Award Winning

Interview: Rebecca Johnson – ‘Honeytrap’ Director

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ALREADY predicted to be one of the British films of the year, Rebecca Johnson’s feature film debut Honeytrap is showing at the Colchester Film Festival’s Unseen Cinema event this Friday, May 1, a week before it goes on general release across the country.

The director will also be taking part in a Q&A about Honeytrap with members of the cast after the screening, so it’s a great chance to question her about the film and find out what it takes to make such an original and distinctive piece of cinema.

Set on the mean streets and tough estates of south London, Honeytrap centres on Layla, a 15-year-old girl who is desperate to fit in and be accepted by her peers but finds herself embroiled in a tangled and ultimately tragic series of events that leads to a boy being stabbed to death.

An unflinching look at the pressures and expectations on teenagers among contemporary gang culture, Honeytrap was inspired by actual events but Rebecca is quick to point out that it’s a work of fiction that draws on how life really is in some inner cities in the UK.

“The case took place in south London, places like Brixton, Croydon and Norwood are all networked up. There are lots of incidences of young kids getting mixed up in violence but this one made the papers because a girl was involved and she was just 15.

“The way it was reported was shocking. It was a 15-year-old child and she was being characterised as a femme fatale. It was such a shocking way of portraying it. It made her seem like an adult and she was just a kid. It refused to acknowledge the reality of the situation, the situation these kids find themselves in.”

What marks out Honeytrap from other depictions of gang culture in Britain is that it’s told from a female perspective, not just because Layla is the main character but also with Rebecca directing and writing.

“It’s high time we saw a girl’s side of something like this,” Rebecca says. “It’s much more interesting to see the female perspective rather than just the ‘good girl’ or ‘bad girl’ stereotype of women.”

But Rebecca stresses that this isn’t just a film about girls in this situation, it’s also about boys and how they get drawn into some extreme behaviour.

“I was interested in making the film tense and exciting, showing how tough this world can be and how you can get wrapped up in it. I also wanted to show the vulnerability in the boys, how they have the pressure of keeping up a persona, the machismo, and they can’t always do that.

“I know lots of young people who have been involved in violence, both as victims and perpetrators. It’s really awful but they’re not what you think. They say hello, they’re really sweet, they don’t seem tough. To me it’s just tragic because they’re not tough, they’re just trying to prove they’re something they’re not. They’ll be violent because that’s the expectation of what they’ll do.”

What impact does Rebecca hope Honeytrap might have?

“Little changes can happen,” she says. “People see things differently when they step into someone else’s shoes. Films can’t cause huge social change by themselves but if a lot of people see the film you hope it can help change people’s perceptions a bit”

 

The advance screening of Honeytrap is showing at firstsite, Colchester at 7.30pm on Friday, May 1. There’ll be a Q&A with Rebecca Johnson and the cast after the screening. A pop-up bar will be open from 7pm.

Tickets are £6, £3.50 concessions, £3 members.

More details and bookings at http://www.firstsite.uk.net/page/honeytrap

 

By Darryl Webber
Journalist, writer, blogger
(www.chillidogmovies.blogspot.co.uk)

http://colchesterfilmfestival.com
https://www.facebook.com/colchesterfilmfestival
https://twitter.com/ColFilmFestival

Interview: Jesper Quistgaard – Colchester Film Festival Best Film Winner

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In the lead up to Colchester Film Festival 2015 this October, we caught up with last year’s Best Film winner.

Danish filmmaker Jesper Quistgaard submitted his 16 minute film Heavyweight (available to view here) with no expectations, and came away awarded with Best Film. “It’s a great interest to us that the film is screened out in the world. I want people to see it. My feelings are that, except maybe at Colchester, most film festivals around the world very much try to take in films that are more artsy and intellectually stimulating, rather than emotionally stimulating. Colchester is the first film award I have received so it means a lot!”

Heavyweight follows one parking attendant as he faces the constant hardships of his job. Inspired by his 6 year old son who believes he is a police officer, he turns vigilante against one particular group of individuals who wronged him the previous day. “There’s justification for drama in everyday life and we, as an audience, quickly understand how he must feel. The reason we made a sympathetic lead character is because I want the audience to feel with him. In general the audience is indifferent to what they see on screen, we have to really give them a reason to cheer for a guy. We felt we accomplished that, and for that I’m proud.”

