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British Shorts Berlin 2019
Dalton Deverell & Sophie Shad 
Oh, Geno!

Festival Screening / Documentary Special

Documentary / Drama / Experimental

Sun 20.1. 16:00 / Sputnik Kino 1

Oh Geno! is a fusion of documentary and narrative film - as 73-year-old Geno Washington takes us back to the pivotal night where he swapped army boots for dancing shoes, and transitioned from USAF Airman William Washington to 1960s soul legend Geno Washington. Amidst the smoke and sweat of an understated night-club in 1964, this is the story of unexpected worlds colliding, and the beginning of a career as one of Britain’s most famous black soul-singers of the 1960s. A sparkling tale of glamour and societal change. 


Hi Dalton, thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for British Shorts 2019?


Dalton: We're thrilled to be part of such a strong programme.


Any nerves ahead of the festival?


Dalton: Unfortunately, we can't make the festival as it clashes with LSFF so we're hoping someone will cheer for us. We've reached out to some of the filmmakers to try and see their work as it looks like a great range.


How does it feel to be at the festival with Oh, Geno!? 


Dalton: We're really pleased that Oh Geno! is having its European premiere here- Berlin is such a vibrant city and Geno had some great times in Germany.

Sophie: It's a real honour. The archive footage in our film was aired in Germany back in 1969, so it seems to have come full circle! We're really looking forward to having our European premiere at the British Shorts in Berlin!


The response to your work has been amazing, what has it meant to you to get this type of reaction?


Dalton: We're always flattered by positive feedback and we like to think we can take criticism well. It's all a learning curve and we'd rather people be honest, we're developing the feature so now is the time to hear peoples opinion on the short.

Sophie: It means a lot to have had such a positive reaction to the film, because it's a very personal story (it is set around the night my grandparents met) and it was a total passion project for my co-producer and I. So we're thrilled to know that other people have enjoyed the finished product as much as we enjoyed making it.


When did you first meet Geno Washington?


Dalton: I first met him just before the shoot- you only have to meet him for a few minutes to be captivated by his personality and his laugh!

Sophie: Geno is my grandfather - so we met on the day I was born. I can't say I remember it, but it must have gone well because he let me make a movie about him!


What was it about his story that interested you so much?


Dalton: It's a story of talent, dedication and love.

Sophie: I had always grown up with amazing anecdotes from my grandfather about his life and career. But this particular story felt like the one to make into a film because it shows the transition he made from into the world of music, and it features my grandmother - a strong and complex woman.

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Tell me a little bit about Oh, Geno how did the film come about? 


Dalton: I've always known that Geno was Sophie's grandad and after our last film, Kitty's Fortune, we decided it would be good to tell another 'real life story'. Geno has had such an incredible life that it sort of seemed obvious.

Sophie: I knew that Geno's stories were too special to be reserved for tales around the dinner table. So I interviewed my grandparents over a series of months, and eventually reached a concept and a script that ready to develop.


What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Oh, Geno to life?


Dalton: Telling someone's story is a big responsibility so we wanted to do Geno's incredible past justice.

Sophie: Making a half-empty hall feel like a busy bustling nightclub in the 1960s was a real challenge. 


Have you always been interested in filmmaking?


Dalton: I studied at RADA but on the acting course, it was only after graduation that I stepped behind the camera and I haven't looked back.

Sophie: I've always loved the way that film has the ability to transform the viewer into another world. And so in that sense, I have always been interested in film making. But it was only after I graduated from university that I started making films.


What feeds your creativity?


Dalton: A lot of my friends work in the industry and it's good having a support network of people who understand the struggle. Sophie and I work together very well so we always manage to keep the creative flame burning. 

Sophie: I'm fascinated by people - it's always the lives and thoughts and intricate worlds of other people that feed my creativity.


How has your approach to your films changed since your debut short film?


Dalton: I think it's more a case of I understand more about the process now and realize how important the team around you is. If you really want to tell a story you can you just have to keep going and get over any setbacks.


As a filmmaker how important is the collaborative process for you? 


Dalton: Incredibly important. It's a special thing when people come together to make a film and this has to sing from the same hymn sheet. It's good to always keep conversations open and honest so everyone understands each other's point of view.

Sophie: It's extremely important to be able to work with a team you trust and admire. If you've got that, the collaboration happens effortlessly, and that's a really beautiful thing. It's one of my favourite parts of the film-making process.

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Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?


Dalton: Follow our Instagram @undividedpics we post tips on there.

Sophie: Naivety is your biggest asset - don't worry about not having the most experience. Sometimes too much experience can make a person cautious. The best part of being an inexperienced filmmaker is that everything seems possible, and somehow, that attitude will allow for all possibilities. If I'd known then what I know now, I'd never have set my first film in Auschwitz concentration camp with a micro-budget. But I was none the wiser, and because of that, we made it happen - and we did a pretty good job! As long as you're hard-working and passionate, you can make it happen.


What are you currently working on?


Dalton: We're developing Oh, Geno! into a feature which is exciting because there's so much more of his story to tell. We then have another 4 shorts and a TV series in development. We like to keep busy!

Sophie: I'm currently developing the feature-length version of 'Oh Geno!', as well as working on several other short films, and a pilot episode for a comedy series.


And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?


Dalton: They want to see more- which we'd love to show them.

Sophie: I hope they want to see more!

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