New Renaissance Film Festival 2023
in too deep
Friday, 29th September, 14:00-16:00
Sept 12, 2023
Mourning the death of his young daughter, a grieving father goes to extreme measures, using A.I technology to relive their fondest memories. A story with an ominous warning to society.
Hi Chris, it’s really great to talk with you, how’s your summer been?
Not bad, the summer had a very strong end to it. A bit like ‘in too deep’ (I hope).
What does it mean to you to have In Too Deep in the Reflections on Loss and Discovery section at the 2023 NRFF in London?
Well firstly just returning to NRFF is such a treat. I love what Massi and Yan have done with the festival. The films they select seem to have great success, so it’s such a compliment. I think ‘in too deep’ finds itself in the perfect section ‘reflections on loss and discovery’, couldn’t be more fitting, which you’ll only understand after seeing the film.
In Too Deep has already had an incredible festival run winning multiple awards, did you imagine you would get this type of reaction to this film?
Well, it took a while to get going and find that premiere but we’ve really landed on our feet with the timing of the film, with how current the themes are around the writers strike. It’s nice to see it doing well in America. You get lots of rejections on the festival journey, so any selection is like a win. I treat it like an award really. Anything beyond a selection is a Brucie bonus.
How did In Too Deep come about, what was it about James Spillman’s screenplay that connected with your as a filmmaker?
It was the combination of grief and technology that set it apart from other films I’ve been approached to direct. I was looking for something different to show some versatility, and it was the perfect piece. It also had very little dialogue, so I was keen to test myself with how much I can say with the visual storytelling.
During the research for In Too Deep did you discover anything about A.I and the wider conversation around the technology that changed your way of viewing/ understanding the debate around it?
Where do I start.... A.I has it’s benefits but most people are only aware of exactly those, they’re not aware of the dangers and that’s all I wanted to highlight with the film. There’s positives but also some serious things to be aware of. It’s bloody frightening what’s happening on the deep web. I’ll just say that.
Looking back at the making of In Too Deep, in both pre and post-production, what would you say was the most challenging aspect of making this film?
Just getting it over the line was a miracle. I know that’s what everyone says but it’s true. Lead producer Rebecca Harris-Turner is a hero. It was gruelling and took forever due to covid and actor availability. Everything that could have gone wrong with ‘in too deep’.... Did. It was the most challenging film I’ve done to date and that’s saying something after working with a 5 year old child who speaks another language.
"I empathise with actors and I really believe performances are at the top of the pecking order when it comes to making a film."
In 2018, along with Rachel Shenton, you won the Best Live Action Short Film Academy Award for your powerful short film THE SILENT CHILD, what did it mean to you to get this award, and how much has winning the Oscar helped you on your filmmaking journey?
It was like being handed the keys to a Ferrari after just passing your test. It was paralysing and incredible all at the same time. It’s opened a lot of doors and opportunities. But it doesn’t guarantee you the job. It’s something I will treasure forever and I’m eternally grateful to the team behind the film and for Rachel Shenton’s incredible gift of a story. She could have taken that to an experienced director but she didn’t - she trusted me, and I’ll never forget that.
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from directing short films?
That the film with the biggest budget doesn’t always resonate the most.
Where did you desire for filmmaking originate?
There really was an exact moment when I fell in love with film. It was editing a school project when I was 13. I was gobsmacked at how you could manipulate the footage and characterise someone with an extra frame or by a reaction. It all started with editing for me.
How did Slick Films come about and did you always want to start an independent film production company?
I never planned to, so at times I still feel like I’m making it up. It started when I was 19 when I started editing actors showreels and made a company called Slick Showreels, which is still alive and thriving. That transformed into Slick Films. The future is very exciting for Slick Films. It’s my baby and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved with it. I couldn’t have built it to what it is today without Rebecca Harris-Turner and Rachel Shenton.
By Any Other Name and The Mourning Bird, from Slick Films slate, are also being presented at NRFF this year, can you tell me a little but about these films?
Well they’re both stunning. It’s a debut from George Somner who’s a really great guy. It’s based on a real life event that George experienced. He’s done a great job with it and I’m hoping he makes another film soon. He’s a real talent. The film shines a light on knife crime. It’s really important.
As is Daniel Deville who directed By Any Other Name. The craft of that film is one of the best to have ever come through Slick Films. It’s a stunner and Daniel is one of the most dedicated filmmakers I’ve ever come across. I really love working with him and the producer Camilla Arnold. The set was 50% deaf and 50% hearing. Camilla the producer is deaf. She’s an incredible talent and was the perfect producer to bring the sensitivity to the themes of sex trafficking with vulnerable children.
And is it too soon to talk about Gladstone Girls?
Another gift from Rachel. It was our first hand at a scripted podcast. Rachel has always wanted to tell a story about the heritage of her hometown Stoke-On-Trent. All her family worked on the pots. It’s a vibrant comedy about 5 female pottery workers who go on strike to protect a tradition that their new boss tries to take away. We hope it can turn into a film or a tv show. It’s just finished and we’re looking to get it out there.
Has your background as an actor helped influence your approach to directing and producing?
It’s probably the single most powerful thing in my directors toolbox. I empathise with actors and I really believe performances are at the top of the pecking order when it comes to making a film. You can have the best cinematography, the best production design and music but if the performances are weak. I really don’t think the film will do well.
How important is the creative collaboration between you and your team when bringing a film like In Too Deep to the big screen?
"Filmmaking is when a group of people who have learned to trust each other come together and perform miracles."
Everyone on set is an artist and we all love what we do. The best idea on the table wins. It’s my job to allow that to come to life and not let any ego in the way.
And when making a short film are you conscious of the fact that it’s going to be seen on a cinema screen not just mobile or the small screen?
I always aim for cinema.
What makes short films so special to you?
I like how they’re not impossible to make. They’re hard enough to make you learn the right lessons, but not so hard that nobody makes them. Some stories would never be told if it weren’t for shorts. That’s a blessing for humanity.
Is there any advice or tips you would offer an emerging filmmaker?
Trust your gut. Be careful how much advice you take and just go out and shoot it, don’t get hung up on the technical elements. It honestly doesn’t matter about having the best camera. What’s important is that you go out and shoot. Make mistakes, if you don’t, you’ll never learn.
Finally, what message do you want your audiences to take away from In Too Deep?
I hope people recognise the insatiable pain of grief and how far it can drive someone away from who they really are. I also hope it contributes to raising awareness around the dangers of A.I.