15th BFI FUTURE FILM FESTIVAL 2022
Section: A Family Affair
A man has to make a difficult phone call to his son, not knowing how long it will be until he sees him again.
Hey Jack, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
I’ve been good, thank you! I’m quite lucky in a way because I’ve been keeping busy in Post-Production on my first feature film; Kate & Jake which we shot last May. So I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had something to do!
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
Yes, definitely. As I mentioned I shot my first feature last May, which was a crazy experience and actually came about during the first lockdown back in March 2020. I had put off making this script for over a year and then lockdown happened. It really worried me because there was such an uncertainty as to what was happening and it had me thinking; I may never be able to make a film again. So I decided to bite the bullet and get the feature off the ground. Which funnily enough led us to making Bud to get our filming engines running again!
What does it mean to be screening Bud at the 15th BFI Future Film Festival?
It honestly means the world to have Bud being screened at the festival. It’s such a prestigious festival I’m honoured to have my work being shown there. I also attended the BFI Film Academy when I was 17, so it feels like a lovely little full circle moment too.
Bud is going to be in the A Family Affair Section of the festival, are there any nerves ahead of the festival?
Yeah, I think there are always nerves whenever showing your work. It’s like sending your child out into the world and hoping that people like it! But at the end of the day people will make of it what they will, and that’s fine! I think nerves are a good thing too.
Can you tell me a little bit how Bud came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
I had the idea for a while of just a central conversation between a Father and Son, and how when someone is getting sentenced and waiting for the jury’s verdict there is this short window of time where this person may or may not know the trajectory their life is going to take. I wanted to explore the idea of masculinity too with the backdrop of a prison system. I’ve never had a parent who has gone to prison, but I grew up with kids that did, and you would see a happy child turn into a stern and mature kid, seemingly overnight. Particularly with boys because they suddenly became the man of their house, and would have to look after their mothers or sisters whilst their father was doing time.
We were scheduled to shoot my feature in January 2021, however we once again went into a lockdown and had to postpone our shoot months ahead. So I said to my Producer; Tom ‘I have this idea, it’s set outside, let's shoot it safely and with minimal crew’ and that’s what we did. I had known Shaun who stars in the film for a while, and saw he had a great ability to draw so much emotion for a character in such a short space of time. He went on tape, we cast him right away and within a week we were shooting.
How close do you like to keep to your screenplay once you start shooting, do you allow yourself much flexibility?
I definitely like to have flexibility and even encourage my actors to improvise if they want to as long as they stick to the spine of the scene, and don’t completely go off on one. I’m open to any idea on set, because if something isn’t working in the script for an actor I would rather them say it how they would normally say it, so that it sounds more natural. We did quite a bit on Bud during some of the takes, we would do a take and then Shaun or myself would feel an idea and just shoot it because it just felt instinctual, and most of them ended up in the final version of the film.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing Bud to life?
We were actually very lucky we didn’t come across any big challenges. The main one was the weather. On the morning of the shoot, the rain was in full force! So we had to wait under the shelter for a bit, but once it went we carried on shooting. Most of the film is a single take too so we had to make sure we blocked it thoroughly with Shaun.
"You’ll never know until you give it a try, the technology is there now so there isn’t really an excuse, you could make one on your iPhone!"
Since making Bud what has been the most valuable lesson you have taken making Bud?
The actor is always right. At least 90% of the time! It’s just incredible to watch them have a guttural and internal reaction to what they think the character would do. Even though I wrote the character and think I know what they would do, at the end of the day the actor is the one who is their vessel and feels their every emotion even more than I do! So working with Shaun was a pure joy because he likes to have those conversations and comes up with some great material which I couldn’t even dream of. And always make your work personal. It doesn’t have to be autobiographical, but it can be something that’s personal to you, that interests you.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I’ve always been interested in storytelling ever since I was a kid, I would draw comics and write stories. At first I wanted to be an actor and performed in school plays, but my passion for filmmaking really came from watching Slumdog Millionaire when I was 12 years old. I’d never seen anything like it before and I remember raving about it in school the next day. At the end of the film it came up saying; Directed by Danny Boyle. That name rang a bell, so the next day I asked my Dad, who likes films, who Danny Boyle was and he told me he’s the director, he made the film and he won an Oscar for it. So when I googled him I saw he was only from Greater Manchester, which is only 45 mins away from where I live. I couldn’t believe that someone not far from where I live won an Oscar! So that’s when I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker because it became attainable, not winning an Oscar! But the fact you could make stories for a living no matter where you come from.
So from then on I began making short films with my friends in my back garden on the weekends, watched films and haven’t stopped making them since!
How important to you is the collaborative process of filmmaking to you?
It’s incredibly important, as I said an idea can come from anywhere and I’m always open to hearing them, filmmaking is such a collaborative medium and effort! I’ve been on sets where the director has their say and that’s it, that makes for a very miserable set where the crew are unhappy. I never have that on my set. A film set is like a family and we all need to listen to each other to make something great that we can all be proud of.
Has your approach and style to writing and directing changed much since your debut short?
It’s changed massively! I can’t even remember what my first short was, I think it was a zombie film that was done in my house with loads of fake blood and gore. I was obsessed with Evil Dead at that time I think! But since then it’s just been a big education, as I’ve grown up I’ve experienced different things in my life and in my films too trying to work out what kind of filmmaker I want to be.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?
100% I think it helps filmmakers stand out and there’s nothing better than watching a film with a fresh voice introducing you to a world you’ve never seen before. I remember watching Rocks by Sarah Gavron and being really inspired by it because it’s a story we never see much of in cinema.
For anyone out there thinking about making their first film do you have any tips or advice you would offer them?
Honestly I would say go for it. What do you have to lose? You’ll never know until you give it a try, the technology is there now so there isn’t really an excuse, you could make one on your iPhone! The biggest piece of advice I would give is don’t be afraid to make mistakes, this is how you learn. If you mess something up. Don’t worry. You won’t do it again on your next film. Watch films too, even with Directors commentary, it’s like a free film school. But most importantly just keep going and keep making films. The best piece of advice I ever got given is; you can’t fail if you don’t give up. So keep going!
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Bud?
I hope it makes people think. I have a friend who watched it and had a strong emotional reaction to it, because they had a conversation like that with their Dad when he was getting sent down. Another friend also had a reaction to it, because his kids live in Dubai so he can only communicate with them through his phone. I love these reactions because it’s exactly why I made the film, so people can see themselves reflected on screen where they normally wouldn’t.