14th BFI FUTURE FILM FESTIVAL 2021
Winner Best Film
Section: BROKEN HEARTS
There is an unspoken truth about being a train driver, not because it's a secret, there just aren't any words. Paul is a middle-aged train driver who discovers this unspoken truth upon striking a suicide victim on the tracks. The incident haunts Paul as he descends into a psychosis. Lonely and traumatised, Paul seeks the company of a fellow train driver who has recently had a similar experience.
Hi Rory thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
It’s an absolute pleasure! I’m currently working full-time. In the first lockdown everything was on hold for me, and I was able to indulge in my writing. I’ve never had so many scripts sitting about waiting to be made! I did some of my best writing in those long days filled with solitude.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?
The current climate has reinforced the importance of certain themes I was exploring with Loco and has inspired me to continue this exploration in my next projects. (That is incredibly vague but I discuss these themes in my later answers!)
Congratulations on having Loco selected for the BFI Future Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of ‘In Their Shoes’ section?
It is a perfect fit. The whole intention behind the film was to place the audience in the shoes of a train driver, to uncover the humanity behind the uniform and to incite compassion for the last person you think of when stuck on a delayed train after an incident.
Can you tell me a little bit about Loco, how did this film come about?
In my pursuit of a career in the film industry I have inevitably had to sustain myself with a strange array of part-time jobs, dipping in-and-out of different industries and getting to know the people behind these different workforces. An observation I began to make, and then extrapolated into the wider world, was that there are certain industries and workforces, upon which our daily lives depend, that exist without a voice, kept away from the headlines and that exist as a faceless workforce. Without being reductive, it is fair to say that people become defined by their jobs, what they do becomes who they are, but what if your job entails an element of trauma?
Furthermore, what if that trauma is not recognised, you are not given a voice to express your experience and therefore denied the compassion which should be so natural. Loco first came into my mind and as exploration into the misplaced guilt I imagined a train driver may experience after an incident on the tracks, despite being totally innocent, and the devastating effect this would have on their life.
As I dove into research I came across various first-hand accounts of train drivers suffering from PTSD and their fight against recent funding cuts to CICA (2012) which had initially offered compensation for time-off work to seek treatment and counselling after an incident. Loco was an attempt to give a voice and a face to a workforce operating behind closed doors. When you are stuck on a delayed train after a suicide on the tracks, the train driver is probably the last person you think of, but imagine what they have just seen and will never unseen, imagine what they have just heard and will never unheard.
What were the biggest challenges you faced bringing this film to life?
Filming on a train. I knew from the first word I wrote of the script that finding a train was going to be the biggest challenge, especially with such limited resources (money). The script for Loco was the total opposite of that uninspiring piece of advice to just write a script with two people in one room. We ended up finding a disused train which was being used for emergency service training.
The second challenge was shooting the film myself, which is something I had decided very early on, a personal challenge but also a way to cut down on crew. With my remaining budget I bought a Blackmagic 2.5K, shot the film, and then sold the camera to recoup the budget and reinvest it back into the postproduction and festival fees. I was essentially able to spend that money twice.
"What is interesting is that Loco was released into a very different social climate than that of which it was conceived and made."
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Make decisions when you are feeling inspired and positive, and then find the courage to stick to these decisions even when the doubt creeps in. Your idea or vision needs to be actualised into something real, something tangible that exists beyond your own mind. Maybe this starts with a mock-up poster, storyboarding and sharing the script with friends or fellow filmmakers. Put the film out into the world, and the world will suddenly hold you accountable for it, so you don’t have a choice anymore but to make it happen.
Finally, what do you hope people will take away from Loco?
I am extremely happy with how the film has turned out and how it has been received. Perhaps, with a bigger crew I could have paid more attention to our lighting set-ups and fine tuning them, but I don’t think the film suffers because of the limited lighting kit we had access to.
The use of forced perspective and making sure that subjectivity permeates every decision that is made, from the writing to the placement of the camera and even the use of sound design.
What is interesting is that Loco was released into a very different social climate than that of which it was conceived and made. Amidst the Covid pandemic we have seen the emergence of the ‘Key Workers’, as if these workforces didn’t exist prior. Of course they did, but they operated behind the scenes, away from the headlines.There is a new awareness and appreciation for the workforces that keep the world moving and Loco fits perfectly into that new awareness. In the case of Loco, I hope this new sense of awareness and compassion will translate into more substantial support for train drivers suffering from PTSD.