Cannes Short Film Corner Interview 2018

Hello Laurence thanks for talking to tNC, how’s everything going?

Busy. As well as the promotion for Gone on the festival circuit, I’m also developing an original script for Sky Atlantic and working up a few treatments.

Congratulations on having Gone part of this years Cannes Short Film Corner, what does it mean to have your film part of the festival?

Well Cannes is obviously the one festival everyone has heard of, film fan or not so it’s a tremendous honour. It’s fantastic that everyone’s hard work and devotion to the project has been recognised by such an influential festival.

This is your debut short film do you have any nerves ahead of the festival?

Not really. I think the next short I make will be more nerve wracking because I will have been through it before. I really didn’t know what to expect as this is my first short so getting it made alone was a tremendous thrill. Everything else is just a huge bonus.

Can you tell me a little bit about Gone, how did this film come about?

Well this may sound a bit hokey but the dialogue was more or less verbatim, a dream I’d had. It was a discussion between two people who weren’t together anymore through no fault of their own. I woke up and wrote it down. Probably a matter of hours from head to page but it took me three further years to make it.

What was the inspiration behind this film?

My wife. We got married and had a family and it had such a huge effect on me. I’d found something so precious it was hard to get my head around at first. Dreams I think, are ways of preparing you for the worse case scenario – or trying to at least and I think the worse thing for me would be being separated from my family.

Did you draw upon any of your own experiences when you where writing your screenplay?

I think in some respects that’s all you can do. Of course what happens to Dan, played by the brilliant Daniel Betts, has never happened to me (and I pray it never does does) but you draw on your own fears as well as experiences when you write.

What was the most challenging part of bringing this film to life been for you?

Having the courage to just say “Right, I’m making this.” Although truth be told, it was my wife again who made me take that step. She said, after hearing me say “I really want to make Gone.” for the umpteenth time, “Well just make it then.” So I rattled off a few more excuses as to why I couldn’t and she said. “I’d just really like you to finish something you’ve started.” And she was exactly right. Once you do it, it gives you the confidence to work on the other things that are gathering dust in some corner of your office (or mind).

Looking back is there anything you would do differently on this film?

I don’t think so. I was extremely lucky to have the driving force of a great producer in Anna Murphy from Feather Productions – it’s always good to have a tenacious Scot in your corner – and really, I’ve just been totally humbled by the love and dedication that the people who worked on the film, from the grips to the editors, the actors and the other brilliant artists (like Rose Betts who supplied the music) have shown. For the big bad world that the industry is supposed to be – there really are an incredible amount of patient, kind and generous people out there.

Have you always been interested in filmmaking?

I have, the writing has always come first but of course as you write, you have a clear vision of how it would look so you’re kind of  directing in your head. Having a brilliant DOP like Chris Fergusson who helped me realise my vision (and improve on it in some cases) was essential.

What would you say has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from directing this film?

To listen. Sometimes you can be too close to a subject, especially if you’ve written it and it’s something personal. It can take a while to realise people are trying to help not take it away from you.

Have you found it hard to let go of this film?

Not at all. Once something is done and dusted, I’m happy to let it go. It’s cathartic in some respects. It clears your mind so you can get on with the next thing.

What has been the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I think the best piece of advice I’ve been given was from the brilliant actor and writer Lennie James. When you’re developing an idea of your own with other people, there are a lot of opinions flying around and it can really be hard not to lose sight of what it was you started with. Lennie told me to stay confident to the original idea but also, if others try to come up with a ‘fix’, what they’re pointing at might be worthy of your attention. 

Now you can be reflective do you have any advice you would offer a fellow director?

What after directing my one film? 😉

I’m not sure I’m qualified to hand out advice but I think it’s important to take your time (but not too much), seek out likeminded people to work with, prepare like crazy, know every element of what you want and be able to communicate it, be calm and kind, always look like you’re in control (even if it feels like you’re not) and lastly, enjoy it. 

Doing this kind of work is a huge, massive, humungous privilege. The mere fact that you have the opportunity to make something from your thoughts into a tangible thing for others to enjoy is mind-blowing. It is hard work but you’re not saving lives so remember to smile.

(I’m going to print this out and stick it on the fridge)

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?

It’s funny, I think when you write something you’re not really thinking what you want people to take away from it – well I wasn’t, but now it’s completed and I’ve spoken to people who’ve seen it, I realise it’s touched on a lot of issues that I hadn’t even thought about. I don’t want to give anything away but I guess now in retrospect, I want people to realise that mental health issues can affect anyone at any time for a million different reasons. I’d like people to be more tolerant of other people because you don’t know what  private hell they’re going through and finally, if you have loved ones tell them how much they mean to you every day. Remember the last thing you say to them could be the last thing they hear.