Raindance Film Festival 2021
Shorts Programme: Maverick Senses
In a café in Marseille, a man’s life begins to unravel when his lunch is disturbed by a chatty stranger. Something long-forgotten has become dislodged in the darkness and is bubbling up towards the surface.
Hey Liam & Larry, it's great to talk with you, how have you been keeping during these strange times?
Liam: We both work in schools full time, and in our cases they haven’t shut at all during the pandemic!
Has this time offering you the chance to find some new inspiration or opportunities?
Liam: In some ways, the lockdowns helped us. We managed to get some filmmakers we admire and respect (including Ben Wheatley and Maxine Peake) to watch our second short Doughnut, I think because they had nothing but time on their hands. And then we shot a fake 1970s public information broadcast, and a stupid amount of talented crew attached themselves to it — I think out of sheer boredom months of lockdown had brought.
Larry: If anything it inspired me to make films even more. I can’t lie I am sick to death of the pandemic but silver lining it made me want to create more, not less. We were lucky enough to also shoot a BFI-funded short, Pickles. We’ve never been busier!
Congratulations on your World Premiere of Punch-Drunk at Raindance 2021, what does it mean to you to be at the festival?
Liam: Raindance is massive. It was the first festival that selected Punch-Drunk and we were over the moon. It still hasn’t fully sank in yet. When you look at the calibre of film they select, it means a lot to us that they think the film is of a certain standard. It’s also playing at an amazing cinema, so we are really getting giddy as the screening gets closer. We’ve been chatting to a few of the fellow filmmakers from our program and we can’t wait.
Larry: Raindance has been a bit of a North Star for us since we started out; the quality of film that gets selected has been something we’ve been aspiring to for a long time, so to be selected is mega.
Can you tell me a little bit about Punch-Drunk, what inspired your screenplay?
Liam: Our first ‘proper’ short, Tick Tick Tick, took six years to make. That’s too long for any short film we know but the ambition of what we were trying to achieve, combined with having no filmmaking network and no money (and no clue) when we started out on that project meant we had to cobble it together piece by piece. I was determined to write something that would be as logistically as easy as possible, where once we wrapped we’d have very little to do. That was my starting point for the script. I decided to have a locked-off shot of a man, and then had to come up with a story that would be compelling, where the limitations of being a(n almost) one-take-wonder would feed into the story, and enhance what happens on screen.
What would you say was the biggest challenge you faced making Punch-Drunk during Covid and what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from this experience?
Larry: If anything, given the simplicity of the set-up, this short was about as Covid-friendly as you could get - we literally set up the lights and camera, then sat back and watched the actors perform their magic. Easily one of the nicest days filming I’ve ever been involved in.
Liam: The main problem was casting. I wrote a script that could be done in a day… but then it took two years to find the right cast members to play the roles! Not only did the actor for George have to be a certain physicality, and a believable physicality, but he had to be the right age in relation to Colin, and the actor playing Colin had to be able to convey a believable emotional rollercoaster over 12 minutes. Luckily I found Corin Silva, who was exactly what I wanted for the role of George, but then it took that long to find Barry Ward we shot Doughnut in the meantime and that was his first film with us.
Larry: Both actors are really incredible in this, and in Corin’s case, from off-screen too.
This is your 3rd film as co-directors, what has been the secret to your collaboration?
Larry: I find it very easy working with Liam. Luckily we have a similar eye when it comes to films, and both love getting stuck into the finer details of filmmaking.
Liam: I think for me, and this perhaps sounds daft, but the key to any collaboration is that you need to be making the same film. Usually such a relationship is sparked over shared tastes, but then you have to all be singing from the same hymn sheet, so that you’re not pulling in different directions. That and a clear communication; guilt and judgement-free.
Looking back is there anything you’d have done differently on Punch-Drunk?
Larry: For me, no. The setup made it very easy to just focus on the acting. It’s probably been my most favourite shoot to date.
Liam: It really went about as well as we could have expected — we were wrapped and in the pub across the road for half 5! If money was no object though, we probably would have paid for all cast and crew to shoot in an actual café in Marseille rather than a bar in Manchester, for the extra smidge of authenticity it would have brought, but it was a dream.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
Liam: For me I think it probably stems from going to the video shop on a Friday night as a little kid. That’s never really gone away. And as soon as I made my first film, it became plainly obvious to me this was what I wanted to do.
Larry: Although I’ve always been mad on films I didn’t start making them until quite late on. I made some music videos for a project I was involved with and absolutely loved losing myself in all the planning.
Has your approach to this film different than your previous shorts?
Liam: Yeah as mentioned we wanted a stripped-back short, but the way we approached planning it was exactly the same.
Larry: We didn’t storyboard this one, but it’s one locked-off shot so we really didn’t need to!
What has been the best advice you have been given?
Liam: That’s a difficult one because we are self-taught. There’s not much advice I can single out as we’ve not really been in such a position to actually have been given any. I’ve certainly learnt that although your film has to look amazing, after having a solid script and story, sound is the most important thing - if everything about your film is amazing but the sound is awful, people will not give it the time of day.
Larry: Back everything up. I have an incident involving a MacBook and a cup of tea that I’m still not over, eight years later.
"From a directing point, for me, talking through with cast and crew, so everyone is on the same page."
As a filmmaker do you have any advice or tips advice would you offer fellow filmmakers?
Liam: From a writing point I’d say each line in a short should either reveal character or move the plot forward. I read that somewhere and it’s definitely true. Really strip it down to the shortest, purest version it can be. Get in there as late as possible and leave as soon as possible. From a directing point, for me, talking through with cast and crew, so everyone is on the same page. Making sure all people involved feel comfortable and ask questions and feel that they can bring their expertise.
Larry: Keeping people well-fed and watered, making sure morale is high. They’ve always been the best shoots. Inevitably on shorts, people are doing you a favour by being there so the least you can do is take care of them.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Punch-Drunk?
Liam: The least I hope for is that someone doesn’t feel that their time has been wasted. But I really hope people feel they’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster, that we manage to captivate them despite the (almost) single shot.
Larry: Leave them wanting more. If the credits roll and the audience is gutted it’s over; that’s the dream.