18th BFI Future Film Festival, 2024
"It’s so important to have these spaces in which emerging filmmakers can showcase their films and meet to celebrate each other’s hard work."
CARIAD BRAWDOL /
‘Cariad Brawdol’, which translates to “Brotherly Love,” is a ‘Docu-fiction’ film that follows brothers, Ben (21) and Rory (19) Davies, as they share their final day in the sleepy Welsh town of Newport, Pembrokeshire.
Hi Rhys, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to be returning for the 18th BFI Future Film Festival with to Cariad Brawdol / Brotherly Love?
It feels great! I am very excited to be returning to BFI Future Film as it was one of my favourite festivals that I attended last year and also the BFI Southbank might be my favourite place in London.
Your previous short film By Hand was nominated for the Best Film Awards at BFI Future Film Festival 2023, what did it mean to you to get this type of recognition for your film?
It was pretty surreal as I never anticipated for the film to do so well due to it being my first independent project outside of film school. To have it play in NFT1 in front of a sold out audience was an experience that I will never forget and to then be nominated for best film was just the cherry on top.
How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films and emerging filmmakers?
It’s so important to have these spaces in which emerging filmmakers can showcase their films and meet to celebrate each other’s hard work. I once heard someone say “If a film doesn’t have an audience does it really exist?” which is sad but unfortunately holds a lot of truth. As filmmakers we write and shoot these stories to be seen, heard and have an impact on our audiences. Luckily being fortunate enough to have our work shown by an establishment as respected as the BFI means that we will reach people we never thought we could have.
What more can be done on a local/national level in the UK to offer short films more visibility to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?
There are already a lot of UK film festivals in which filmmakers can submit their work to but unfortunately I find that the submission fees have increased so much in the last couple of years that it makes it very hard to justify spending so much when the competition for selection is so fierce. This is why BFI Future Film is so great as it isn’t extortionate to enter. I would hope to see more regulation on FilmFreeway and lowering of submission fee’s for festivals that are not BIFA / BAFTA qualifying.
As an independent filmmaker what made you want to film Cariad Brawdol / Brotherly Love using 16mm, and did using film stock add any addition pressure on you, and your time?
Shooting on 16mm had always been a dream of mine as I have always loved how it captures light and colour in such a painterly fashion that is often lost in digital images. I think it added financial pressure as you are hyper aware that every time the camera is rolling you are effectively burning money and this means you have to really consider what you are filming and why. I worked hard with my DoP - Ollie Lansdell so that we had a really tight shot list and we limited ourselves to two takes per a shot, so we didn’t waste film. I think when you work with celluloid film it’s really important to have a strong camera department and I was lucky enough to have Will Marchant and Adam Pemberton as my AC’s who made sure everything ran smoothly.
Can you tell me how Cariad Brawdol / Brotherly Love came about, what inspired your screenplay?
The script was heavily inspired by my relationship between myself and my own brother, there's elements of both of us within the characters and the way that they interact with one another. Normally when I start writing I need to have a location in mind and I always knew I wanted to make a film in Newport, Pembrokeshire in west Wales. I have spent a lot of time there, as it is where my family is from and is actually where I started making films when I was a child on an old VHS camera with friends during the summers, so it was a full circle moment to come back and work with 16mm film.
"I think what has changed and what I'm noticing as I currently work on my third short film is that you get more hands helping you and wanting to be involved, so if anything it feels a bit easier."
What was the experience for you being able to use film to explore your Welsh roots?
It’s Interesting as my parents are Welsh but I grew up in London and they always told me I was Welsh not English, but If I talk to Welsh friends they consider me as English, so I guess I am still confused on where I stand. I think the theme of the story is fairly universal. It’s about that moment in time in a young person's life when they make the decision to leave their home in search of opportunity. I would like to think this can be applied not only to a small coastal town in Wales but perhaps to anyone leaving their home behind, whether that be relocating nationally or internationally.
Was Jonny Vernon and Alistair Armstrong always in your mind to play bothers Ben & Rory Davies when you started your script already have in mind?
