15th BFI FUTURE FILM FESTIVAL 2022
Section: A Family Affair
A young man tells us the experience of his first kiss with another boy whilst grieving the loss of his father.
Hey Fraser, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
Thanks for having me! I’m doing okay. Glad the days are starting to get a bit longer for sure.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
It’s been really difficult, but it has given time, which I think is always super valuable. Fart Car was a result of not having made anything in a while. I graduated mid-pandemic, so my move from student to whatever the fuck I am now was super weird and nebulous. All I really know is trying to make work and make a living in the pandemic, and it’s just been about having a sheer refusal to not let it stop me making work.
Inspiration, I’d say less so. It’s a bit better now that we can go out and do things and see things. I went to an art gallery for the first time in a long time recently and was just like -“yeah we need to be consuming new work. That’s really important and we’ve been so starved of that”. Being cooped up inside doom scrolling doesn’t provide much creativity.
What does it mean to be screening Fart Car at the 15th BFI Future Film Festival?
It’s unreal. This festival is one I’ve always admired, so I’m really just quite honoured. I also cannae believe it’s been nominated - I’m just glad people enjoy the film! It feels like a bit of a weird full circle moment. I went to a BFI Film Academy in Glasgow during high school, so it’s so exciting to have one of my own films included in the Future Film Festival. And I mean - BFI Southbank? That’s really fucking cool.
Fart Car is going to be in the A Family Affair Section of the festival, are there any nerves ahead of the festival?
Definitely. It’s a bit different because I won’t be able to make it in person sadly. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that I know it’ll be playing in a cinema full of people without me there! All I can hope is that people enjoy it and find something to connect with. I’m also just buzzing to watch the rest of the films.
Can you tell me a little bit how Fart Car came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
It actually came from a completely different project. I make a lot of theatre stuff as well, so I had this monologue from a play I was working on. I’d always thought it felt quite cinematic, and I was in a place where I hadn’t shot something in ages and I had this impatient urge to make. The inspiration for the actual story was the image of the lights of the car. I just had that in my head, these car lights flashing on someones face. I just wanted to make that. I’ve learned that I get a lot of inspiration from visuals, so most of my films start with an image or mood board. The exploration of grief, and how we process feelings, feels super timely but that definitely wasn’t a conscious decision. I think I was maybe just drawn to this story because it had been on the subconscious for a while.
How close do you like to keep to your screenplay once you start shooting, do you allow yourself much flexibility?
For me, it’s a blueprint. There’s a benefit to being the writer and director as well (I’d find it really hard to let someone else direct my scripts!). I tend to write with a directors lens on, so I’m already thinking about how I’m going to shoot it as I write. I don’t ever feel too tied to a screenplay, whether that’s dialogue or blocking or what- ever. Plans are super useful for getting through your day and making sure you get everything done, but you can’t close yourself off to cool ideas. If the sound recordist or actor or camera assistant turns round and is like “hey what about this?” - those ideas can make a film what it is, and you’d only ever get that with flexibility. As long as the scene, or beat, or line of dialogue is telling the story effectively, then it’s the right decision. I don’t think every frame has to be predetermined.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing Fart Car to life?
Definitely COVID. We shot the film in December and I hadn’t been on set much since restrictions were set in, so all of the COVID logistics were difficult - especially because we had an intimate scene. Making a film is hard enough, without having to worry about everyone also catching COVID. Really makes you think about how unhygienic we all were before this.
Since making Fart Car what has been the most valuable lesson you have taken from this experience?
To make films the way I want to make them. I’d always wanted to try a more narrative film with a direct-to-camera style, and I’d sort of been advised in the past not to do that. I didn’t do it on a film I made at university and I always really regret it. I made Fart Car how I wanted to make it, and I didn’t wait around for anyone to give me the permission. You gotta just do shit. And I’m really glad I did. When I watch it, I’m like “yeah I definitely made this film, it feels like it’s me” and that’s a super special feeling. So I’m gonna try and make work the way I want to make it from now on.
Where did you passion for filmmaking come from?
