Ross Johnston’s take on Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes was selected by the Film4.0 jury to win a Special Jury Priz. Here he blogs for Film4 on choosing the original film, shooting with some mates and finally finding out that he had been highly commended.
Just make it and forget about it. It’ll be good practice but don’t get your hopes up. Cut to a few weeks later, and we’re in London receiving an award from Film4. Funny old world.
When I saw Dead Man’s Shoes on the list of films you could steal from, I knew straight away what scene to do. That first confrontation between Richard and Herby has always stuck with me – it is kind of a microcosm for the entire film; Richard’s murderous rage erupting from below the calm surface when he’s near those he holds responsible for hurting his brother, and then the terrible stillness when he realises what he has done. What Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine achieved with that film is truly inspirational. To me it’s a perfect scene, so it was with some trepidation we approached remaking it. What really struck me about the scene was the look on Herbie’s face after Richard yells at him. Herbie knows he wants to kill him so why not show that? That was the genesis of the idea; from there it was a case of gathering a talented group of people to make it.
Neal Megaw is my DP, editor and best friend so he puts up with a lot, and to him I am eternally grateful; the man’s a saint. I showed him the film, he loved it, we bounced about the idea and the next day we were looking for locations. We both liked the two guys playing pool in the original scenes and thought it might be cool to set it in that environment and incorporate the visuals and sounds of the collisions into the story, so after a few grotty pubs we settled on the pool hall.
We had a great time shooting the scene, it was the first ‘proper’ short film we’d shot this year and it reminded us why we want to do this. It was shot in three hours as that was how long we had the pool hall for, and it turned out to be just enough. All the actors were fantastic, each bringing their own interpretation of the roles and giving it their all. Robbie Beggs who played Richard brought a real intensity to the role and his enthusiasm and support were key to the film getting made.
The edit took a couple of days. The trickiest part was getting the vision element right. Neal kept at it and in the end after many detours we decided to keep it simple, let the sound design take us in and out, and while we’re in it, let it be purely visual. Afterwards we uploaded it and tried to forget about it, with a secret toe or finger permanently crossed, of course. When we found out we made the shortlist we were thrilled – that we won the Special Jury Prize still hasn’t really sunk in.
To have Film4 acknowledge something we made really does mean the world. It has given us confidence that we’re heading in the right direction and has inspired us to learn as much as we can and keep getting better at doing what we love: making films.
A massive thank you to Anna Higgs and the rest of the Film4.0 team for running an amazing competition. I must also acknowledge my huge debt of gratitude to Shane Meadows, Paddy Considine and everyone else responsible for making Dead Man’s Shoes. Finally to all those involved with making our entry, a sincere and heartfelt pat on the back – I owe you all a drink.