A dinner party kicks off with the last guest to arrive, Asparagus Tips.
Hi Sam, thanks for talking to TNC, how is your 2020 going?
Hi! It's going rather well. The January blues are a more blue/green this year.
Congratulations on having Asparagus Tips selected to British Shorts, what does it mean to you to be part of such a great showcase for British Films?
It means a lot. It's great to be a part of such a high spirited affair, and even better to be in such great company in terms of the other selections.
Do you ever get nervous seeing your films with a festival audience?
Yes, always, but it's a lovely rewarding experience. I come from a live performance background, so the audience is key to listen to and hear when they laugh, breath, curse...
Can you talk about Asparagus Tips, how did the film come about?
My long-time collaborator, writer John-Luke Roberts, was a writer on Cariad Lloyd's BBC3 sketch show, titled The Cariad Show. This was one of the sketches he wrote that was rejected by the producers for being too dark. So I caught it in my drip tray.
What was the inspiration behind this screenplay?
This'd take delving into the no no parts of John-Luke's head, but it's a jab at middle class dinner parties.
Do any of your own experiences make there way into you film projects?
Mostly my middle-class dinner parties.
What would you say have been some of the biggest lessons you've learned during and after making Asparagus Tips?
I had an absolute amateur hour on a day during post-production. No one ever wants to admit these sorts of things, but hopefully someone will heed my warning. The hard drive with all the rushes on corrupted half way through editing. I was on my way to backing it all up. Or at least I like to think of it that way. Truth was I was running around editing an offline version on my laptop wherever I went, and forgot the important part. So I lost all the original files of the film. Luckily I had created a couple of the versions of the film as a reference, but then had to reconstruct the film out of a previous cut. It was heart breaking. My absolute favourite stage of the process is the grading, where all the colour gets amped up and makes the bland footage you've been staring at for months become a beautiful piece of film. I had shot myself massively in the foot by not working from the original bits. Big lesson. Back. Your. Rushes. Up.
"I'm mostly in the writing phases of a few projects, and hoping at least one of them will come to fruition."
What was the most challenging part of making this film?
Trying to keep the spirits high on location with a big ensemble of big characters. I love creating a space for everyone to play more and take pleasure in their performances. It's hard to do on a single camera shoot - usually you want to film both sides of a conversation so you can play on their real reactions and catch any brilliant moments that are really alive.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Since I was very young... My dad showed me Jaws when I was three years old and ill with a fever. I had consistent cinematic nightmares for many years after that. I loved all of them.
How much has your approach to your films changed since you started out?
I've learnt heaps of technical knowledge, and figured out much more how to take all the hard work I put into directing performers on stage to the screen. I've relaxed a bit my style to allow for more fun in the edit when looking for great moments to capture. I would obsess over tiny details in the storyboarding stage, and would even limit myself with my drawing abilities. Angles would become restricted because I'd have drawn someone flat on because it's the way I draw. It's very different to how I see things in my head. So I have begun turning up on set with a framework that allows room for personality to come through.
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
'Make dope shit'. It's lovely. It encapsulates a great ethos of DON'T BE BORING. Make things that are worth the space they will inevitably take up at festivals, online, in peoples' heads.
What are you currently working on?
I'm mostly in the writing phases of a few projects, and hoping at least one of them will come to fruition. Such is the roll of the dice.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Asparagus Tips?
Nothing. Whatever they find, I hope they ruddy well leave it in the cinema where it belongs. Thieves.