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17th British Shorts, Berlin

"I think on the continent there is a much bigger appetite for short films compared to that of the UK; the public seems to embrace them more outside of the film festival circuit, with dedicated TV channels for short films."

Fri 19.1. 22:00 / Sputnik Kino 1

January 19, 2024  

Volunteer 'Appropriate Adult' Oscar, has his work cut out for him when he encounters troubled young offender Jordan.


Hi Jonathan, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to be at the 17th British Shorts with your latest short film Inappropriate? 

Thank you for having me! Its great to be sharing INAPPROPRIATE with audiences on the festival circuit now and really exciting to be screening in the Sputnik Kino at British Shorts in Berlin this year. Its a great festival to be a part of, plus its in the beautiful city of Berlin and I’m really interested in seeing how the film goes down with the Berlin audience! 


You have won multiple awards for your previous shorts, what has it mean to you to see your films get such an amazing reaction?

Im always very nervous about sharing new work with the public for the first time, so for a film to connect with any audience and generate a positive reaction, let alone win an award is always a fantastic feeling, so for something to win an award at a festival its always quite surreal and mind blowing!


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

I think festivals like British Shorts in Berlin are hugely important for creating a platform for short films. Its a minefield out there for short film makers submitting to festivals, so many have popped up in the past few years and its difficult to know sometimes which ones to submit too.  Having  a quality festival like BSB with a great reputation is really important, you know its a bonafide festival and they are committed to screening the film in a cinema in the best possible way. It should be on every short film makers hit list of festivals to submit to.  


What more can be done to make short films more visible to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?

Thats a really Good question! I think on the continent there is a much bigger appetite for short films compared to that of the UK; the public seems to embrace them more outside of the film festival circuit, with dedicated TV channels for short films. I think the way things are going with more shorts now available online is going to help visibility. 


Can you tell me how Inappropriate came about, what was it about Owen Nicholls screenplay that interested you so much?

I’ve known Owen (scriptwriter) for a few years and we’ve always wanted to work together on a film Project. We met for lunch with the intention of coming up with an idea for a short script and Owen told me about his experiences volunteering as an Appropriate Adult and i thought that was a great starting point for a short. We then developed the script together over a period of months which was a really rewarding collaboration.


Within the UK legal system an ‘Appropriate Adult’ (AA) volunteer is a temporary legal guardian when a young person is arrested and has neither parent or guardian, nor one who can be present. A lot of young people in need of the services of an AA are often marginalised, failed by a crumbling, under-funded system and can come from troubled homes. Drawing from some of Owen’s experiences in this area, we figured it would make a strong basis for what became INAPPROPRIATE.


Though Jordan is a purely fictional character, there are elements of truth in him, various real young men, angry at the world, in desperate need of guidance - teenagers not to be systematically written off before they are even considered adults.

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"My work as a director to date has been made around the notion of how peoples lives can be changed in the blink of an eye and how split-second decisions can have consequences further down the line."

When working on a short like this how important was the creative collaboration between you and your team?


Its the most important thing for me! I feel film making is all about working with your team, from the actors to the crew its all about working with each other for the greater good of the film. Surrounding yourself with a great team is half of the battle and I was lucky that the team that we had on INAPPROPRIATE were fantastic. Producer Tash Cordeaux carefully picked a team which we knew not only could do a fantastic job but also work really well together. On the shoot we had such a great atmosphere which was really encouraging and I felt everyone gave 200%, which spilled over into post-production.


With coming from a Sound Recordist background, when directing a film like this are you extra conscience about the sound and how it’s captured in the film?

Sound is a huge part of any film, some say even 50% of the film - David Lynch is on record saying its even 80% of a film. I’ve worked as a Production Sound Mixer on feature films and in TV, so it will be no surprise that sound is a huge part of my own films. I’ve had the opportunity to see how other directors use sound in their own work and have adapted that to my own films. Sometimes its subtle, like in INAPPROPRIATE, which on the surface is a relatively simple dialogue heavy 2 hander set mainly in a single location. Supervising Sound Editor George Castle and I had fun trying to build up the world of the film and use sound design to subtly enhance and drive the story forward. There are some carefully placed panic alarms in the Police station other sounds which help the audience understand the characters. 


What was the biggest challenges you faced bringing Inappropriate to the big screen?

The familiar independent film spectre of not enough time and not enough money! We were lucky that we had the support from a local studio here in Norfolk – October Studios -  which allowed us a decent time to prep, If it wasn't for their generosity I’m not sure we would have been able to pull this film off on our tiny budget! It was a 2 day shoot and whilst things went incredibly smoothly, I would have loved to have another day and taken a bit more time with things. 


Where did you passion for filmmaking come from?

I’ve been interested in the moving image from a young age – I knew I wanted to work in the film industry since about 8 years old. I initially gravitated towards the sound department as a way to get work in the industry, but have always harboured a desire to direct. I started producing films first for other directors and went from there. 

How much has your approach to your writing and directing changed since your debut short? 

Hugely – continuing on from the collaboration question, I think the key thing that has changed I show I work with people. My first short I wrote it, but realised whilst I might be Good at coming up with a narrative concept, characters etc. I’m not a writer. So working with a writer, in my opinion, has really helped my film making – starting from a solid foundation.


What where some of the lessons you took away from making Inappropriate?

With each project I learn a lot, I’m still finding my feet as a director and INAPPROPRIATE was no exception. I think one of the key lessons I’ve taken from making this film is never underestimate making time to rehearse with your cast. I absolutely love working with actors and one of the key reasons the shoot went so smoothly was that I was able to have some quality time with the cast before we stepped onto set. 

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Who are some of the filmmakers that have/do inspire you?

That’s a very difficult question to answer – As I was growing up film makers like Lucas and Spielberg got me hooked on films, but then it was film makers like Kubrick, Tarantino, Lynne Ramsay, The Coen brothers and Shane Meadows that made me really want to make films. I’m always watching stuff and finding inspiration all the time. 


What does Inappropriate say about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell?

I’m interested in telling stories that reflect my own working-class background and upbringing, stories about real people who find themselves in life-changing circumstances. My work as a director to date has been made around the notion of how people’s lives can be changed in the blink of an eye and how split-second decisions can have consequences further down the line. INAPPROPRIATE is no stranger to this sort-of-rule of mine.


Do you have any tips or advice you would offer anyone wanting to get into filmmaking or sound recoding?


Yeah keep going!!! No matter what you are trying to do in film, you will always get rejection and knock backs. Pick yourself up and keep trying. 


And finally, what message would you like audiences to take away from Inappropriate?

Inappropriate is about human connection and in many ways about parenting; its about looking out for someone else and forgiving yourself for not always being at your best. Ultimately its about both trying to help and accepting that help in return. 


Inappropriate is the closest film I’ve made to date that addresses current social issues in the UK. Since 2010 (as of Feb 2022), funding for youth services in the UK has been slashed by £1.2 billion, a real time cut of up-to 74% (Source YMCA). It’s clear to me that the system is failing to support young people in difficult times, leading to a symptomatic rise in youth violence and an apathetic government more interested in increasing police numbers rather than fuelling support through social care and proactive prevention strategies.

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