime, anywhere. Some children feel isolated and tired of it as well though. So for girls like that we wanted to make a film that gives them a enough courage to step forward.

On the other hand, Arrietty is a very outgoing and adventurous child, so I was wondering what was relevant to today’s children from Arrietty?

In Arrietty they were borrowers – they borrow things to live. I saw myself in Arrietty when I was making it because she and her family lived under the house and had to borrow things from big people. In the end her family move out from that hiding place under the house and sail to a different world, into the unknown with hope and looking into the future. I’m not really sure if that was relevant to today, but at the time that I was making it I definitely saw Arrietty in me.

When Marnie Was There is in cinemas from 10th June 2016…

Director Nikias Chryssos on The Bunker

06 May, 2016 Posted in: Directors

As his dark, twisted comedy-drama The Bunker premieres in Film4′s Saturday Night Shocks strand, director Nikias Chryssos provides an introduction to his debut film…

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The Bunker is my first feature and I wanted to be playful with it, I wanted it to be able to develop without having the boundaries of a certain genre right from the beginning – so it has elements of comedy, horror, even melodrama.

The Bunker is a bizarre dark, funny, trip into the life of a strange family and their even stranger son Klaus, who seems to be stuck between man and child, who’s not allowed to grow up naturally. He says he’s 8, but is he really?

Klaus’s parents want him to achieve the highest goals – become President – and I think it’s a good moment for him to run for this office. I think, in this day and age, he might have a real chance.

We shot the film in one month, with four extreme characters, and soon we all felt psychotic ourselves. I am very grateful to my entire team, my co-producers, my production designers, the costume and make-up department, the cinematographer, sound designer, editor, composer and title designer for developing this underground world with me.

Thankfully, I knew all the actors before, saw them in my mind when I developed the story and was very fortunate to discuss their roles with them early in the process. When I asked Daniel Fripan, who plays Klaus, if he could imagine playing an 8-year-old, he jumped on my lap, hugged me and looked at me with big eyes. That was the casting. Later, we went to his old elementary school for research and looked at the children’s behaviour. They all loved him.

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Maybe The Bunker can tell us something about education, childhood, the hell family life sometimes might be, high aspirations, and wounds that will never heal.

My influences were reading about the pressure society puts on its children in order to achieve in later life, expectations we have on ourselves, experiences in high school, the creative hell of working on a piece of art, a script or a thesis, and lots of books and movies, from the Marx brothers to Dario Argento, from Summerhill’s A.S. Neill to Kafka to David Lynch, Polanski, Kubrick and Cronenberg.

I wanted the film to be playful, anarchic, and hopefully suck you into its own little universe like a black hole.

The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival last year and I was really excited what kind of response we would get. I feel lucky the film went to many more festivals worldwide, won some awards, and I’m very happy to be able to present it to a bigger audience in the UK now.

Don’t worry if you feel it’s all weird… it is, just like life can be sometimes. We don’t have to grasp everything. Sit back and enjoy the fantastical world of Klaus, the student, and the family.

The Bunker premieres on Film4 on Saturday 7th May 2016. To view more of Nikias’s work, visit his Vimeo page.

Paddy Considine’s Journeyman is now in post production

04 May, 2016 Productions Posted in: Cannes, Directors

Paddy Considine’s second feature Journeyman wrapped in mid April after a six-week shoot in Sheffield, Leicester, Doncaster and the surrounding areas. Post production is now underway, and Cornerstone Films will screen a first-look promo at Cannes in May…

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Paddy Considine not only wrote and directed the film but also stars alongside Jodie Whittaker (One Day), Anthony Welsh (My Brother The Devil), Tony Pitts (War Horse) and Paul Popplewell (’71). Many of the supporting cast make their acting debuts and take on roles that closely mirror their actual professions with appearances from boxers, boxing commentators, nurses and an occupational therapist. Journeyman was developed and shot in close collaboration with the boxing community and medical profession.

Cornerstone Films is handling the international sales and distribution and will screen the first-look promo from Journeyman in Cannes.

The film will be released in 2017 and is financed by Film4, the BFI, Screen Yorkshire, and the Wellcome Trust with STUDIOCANAL on board to handle the UK release.

Producer Diarmid Scrimshaw said of the shoot, “Paddy took to simultaneously writing, directing and acting like it was meant to be. He delivered a beautiful performance whilst working brilliantly with the other actors and crew. We are making another very special film here and it is clear that Paddy has a world class skill and capacity that he’s capable of exercising on multiple fronts at once.”

Journeyman tells the story of middleweight boxing champion Matty Burton. As he approaches the end of his career he knows that he must make his money and get out of the game, to secure a home and future with his wife and baby daughter. After a titanic fight with the brash and controversial Andre Bryte, Matty collapses on his living room floor, a delayed reaction to a devastating punch. Awaking from the coma, the real fight begins. Suffering from memory loss and with his personality altered, Matty must begin to piece his life back together as his world disintegrates.

Journeyman is a powerful and beautiful story about loss and, ultimately, triumph. It’s about our identity, and how in life we sometimes have to dig deep into our soul to discover who we really are.

Paul Goodwin on Future Shock! The Story Of 2000 AD

04 Apr, 2016 Posted in: Directors, Documentaries, Film4 Channel, Interview

As Future Shock! The Story Of 2000 AD receives its TV premiere, director Paul Goodwin talks to Film4 site editor Michael Leader about making a documentary about the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, home to iconic characters such as Judge Dredd, and launchpad for some of the medium’s most influential writers and artists…

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ML: What’s your history with 2000 AD? Were/are you a reader?

