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British Short Berlin 2023

James Newman
Harrison Newman
Do Not Touch

An adulterer who discovers his one-night stand is now the subject of an art exhibition to which his girlfriend has tickets. He must destroy the artwork before it destroys his relationship.


Hi Harrison & James, it’s great to get to talk with you, how has everything been going?


Yeah, we’re really good thanks. Thanks for having us! Everything is going great at the moment. We’re loving the reaction to “Do Not Touch” and can’t wait to go to more festivals with it.


Congratulations on Do Not Touch being at the British Shorts 2023, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of short films?


The line-up of films at this festival is truly astounding and to be included among such talented and creative works is an honour. I've had the chance to watch some of the films, like An Irish Goodbye, Bleep and O, Glory! and I am blown away by the level of skill and artistry that has gone into making them. To be recognised and included among such accomplished works is truly humbling and it's an honour for me and my team. We are excited about the opportunity to showcase our film to a wider audience and be a part of such an incredible festival.


How important are festivals like British Shorts in creating a platform for short films?


Festivals like the British Shorts in Berlin are absolutely vital to the independent short film scene, it's an amazing platform for up-and-coming filmmakers to showcase their work and gain exposure. It's truly incredible that there's a festival dedicated to British short films in such a vibrant and diverse city like Berlin. It's an opportunity for these filmmakers to connect with audiences, meet other filmmakers, and exchange ideas and inspiration.


As a filmmaker, I know how hard it can be to get your film seen and recognised, so festivals like this are essential in providing a space for these films to be showcased and appreciated. It's an incredible opportunity for both emerging and established filmmakers to have their work seen by a wider audience and gain recognition.


Can you tell me how Do Not Touch came about?


"Do Not Touch" came about as the natural next step after our first short film "Viskar I Vinden". After completing our first film, we wanted to challenge ourselves and do something different in comedy. Our first film was a farce, that took itself a little too seriously, and we wanted to do something that had a deeper meaning and a stronger theme.


What inspired your screenplay?


"Do Not Touch" was originally conceived as an episode of a sitcom, something that I had been thinking about for a while. The idea of never getting to make that episode always felt like a missed opportunity. I realised that the concept could work as a short film.

The idea for the film came from Tracey Emin's "Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (1995)". I had originally thought that the artwork was a display of used condoms in a gallery of everyone she had ever slept with, with a photo of each person. But I was wrong, it turned out to be a tent with the names stitched inside. However, this false memory turned out to be a great pastiche and we used that in the final film.


"Those that go into filmmaking in the future are so far ahead of where we started from. It can only mean new ways of telling great stories."

When co-directing one of your short films how flexible do you allow yourself with the screenplay once you start shooting?


In our normal process, our screenplays are usually locked in and there's not much that changes from the last draft to the final edit. I've tried to cut parts out of the films in the past, but the feedback is usually, "Where's this bit gone? I liked it." So, it's important to get the script down at the start and try to make the best film possible with that script. We don't have the time or resources to make significant changes on set, so it's essential to have a solid script and stick to it.

As filmmakers, we always want to make the best film possible, but sometimes, we have to make compromises. We don't have the luxury of unlimited time and money, so we have to be strategic about how we use our resources. We try to focus on making the script as strong as possible before we even start filming so that when we're on set, we can focus on bringing the script to life and capturing the best performances from our cast and crew.

What were the biggest challenges you faced making Do Not Touch?


The production of "Do Not Touch" was relatively smooth. We were able to shoot the film over a weekend in two locations, which made the process a lot more manageable. However, this was the first time we had worked as co-directors, so being on the same page and doing more prep was probably the biggest challenge we faced.

Co-directing can be a tricky endeavour, as it requires both parties to be on the same page, share the same vision, and work well together. We had to make sure we were both on the same page in terms of the direction we wanted to take the film in, as well as how we wanted to approach the shoot. This required more prep work and communication than we were used to, but it was worth it in the end.

How essential is the creative collaboration between you both when working on a film project like Do Not Touch?


Filmmaking is a collaborative art form, and you cannot do it alone. As much as some filmmakers might think they can, the reality is that it takes a team of people with different talents and skills to make a film. That's why we make sure to involve a lot of people in the feedback process, from the initial concept to the final edit.

We believe that it's essential to get feedback from as many people as possible in all areas of the process. It helps us to see the film from different perspectives, and we can incorporate different ideas and suggestions to make the film better. We encourage feedback, and we're not precious about someone speaking up on set. We believe that everyone should have a voice and that it's important to listen to what everyone has to say.

Looking back at the process of making Do Not Touch what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you’ve taken from the experience?


One of the most important things when making a film is to over-prepare! This means getting back up props, preparing storyboards, and even testing out the film on your iPhone first. It's essential to have everything you need to work with, so you're not scrambling to find what you need on the day of the shoot.


Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell?


If we're not making films that push boundaries and make people uncomfortable, we're going to end up with very boring TV and film. It's important to take narrative risks and explore new ideas, even if they make people uncomfortable. It's through taking these risks that we can create truly meaningful and impactful films.

I remember watching the film Avatar 2 and realising that while the technology was impressive, the film itself didn't take any narrative risks. It's important to remember that technology alone doesn't make a great film. It's the story and the risks taken by the filmmakers that make a film truly great.


You’ve been making films together since you were 10, where did this passion for come from?


Our passion for filmmaking came from watching movies. It sounds a bit retro, but we used to spend hours in Blockbusters going through the selection and spending evenings watching movies. We started making stop-motion lego films and created many short films using our dad's camcorder.


How much has your approach to your films as directors and writers changed since you started out?


Over the years, we are now much more confident and self-assured in our creative choices. We don't rely on the approval of gatekeepers such as studios, production companies, or film festivals to determine the worth of our work. Instead, we trust their own vision and we are willing to take risks in order to tell the stories we want to tell.


For any fellow emerging filmmakers out there, what would your top three tips you would offer them?


One of the most important things for a filmmaker is to find your own unique voice and style. Don't try to fit in with what's already out there, instead, focus on what makes you different and use that to your advantage. Being different can make you stand out and make your films more memorable.

Another important tip is to network fast! Meet other filmmakers, go to festivals, and make connections however cringy it may feel. Building a strong network of contacts in the industry can open doors and opportunities for your future projects

You know the saying, "all artists must suffer for their craft"? Well, we're here to tell you that's total nonsense! Sure, creating art can be challenging at times, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your mental or physical well-being in order to be successful. In fact, taking care of yourself can actually enhance your creativity.

And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Do Not Touch?


The message behind "Do Not Touch" is: Adultery and cheating can have serious consequences, but it's often the cover-up that causes the most harm. The work is meant to provoke thoughts and reflection on the topic of infidelity and the impact it can have on individuals and relationships.

The artwork encourages viewers to think about the motivations behind infidelity and the actions taken to conceal it. It also highlights the emotional toll that keeping secrets can take on those involved. The artist wants people to understand that while infidelity can be hurtful, it is often the lying and deceit that causes the most damage.

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