Storytelling has always been a part of me. It’s what I try to keep at my core, in all of my work. I love the stories you can tell with filmmaking, and how vastly different they can all be. My filmmaking passion came from doing stuff in high school for a big charity fundraising project I was part of. I really liked shooting and editing and working in that way, so I bought a camera and just kept making stuff.
I’m also big into tech stuff, I can really get into like 30 minute camera review videos, so it feels like a bit of a natural fusion.
How much has your background in theatre helped you write/director your short?
As I said, this specific short came from theatre too, so it was already written in that language more than a regular screenplay. I think theatre taught me a lot about pushing form and story, and I’m always interested in injecting a little bit of theatricality into my work. I think for me that was part of trying to distinguish my ‘voice’, if it exists. Whether that’s moving the camera in an interesting way, or a straight to camera monologue, or just doing a full out musical; I wouldn’t make the films I make if I hadn’t been involved in theatre.
I also think being exposed to a huge amount of actors has been really beneficial to my directing practice. I definitely think all directors should take a couple of acting classes, or do a show! Everyone should do a show, they are very fun. (And you learn a lot about being an actor).
How important to you is the collaborative process of filmmaking to you?
Filmmaking is collaboration more than any other form. My best experiences have been when you’re halfway through a shoot and it feels like you’ll never get it done but your team is well-oiled and working incredibly well. (And conversely, my worst experiences have been when the team just isn’t working well).
That’s my job as a director. To facilitate collaboration, and bring everyone together to tell one story. I’m not going to tell the production designer who studied it for three years how to do their job. I don’t need to tell the actor how to act. I just need to make sure we’re all heading in the same direction, and everyone has the information and resources and space to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Picking the right collaborators is key, and making sure everyone will be able to work as a team. Collaborating is core to my practice - I don’t edit my own films anymore because since working with an editor I just couldn’t go back. They point out stuff that hadn’t even crossed your mind, and you’ve spent months with this film! There’s power in people. I firmly believe that.
"Make it and be prepared for it to be terrible - but try really hard to make it good. It could be! That would be amazing if you made it AND it was good. It’s impressive just to make a film."
Has your approach and style to writing and directing changed much since your debut short film?
It would be hard to really pinpoint a debut I think, but my approach has definitely developed and style has definitely changed. Part of that is just through practice, and getting an understand of what you like and don’t like. I also had a bit of a weird time during university, where I didn’t really know what I wanted to make or how to make them. I wouldn’t say I had a style, I think I just try and make stuff in a way that I find interesting, and that is accessible to an audience. I guess that’s my approach now - thinking about audience. If they can’t engage with it in some way, what’s the point?
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?
I do. I don’t think that necessarily means forcing yourself to make things you don’t want to make. But I think we should never stop questioning ourselves or our work. How is this film different from the last one? How am I building on what I learned? How can I make people sit up in their seats, or talk about it on the train home? What cool shit can I do that I’ve always wanted to? These are all the things I’m thinking about when we talk about pushing boundaries.
For anyone out there thinking about making their first film do you have any tips or advice you would offer them?
I feel like this is maybe tired advice, but you really do just have to make it. My best learning came from making shite films, and making sure I didn’t make the same mistakes again. Make sure you write a script that’s achievable. Don’t set it on a plane if you cannae get a plane. Don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on it. Make it and be prepared for it to be terrible - but try really hard to make it good. It could be! That would be amazing if you made it AND it was good. It’s impressive just to make a film. My first short at university was a war film on Troon beach. It was bad, and stupidly ambitious, but I learned fucking loads. The core concept was strong, I just didn’t know what I was doing. (I also didn’t have the time or money, but what’s new!).
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Fart Car?
Comfort. Grief and death has been on the minds of everyone so much, and there isn’t really anything to do about that. That’s what Fart Car is. It’s an exploration of grief, and an understanding that everyone’s grief is different. Sometimes it makes you do bad stuff. Sometimes you don’t wanna deal with it. But we’ve all been there. It’s really fucking hard, but we can all understand it. We all live with it. It’s one of the only things we all share. Hopefully there’s some comfort and hope somewhere in the experience being universally shared.