PG: Yes! Pretty much everyone involved in the production of the film are fans of 2000 AD of one era or another – it’s a real passion project for us all.

I first came to it in about 1986. I borrowed a stack of old progs from a school friend and it all just blew my tiny mind! I remember reading some Rogue Troopers, Nemesis The Warlock and my first Judge Dredd was the Judge Child Quest. Immediately I was experiencing these crazy worlds and characters that were totally different to anything I’d ever read – I was hooked. I spent every day after school down at the comic shop in Harrow, and every weekend traipsing around Denmark Street and Paradise Alley cleaning them out of back issues for pennies. It was a seminal experience. Once you experience 2000 AD it stays with you for life!

When producing a film like this, where do you start? Were you looking at other documentaries, either about comics or not, to figure out the structure, tone and approach?

In terms of other documentaries, we definitely liked Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood, and talked about the tone and pace, and we wanted to create something similar for our subject. We didn’t have the luxury of all that great footage in NQH to use as cutaways though, but we did have nearly 40 years of fucking awesome artwork!

Structure-wise we knew we would use the rough chronological spine, but there were certain important aspects we wanted to focus on such as the state of the comics scene before 2000 AD in the 70s, the migration of talent to the US in the 80s and the troubles the comic went through during the 90s. These were all things that, as fans, we wanted to know about ourselves, so it was great fun exploring those subjects in the interviews. We also delved into the inspiration behind the characters, which gave us the chance to explore the very heart of 2000 AD, the subversion and the anarchy!

Another crucial element of the film is the soundtrack, composed by Justin Greaves of Crippled Black Phoenix. He’s also a massive 2000 AD fan, and we all agreed that the music needed to add attitude and a punk dynamic to reflect the 2000 AD experience. It’s amazing, perfect.

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Interviewing writer Neil Gaiman…

There are so many moving parts in a production like this – interviewee access, clip clearances, imagery rights, not to mention everything that comes after the film itself is finished. What’s the hardest part of the process?

Overall, the entire project has been a joy to work on, but I’ll admit that the stuff after post production can be a bit of a drag. The film is finished and you have like another year’s worth of admin! Luckily the subject matter is something I cared about so much it was never a chore. By far the most difficult part was the legal side. 2000 AD has had quite few fiery and passionate personalities involved over the years, and so there was a busy task of ironing out any potential litigious content. Also with all the clips and artwork to clear there were endless trims and edits back and forth to keep our lawyer happy. That process went on for months, not cheap either…

Interviewing 2000 AD creator Pat Mills...

Interviewing 2000 AD creator Pat Mills…

The roster of writers, artists, editors and 2000 AD comrades that you interview in the film is incredible. Of course, they’re all remarkable, but do you have any personal favourites?

It was a genuine honour to meet and chat about comics with all our contributors and I thank each one for giving up their time to speak to us. Everyone was hugely supportive of the project and their passion and openness on camera was a testament to what an impact 2000 AD has had on us all.

I would say that our interview with Pat Mills was very important, that was the moment we knew we had a great spine for the documentary. He’s so important to the history of the comic, he recognised that we wanted to do a very thorough job and was happy to talk at length about anything and everything to do with the 2000 AD.

We were also very lucky to sit down with Alex Garland for a couple of hours; he’s not known for doing many interviews but told us he was happy to be involved as 2000 AD was such a seminal influence. On a personal note, it was a huge honour to interview Peter Milligan, whose work I’ve admired for many years.

Where would you recommend a newcomer to 2000 AD start, if their interest in the comic is piqued after watching the film?

Ha! Well, apart from signing up for the prog every week… I’d send people straight to DR & Quinch. S’right!

Future Shock! The Story Of 2000 AD premieres on Film4 at 11.25pm on Wednesday 6th April 2016, as part of Dark Futures Season.

Dark Horse: Postcard from Sundance

Dark Horse director Louise Osmond on visiting Sundance for the first time, where her film premiered to critical acclaim and won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

Dark Horse: winner of the Audience Awards for World Documentary at Sundance

Dark Horse: winner of the Audience Awards for World Documentary at Sundance

Sundance has such a romance attached to it – the original indie festival – and I’m glad to say it genuinely lives up to its reputation. There is some madness out there – a swanky crowd who gather on the main street of Park City and swarm over celebrities like Chris Pine (we saw the swarm snaking down the road but not the man inside.)

But most of it is people who love film watching everything they can and a very warm atmosphere that gets film teams together in brunches and lunches and events that remind you why you love the job you do.

The producer, Judith Dawson and editor, Joby Gee were out there too and, nervous as cats, we waited for the premiere. Joby had one of his trademark fantastic/horrible shirts on – brown and blue dancing horses in 100% vintage rayon. Laughing at him proved oddly calming.  Coming out here, I’d thought – worried – a lot about whether American audiences would take to the story. In Park City, listening in the dark to every sigh or cough it seemed like they did but at a screening in Salt Lake City the next day it was louder and easier to read. They did seem to take to it and better still what they loved most about our fantastic characters – Jan and Brian, Howard and the others – was their spirit of defiance.

People will sometimes tell you America is a classless society but that news hasn’t reached Utah. Taking on the elite sport of kings with a horse bred on a slagheap allotment seemed to resonate very strongly with them. One man said: ‘Good to see people who aren’t respected getting the respect they deserve.’  Can’t argue with that.

Read more about Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance