2016. Intense. I’m going to jump straight in with NEON.
At the end of 2015 my producer, Roxy Holman and I were knee-deep in prep on NEON, our supposed final short film. After this we were to crack on with our first feature. Of course, life often has other plans. We shot for several days in the coldest February I can recall and only suffered minor set-backs throughout the production: namely waking up one morning in a derelict block of flats (for insurance purposes) with my hand frozen to the ground and underground water mains being neglected to the point that they were unusable and a fire-engine having to be called out to supply our rain for a pivotal visual. It was all worth it, though - the talent in front and behind the camera was impeccable.
I won’t lie: I cried a little on the last day of filming which was followed by a journey home where I realised how a feature version of NEON could work: despite spending the entire shoot insisting the buck starts and stops with this short. And so it goes - on top of everything else we’re developing, NEON now has a space of its own on our development white board.
You can find out more about the film over at its site here and and watch the teaser trailer here:
The post-production for NEON began immediately after principal photography ended: which coincided with a directing gig that was to also start immediately: as such, the initial assembly took place in the passenger seat of a Micra as the producer and I whistled up and down the country filming a series of short documentaries for the Government. Jumping from blue-stained fictional fantasy to filming eye-opening accounts of care-givers was a surreal and humbling leap from one extreme to another.
And then there were robots. Well, one…
A brief slapped into my lap and soon we were in pre-production on my only music video of 2016, NATURAL, starring the impeccable Jessica Bayly and Toby Osmond. A fun if busy-busy single-day shoot (shot by myself with a hangover: I shall not lie - never take your cast/crew out the night before a shoot), we managed to nail our “kitchen-sink Replicant does domestic sci-fi Giallo" as well as tested out a new camera which we were keen to use for our NEON pick-ups. The result was this:
The Cannes Film Festival cropped up in May and ten days of meetings, drinking and partying (and seeing two whole films: double that from my visit a few years earlier) left me with no voice for a week due to excessive yelling every evening over the din of similarly impassioned filmmakers: and that’s what Cannes truly is for me – a hub of passion. The business side and yes, even the festival itself, are important - but it’s the hive of genuine love for film that always impresses me the most. The random meets and conversations over shared smokes and over-priced beer as well as constantly bumping into friends, old and new, at various parties is the finest way anyone who loves film can spend their time. 2017 will see a more focused visit but I still fully expect my face to ache from smiling throughout the festival's entirety and hopefully, this year I’ll be able to keep my voice. Especially if I'm shooting another film immediately after.
Which is what happened with FERRIED.
So, NEON was supposed to be the last short film of ours, right?
Well, FERRIED became short film two of five for 2016, a slight drama about loneliness in the elderly produced and written by a different team than I am used to working with. It was a personal test to change gears dramatically and direct a film that was linear and exhibited a little self-control (NEON features a heavily fractured narrative as well as over 500 edits). The film produced one of my most enlightening experiences of working with actors, courtesy of the impeccable Richard Cordery.
ANIMUS followed which was a an intimate two hander presented to me by the film’s leads, Katie Goldfinch and Jonny Sachon. The script was struck from several workshopping sessions and we shot the piece quickly in a day. A tender film with a focus on emotion, it was also shot in 4:3 - a ratio I adore using whenever I get the (right) chance.
NEON premiered at London’s FRIGHT FEST and a glut of lovely reviews followed (all of which you can find links to here) and the narrative risks we took with the film all became worthwhile. The film received numerous invites to international festivals, both in and out of competition (and, at the time of writing, still is) and also bagged me a best Director award. I won't lie. That was nice.
Over 2016 I also worked on numerous feature scripts, namely THE SIREN, THE CAPTAIN, THE SEA which we are hoping to shoot in November. Further drafts of THE CHARM and TEARDROP were also struck and I am now also working on a treatment for another feature piece set in the world of cage-fighting.
So that was 2016. Like I said: intense. My focus and resolve is in a different state now than at the beginning of the year: a year which I feel I have grown substantially whilst my hair has done the opposite: a clear display of how being prolific can be both good and bad.
Moving on. Here's my best of 2016:
BEST FILM – GRAVE [RAW]
Absolutely hands down the best horror I have seen in years. A twisted yet tender genre piece that explores transitions into adulthood, familial relations and the fear of individuality in a manner that is impeccably performed, technically astounding and that is brilliantly, brilliantly funny. A gem.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Invitation, Train to Busan.
BEST ALBUM – Haelos / Haelos.
My favourite single of last year was DUST by this very group and their debut album went beyond all expectations. An immaculate mix of styles, full of heart and aching cool, they’re also the best band I saw live this year (which is saying something considering I also saw Massive Attack, Underworld, Jean-Michelle-Jar, Air and 65 Days of Static).
Proof I was at their London gig:
And in case you can't see me, here's a version that clarifies where I am, courtesy of a friend who also attended:
BEST COMIC BOOK: The Marrionette Unit
A heady mix of Victorian Steampunk, body-horror and family ties. You can pick up a copy here. And you should.
And the biggest disappointments of 2016?
Everyone dying, Brexit, Rogue One (sorry) and refusing any anaesthetic before having a large camera jammed down my throat for reasons I won't go into. Oh. And Trump.
If you've read this far, then thank you and have a great 2017.