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British Shorts Berlin 2019
Daniel Hammersley

Festival Screening 

Comedy / Mystery / Drama / Animation / SciFi / Musical

Sun 20.1. 22:00 / Sputnik Kino 1

After a life-long military career, John returns to his childhood home. His experiences have left him struggling to adapt to civilian life, but his old friend Jim is desperate to help him re-integrate into the village. Jim invites John to spend a day at his community radio station but reports surface of a mysterious viral epidemic threatening the village. Now it’s up to them to save the community.

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


Absolutely, I’ve spent some time talking to a lot of the other directors screening at the festival and I can’t wait to see as many of their films as possible. There are some incredibly talented people in the line-up and I’m so grateful to be showing Radio at such an exciting event. I’ve also never been to Berlin so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the city while I’m over.


Any nerves ahead of the festival?


Of course, that’s always a factor. When you put so much of yourself into something like this, the screening feels like jumping out on stage completely naked and waiting for the world to react. At the same time, these things have such a positive vibe; everyone’s so encouraging, and we’re all here to celebrate each other's work as much as our own.


How does it feel to be at the festival with Radio? 


It’s an honour. Nerves notwithstanding, it’s a real privilege to be selected, and a piece of work I’m truly excited to share. So many people gave so much time, and effort, and love for this project. I’m just delighted to be able to celebrate these successes with everyone.  


Tell me a little bit about Radio how did the film come about? 


Our longline is: “All is not as it seems when two old timers running a village radio station find themselves at the heart of a mysterious viral outbreak”. This is my contribution to the outbreak genre, but not in a way I think people will have seen before.


I set out to write a script which plays around with some of the different tones and ideas you might see in great big genre films, but to work them into a completely new setting, with a unique set of characters, and a format which not only lent itself to, but actually benefitted from the smaller, more intimate nature of an independent short film. So capturing the accessibility, and the mystery, and intrigue of an outbreak thriller, but giving that setting to a couple of old guys running a pirate radio station in the rural British countryside.


At its heart, however, my controlling idea for this film has always been about friendship and companionship. You can have as much fun as you like with weird-and-wonderful settings and nationwide catastrophes but I think the real connections you make with films come from the primal, universal feelings and emotions, so when you take everything else away I set out to tell a story about loneliness and companionship.


What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Radio to life?


There’ve been loads of little challenges along the way: From days when you wake up riddled with self-doubt, to having a crane malfunction blocking two lanes of heavy traffic, to the time our Costume Designer set herself on fire in the pub after we wrapped. It’s the stuff that makes life worth living through, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. 


Have you always been interested in filmmaking?

I remember when my parents first got a handy-cam, I used to spend my weekends making little “films” with my cousin. The highlight being a docudrama we made called “Planky”, where we detailed the life, times and mating rituals of our titular character; a splintered piece of wood we found in the garden and drew a face on. 

Some years later I was given a homework assignment to create a little film for our media studies class. To a lot of my friends this was a chore, but for me, it meant business as usual. That was an epiphany: the thing that I do for fun could actually be what I do for work!


What feeds your creativity?


I think storytelling is the most cathartic form of expression. The more I learn about the principles behind our relationship with a story the more fascinating I find it. We’ve used stories to communicate since the dawn of civilisation. You can look back to the way Aristotle outlined dramatic structure and see just how hard-wired we are to take in information and learn from it through a story. We use it to understand life and to give structure to our day-to-day reality. I even find through writing that inadvertently you learn a lot about yourself. In a way, I admitted a lot to myself throughout the course of writing Radio just by finding my own worries, or problems, or flaws coming out through the characters I wrote.


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

In truth, I consider Radio to be my debut film. I directed some drama for my undergrad course, and I’ve Produced a few short films in the years since, but this is the first piece of work I’ve put out there that I think represents my voice as a filmmaker. 

I direct branded content as my day-to-day but the process of working on Radio has really helped me find myself as a filmmaker. I’ve found my interest is really in complex characters and character development. I love exploring characteristics, and true character, and conscious and unconscious goals, and seeing how your characters can change and grow across your narrative.

I’m writing a feature at the moment and it’s interesting to see the things that have remained consistent across Radio and this script because these are clearly things that I naturally gravitate towards. It’s completely unintentional, but certain tones, or character types, or themes have migrated across which feels very much like I’m finding all the different aspects that comprise my voice as a filmmaker. As I say, one of my favourite things about storytelling is how much you learn about yourself.


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

I consider myself to be almost entirely talent-less, so I owe every success of this film to the truly incredible people around me. I like to think I provided a jumping off point, but it’s been such an inspiring experience seeing how our cast and crew have interpreted the script to create a world and characters far richer and more interesting than I could ever have imagined. 

So many things have wowed me across the process: Little touches of ad-libbed performance, the way Lauren added personality to our characters through costume, the first time I walked into the radio station that Alannah and her team built and dressed entirely from scratch in an old sawmill. Across the shoot, I barely ever looked at the monitor so when I saw the rushes for the first time and saw how Adam had captured the scenes we’d worked on I was completely taken aback. Some of my favourite sequences in the film are creations almost entirely from the mind of our fantastic editor James Panting.

There’s no more satisfying feeling than witnessing a team of people take something you’ve started, and turn it into something that’s improved beyond all recognition. 


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

There was something I read a while back that I found really helpful. I’m paraphrasing, but the essence was that you cannot find your own personal style self-consciously. So if you’re constantly trying to create your own style then you never will, you’ll just imitate what’s around you, whereas if you know your craft, and your characters, and your world, and your goals, and then allow yourself to trust your own judgement then you’ll find something that comes from your own heart. I found that quite liberating and empowering because it’s essentially telling you to stop second guessing yourself, have confidence in yourself and just enjoy doing what you love.


What are you currently working on?

I mentioned before, there’s a feature script I’m currently writing which is just about the most fun I’ve ever had with a script. There’s a lot of work still to do but it’s my take on a secret agent flick, but in the same way that Radio handles the outbreak genre, this completely flips things on its head.

At the same time, I’ve still got a lot of time to commit to supporting Radio, as well as commercial work that keeps food on the table.


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

Gods truth; I hope this film can make people smile. I want my work to make people happy. We live in a confusing age where it’s sometimes hard to see positivity in the acts of mankind, but I truly believe that people are capable of inspiring, thoughtful, wonderful acts of kindness.

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