“The writer and I wanted to do parking attendants justice, so we were out a few days ourselves with the real attendants. I got shouted at and it was really quite horrific. Even Rudi [Köhnke], our lead actor, went out one day with an attendant in Copenhagen.”

“We faced many challenges making the film, as it is when working for free on something that has a tiny budget.” One of Quistgaard and his team’s biggest challenges was the tight time limit they had for development and pre-production; “The deadlines in the film school we made the film through were pretty harsh. In effect, that meant we had to write and produce it at the same time. So while writing it, we had to pin ourselves to some things such as how many characters there would be and who they were. We had to cast Rudi and the boy William in particular while writing, thus making us unable to change that later in the writing process. That was hard.”

“I became interested in filmmaking after seeing the scene where Boromir dies in The Lord of the Rings aged 11. That scene holds almost everything I think is epic and wish to accomplish as a filmmaker, but it was a short film called Kinderspiel by German director Lars Kornhoff that pulled the blanket from under me. I guess it taught me what a short film could tell. It made the whole audience cry including me. From then on I was hooked.”

Colchester Film Festival has a dedicated Foreign Drama category as well as a varied mix of foreign films integrated in its other categories; comedy and romance, animation, comedy, and sci-fi and horror. “It’s always difficult making great drama in Denmark because it’s such a small, cosy society. The truly amazing and horrifying thing at international film festivals is that there is so much wild talent out there. It makes me feel small but also forces me to push harder.”

“Film festivals are a huge part of why we even make films. If I could make a living off of short films, I would do that. But right now we need film festival’s recognition to impress the established business to allow us to make feature films.” Not even a year on Quistgaard has already felt the benefits of winning Best Film; “Suddenly I am more eligible to receive funding and support for future endeavours, but personally it’s given me self-esteem and more backbone. I was actually on Danish TV for winning, so yeah, it’s a big deal.”

Unfortunately Quistgaard was unable to pick up his award in person due to commitments for his next film Ødeland [translated: Wasteland). “It’s practically the same team as before with a new producer called Cathrine Odgaard, who is also my editor. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s about a father who finds out his daughter is suicidal and they have to travel to “the mainland” to find antibiotics for her self-inflicted wounds. There they find a boy with medicine and decide to bring him back to their little island. The question is whether they can trust him or not, since they are unsure if he belongs to a cannibalistic gang. I guarantee plenty of drama and action with another great performance by Rudi Køhnke.”

“My experience at Colchester Film Festival has led me to think that I’m on the right track and that I did some right things. I will definitely be sending in “Ødeland” as well.”

When asked what advice he had for aspiring filmmakers, Quistgaard replied “Consider how little the world needs new film makers. Supply and demand is not in our favour. So the only way you can ever get to make films is to prove that you do something better or more unique. Also, don’t be a know-it-all. Listen every time someone says anything, especially when it comes to getting critique. It’s always easier to see what’s wrong with someone else’s work than your own. So listen when people give you their opinion – they see clearly and you don’t.”

Last year Colchester Film Festival received more than 5,000 short films from over 60 countries worldwide. For many of the 36 selected, it was their UK premiere.

Short and feature film entries for this year’s festival are now open. Submissions are free until 1st June (www.colchesterfilmfestival.com/submissions)

By Cara Weatherley
(www.caraweatherleyartsaward.wordpress.com)

http://colchesterfilmfestival.com
https://www.facebook.com/colchesterfilmfestival
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Interview: Daisy Jacobs – BAFTA Winning director

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A year ago Daisy Jacobs was exhausted having just finished her graduation film, The Bigger Picture after 12 months of hard work. Now, she’s preparing to go to the Baftas and Oscars where that film is up for awards in the best animated short film categories.

It’s been a remarkable journey for the young director who received the Rising Star Award at the Colchester Film Festival just a few months ago. The festival’s organisers got it right, she’s certainly a rising star and just a year into her career can claim to be an Oscar-nominated director. Some people wait a lifetime for that kind of accolade.

Yet animation is a fairly recent preoccupation for Daisy who grew up in Hampshire and was initially interested in fine art and illustration. She studied illustration at Central St Martins in London and only studied animation in her last year there as an extra option. She obviously saw potential for her work in that area and did a further two years at the National Film & Television School (NFTS) to explore animation.

“Illustration is what I’d been doing and after a time you want to make that move,” she says. “I didn’t find it easy, I couldn’t do it at first. I found it very difficult, it took me a good six months to get the hang of it. I was bottom of the class.”

