The European Independent Film Festival 2022
8th - 10th April 2022
Jay Robey & Mark Stokes
Section: European Dramatic Short
As a devoted and loving mother's mind begins to unravel, the line between reality and a freakish nightmare becomes increasingly difficult to draw.
Hey Mark & Jay, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
Mark (Writer) - Thanks for having us! I’ve been very well thank you. I work as an editor for broadcast television as my day job, so I’ve been very lucky to have been working from home throughout the pandemic and have been kept very busy due to the events of the past few years. My heart goes out to those who have been a lot less fortunate than I have. It’s been very difficult for so many people who have lost loved ones, had serious health issues and struggled with employment.
Jay (Director) - I appreciate you getting in touch about the film and taking the time to talk to us. Similar to Mark, I work in television News and Current affairs as a Studio Director as a day job, so the past few years have been exceptionally busy… and somewhat peculiar and harrowing in places to say the least!
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
M - Funny you should mention it, I am currently in the early stages of planning the script for our next film. We will be aiming to apply for funding from the British Film Institute…watch this space!
Congratulations on having Drip, which is your debut short film as writer/producer, part of the 17th ÉCU Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be screening your film in Paris?
M - For us, not only is it immeasurably flattering to have been asked to show the film, we are also super excited to finally have it out there for people to see. ÉCU will be the world premiere of the film and, looking at our peers with whom we are screening alongside, it feels like an honour to be asked along. There looks to be some excellent films screening across the weekend!
Can you tell me how Drip came about, what was the inspiration behind this film and what was the message you wanted to convey with it?
M - Deep down, "Drip" is an exploration of people’s struggles with mental health, played out through the eyes of a strong and independent female lead. It was absolutely essential that we not only portray the inner struggles of our lead character, represented through her visions and the voices she hears, but also to portray her more standard daily routine, coping with schizophrenia.
J - The undercurrent of the film is exploring how it feels to be locked inside your own thoughts and feelings and how potentially catastrophic it can be to not seek help before it is too late.
Mark: With this being your debut screenplay how flexible did you allow yourself and the cast with the script once you started shooting?
M - Just going back to the pandemic briefly. Both Jay and I spent a great deal of time during the various lockdowns refining the script and really working it to get to the core of the film. So, when it came to shooting it, we didn’t really stray too far from the source material. That’s not to say we weren’t willing to be flexible with our cast’s approach to their roles. We had ultimate faith that they all knew their characters inside out and I personally feel that it’s super important to acknowledge their interpretation of their character. Once we’re shooting, the character is no longer my sole property, the cast are living the words I have written.
"If you’re new to filmmaking, work on as many sets as you can; be humble and willing to learn from those more experienced from you, start from the bottom and work your way up."
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing Drip to life and looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?
M - I’m sure Jay will agree with this one…Because the project was occurring during wildly fluctuating rules and restrictions due to Covid, we were constantly needing to reassess the schedule and what necessary permits and procedures we needed to adhere to in order to ensure the safety of cast, crew and the general public. We had to postpone our initial shoot because the restrictions meant we physically could not shoot because of the extremely high infection rate in Manchester at the time…Which was a blessing in disguise really, as we experienced a very rare bout of sunshine for all of our actual shoot dates, meaning that we could have all non-essential crew outside in the fresh air maintaining safe distance from one another, therefore reducing the amount of people in an enclosed area. Looking back, we were exceptionally lucky that we managed to shoot the film during a brief window where we could safely (and legally) press on with getting it shot!
J - 100% in total agreement with Mark on this one. I feel incredibly thankful that we had such a dedicated and passionate cast and crew shooting during such a strange and worrying time. It was a massive challenge to overcome and an experience I personally learned a great deal from.
Where did this passion for filmmaking come from?
M - I learned at an early age how life changing a film can be. I distinctly remember the first time I saw the film "Stand By Me" on a battered old VHS tape that I sneakily watched, unbeknownst to my parents. I can remember being absolutely enthralled with the power of it’s story; how nuanced character can affect you directly, how much a film can portray such a wide gamut of emotion in such a short space of time. That film influenced me a great deal and has stuck with me ever since. It’s a master class in film making.
J - My passion for film started at a young age when my mother used to make me watch "James Bond". Straight away I was interested in how they shot the film, why they did it in certain ways. Ever since then I have wanted to direct a "James Bond" film, and one day I will reach that goal. I love the idea of taking a script and making a movie from it, taking vision from my head to the screen and trying to push boundaries.
Jay: How much has your approach to your films changed since your started out?
J - Since I started out in films, my approach has shifted from being very clinical about the specifics in a shot that I wanted us to capture, to trusting my DOP and focusing more on working with the cast on their performance. Going into the production, I have a solid idea of how I want the film to look having discussed this with my DOP in advance, so we are both working to the same goal. This allows me to spend more time working with the cast, ensuring we get the best from them and the right tone for the scene. This approach has proven well on recent projects, especially "Drip".
Mark: Now that your debut film as writer/producer is completed what would you say has been the most valuable lesson you have taken away from making Drip?
M - Do not be afraid to ask people for help, you’ll be surprised at how many amazing people will come to your rescue when you feel like you’re venturing up a river without a paddle! The faultless crew we surrounded ourselves with are perfect examples of this.
No matter how convinced you are, your 1st, 2nd, or even your 13th draft, is not perfect…Value the thoughts and contributions of other people to your story and be open-minded.
Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets!!
How important has the relationship been between you both whilst making Drip?
M - I’d say that not only have we both faced a tremendous amount of setbacks throughout the project as a solid, unified pairing, we have also become firm friends. The latter of which I consider to be the most important part of the whole process!
J - Mark and I make a great team. I think considering how much of a mountain we had to climb, it wouldn’t have come into fruition if either of us were working in the same capacity with anyone else. We both went through a myriad of highs and lows throughout the process and managed to help each other along and get the film made, which in hindsight, was quite the achievement!
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?
M - Absolutely, 100%! Never be dissuaded from your idea if it goes against the norm. It’s your story to tell, so make it how you want to. Solid stories are there to represent countless facets of life in as challenging a way as you see fit!
J - I agree! Challenge your viewer no matter what genre you’re working within. No matter how niche your idea, it will speak to someone!
For anyone out there thinking about getting into filmmaking do you have any tips or advice you would offer them?
M - It’s hard work… Really hard work, in fact. But, when you finally get the film signed off, the feeling of achievement makes it all worthwhile. If you’re new to filmmaking, work on as many sets as you can; be humble and willing to learn from those more experienced from you, start from the bottom and work your way up. Those lessons learnt will directly affect your own personal projects for the better!
J - My advice is to get eager friends involved and try and get a simple, yet affective, script put together. Talk to everyone you know about potentially helping you to secure locations, crew and props. There will always be people keen to help out and move up in the world of film, so you can easily find like minded peers who share your enthusiasm to create your first short film and progress from there.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Drip?
M - My hope is that the audience feel as though we have presented them with a thought provoking film that engages them on mental health issues, whilst being thoroughly immersed in the material. There are certain key points throughout the film where we toiled over the visuals and 5.1 sound design in order to present the right kind of unease. I’m really interested to see how those aspects play out to an audience.
Any attendees of the ÉCU will find both myself and Jay at the festival on Saturday 9th, we’d be more than happy to hear about your interpretation of the film, especially the ambiguous ending!