I knew I always wanted Alistair as he was grew up local to the area and could bring authenticity to the role. He had not acted for a few years so I was relieved when he agreed to be apart of the film. I then did open casting calls for the role of Rory and was really impressed with Jonny’s self tape and felt that he looked similar enough to play as Alistair’s on screen brother.
What was the experience working with them Jonny Vernon and Alistair Armstrong on this short?
It was funny as they got along instantly and already had good chemistry from when they first met, which made my life a lot easier. With Jonny not being Welsh, Alistair took him under his wing in helping him perfect his Pembrokeshire accent almost subconsciously acting as an older brother. They were both great to work with and great fun to have on set and live with for 3 days, I don’t know many actors who would be so willing to spend half a day in cold waters in Wales at the end of September but there wasn’t any diva moments!
How much flexibility do you like to give your actors with your screenplay once you start Shooting?
A lot of the performance is the monologues from the script and they sticked to that quite religiously apart from tweaking maybe a few words to make it flow a bit better. We only had online rehearsal periods so there was a lot of figuring out their movements as we shot the film. In general I would like to be able to give my actors as much freedom to express themselves as possible. I think once ive handed over the script the material is then theirs to work with.
Now you can be reflective what would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from making Cariad Brawdol / Brotherly Love?
Don’t make a film without a 1st AD. I was stubborn and thought that I could Direct / Produce and do the role of 1st AD at the same time but you really do need someone to be watching the clock and making sure the production is staying on track. Getting to shoot on 16mm was also a great experience just to know how it works and how the work flow is so different - It’s definitely something that I’m eager to do again.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I was always told I was artistic from a young age and I think when you are told at that age you are talented at something you tend to gravitate towards it. The first thing I wanted to be was an illustrator for books and then as I got older I experimented with photography and graphic design. I was making films in Wales in my summer holidays but I didn’t really see it as a career path until I was in 6th form and then ultimately decided to go to film school in Falmouth.
How much did you time at the Film and TV School help guild/prepare you for your filmmaking journey?
It was invaluable as I went in with very little practical knowledge and got to try my hand at every aspect of production, which is so important when you want to be a director. I went to Falmouth thinking I wanted to be a DoP but then fell in love with screenwriting and ultimately married the two in Directing. You also meet so many people who ultimately are going to be the people who help you bring your idea’s to life whilst you are studying and long after you have finished.
What’s your favourite film/filmmaker?
This is tough as I have a few but the one who I think is my biggest inspiration is the Japanese director, Hirokazu Kore-eda - I love his family drama’s and how he finds beauty in everyday fleeting moments that may not be glamorous but are very human. I also love a lot of Taiwense cinema with directors like Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. I think any film shot by the late cinematographer Robby Muller is always great and I’m also a big fan of films by Mike Leigh, Kelly Reichardt and Terrance Malick.
Has your approach to your writing and directing changed a lot since your debut short?
Not really, I have always had the mindset that if you want to make a project, you are the only person that can make it happen. I think what has changed and what I'm noticing as I currently work on my third short film is that you get more hands helping you and wanting to be involved, so if anything it feels a bit easier. I’m still learning and growing as a filmmaker and I think naturally my approach and confidence will change over time.
What does Cariad Brawdol / Brotherly Love say about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell?
I want to continue writing family drama’s as thats where my heart lies but I also have the ambition of telling more stories that are set in Wales. I think compared to the other UK countries it has far less representation on screen, which is strange considering it has a rich history and culture.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer anyone wanting to get into filmmaking and what has been the best advice you’ve been given as you started your own filmmaking Journey?
I think the best advice I have been given is to focus on making my own work and try and get the industry to take a step towards me instead of me making all the concessions to get in there, as audiences will always be receptive to good work. I think that this advice is especially true to anyone wanting to go into direction in current times as I think it’s very tricky nowadays to do the traditional way of working your way up from a runner to director. I think most production companies would fund a director who has a portfolio of work and can see their style rather than someone with no portfolio but has crew credits. My advice would be to go out and make as much work as you can and tell stories that you are passionate about.
And finally, what do you hope you audiences will take away from Cariad Brawdol / Brotherly Love?
I hope that they can see similarities between the brothers and their own sibling relationships and that it is okay to leave your home behind to chase an opportunity as it will still be there when you get back.