But Daisy persevered and had a vision of turning the kind of art she liked doing into animated films, starting with The Bigger Picture, the making of which took up the second year of her time at the NFTS. Most first-time animations are small-scale efforts, but Daisy was thinking bigger.

“I wanted to have a go at painting on a large scale at film school. When I started working with the crew, we each worked out our own parts. The set was half a real room and half flat, so it presented issues with how we filmed. We got through it together through trial and error.”

A vital part of the process was working with the right people. The film’s animator and model-maker Chris Wilder was someone Daisy knew and liked from her illustration and post-graduate courses while cinematographer Max Williams was on the NFTS programme and was “a can-do guy, very helpful and a decent man.”

The themes behind The Bigger Picture were inspired by Daisy’s own experience, as she explains:

“The story is loosely based on my family because my gran had Parkinson’s and was very ill and in a wheelchair for the last two years of her life. So I wanted to look at a family and the problems there are with dealing with an elderly relative.

“It took four months to write in all. I wrote too much, about 12 minutes at first, which was too long. It needed to be shorter so I took a lot out in editing on the storyboards. I found it easier to cut it down and fine-tune it when I saw the images”

When the script was ready, Daisy and Chris spent a month making props for the film in what might possibly be the smallest office at the National School of Film and Television. Whereas the other students would be using their offices for their small-scale animations, Daisy and Chris knew they’d need a bigger space for their larger scale production so they were content with a small space… until they realised there wasn’t always room for much else besides the two desks in there.

“It was very, very cramped,” Daisy admits recalling having to give up painting a rug when she realised there wasn’t even space to stand up in the room.

Making the film itself, animating and filming, took six months, then there were a few weeks of post-production which finished almost exactly 12 months ago. Overall, it was an intense and exhausting process for Daisy and her team but more than worth it given the reception The Bigger Picture has received.

Visually, it’s a striking film and quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before as life-size 2D animated figures interact with a 3D domestic setting. Daisy cites painter David Hockney as an influence and you can certainly see that in the bold visuals and colours she uses. Narratively, The Bigger Picture looks at the struggles two brothers have in coping with their ill, elderly mother but while it’s dark at times, it’s also funny and very entertaining.

It’s been a big hit on the festival circuit this year, receiving many screenings and accolades including at Cannes where it won the Cinefoundation Award. Obviously, Daisy is delighted with all the attention and positive comments The Bigger Picture has been getting.

“It’s been a really great year. We’ve taken it to loads of festivals. It’s been amazing to see how people react, we’ve been getting lots of really good feedback. Chris went to the screening at Colchester and said the reaction there was really great.

“The festival circuit is really important for networking and getting people interested in your work. Festivals are really great with prize money too, that’s what makes your next film a possibility.”

And to top it all, The Bigger Picture receiving Oscar and Bafta nominations in the same week means it’s been a remarkable twelve months for Daisy; from film school graduation to going to Hollywood’s biggest event in the space of a year is quite an achievement.

“It is amazing, it didn’t’ sink in at first but it has now,” she says just a couple of days before she’s due to attend the Baftas and a fortnight before the Oscars are handed out. “I got an amazing goodie bag from Bafta.

“I’m all sorted for the Baftas now, I got the hang of the wearing-the-dress thing for Cannes, so I’m ready.”

But amid the glitz and glamour of award ceremonies, Daisy is still getting the finance together for her next film another look at family life.

“It’s about the idea of dispersal,” says Daisy. “About how families drift apart and it’s set in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Daisy has had a flying start to her career in film-making and could have a Bafta and Oscar on her mantelpiece in a couple of weeks’ time, but what does she think about the state of the British film industry in general? Is she encouraged?

“I think Britain has always been very strong with the moving image in general, I think we’re a very creative country and we’re in a good place.”

And that’s thanks to people like her.

Find out more about The Bigger Picture at www.thebiggerpicturefilm.com and how you can be a part of the Kickstarter campaign for Daisy’s new film here www.kickstarter.com/projects/635231029/life-size-animated-film

Submissions are now open for this year’s Colchester Film Festival at
www.colchesterfilmfestival.com/submissions

By Darryl Webber
Journalist, writer, blogger
(www.chillidogmovies.blogspot.co.uk)

http://colchesterfilmfestival.com
https://www.facebook.com/colchesterfilmfestival
https://twitter.com/ColFilmFestival