TNC Interview | 2019
In Cinemas April 12
Star academics, Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators, they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking--his “otherness”--set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal--and timeless.
Hi Tim thanks for talking to TNC, how's everything going?
Things are going very well, thank you. I’m a fan of The New Current and appreciate this chance to chat.
Do you ever get nerves ahead of one of your films being released?
Yes, but a little less as I get older and run out of f$%*s to give.
Can you tell me a little bit about William, how did this film come about?
I’m a bit of a compulsive reader and this idea came out of a reading jag I went on about what we consider to be the origins and nature of “modern" human culture and behaviour. I was struck by a couple of things - how young we are as a species. Maybe 25,00 generations. And that for tens of thousands of years we co-existed with, and interbred with, at least two other human species - Neanderthals being the best known - who were our cultural equals at the time. These are a humbling thing to consider.
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
With the above in mind, I began to wonder if our survival as a species was never a certain thing, or that we were “superior” to Neanderthals at all. They say history is written by the living. I suppose pre-history is as well. Maybe, I thought, the Neanderthals died out because they were better than us, more virtuous than us, not the other way around.
"...start with a good script."
What was it about this topic that interested you so much as a filmmaker?
I thought the big, science fiction-ey premise of bringing a Neanderthal back to life would be an unexpected, even sneaky way of telling a very personal story about “otherness”, about a young man coming of age and asserting his identity in a hostile world. I think of it more as a family drama than a science fiction film.
During your research did you discover anything that really surprised you?
What I mentioned above - the unlikeliness and brevity of our existence as a species. And also the plausibility of actually doing what the film postulates - bringing an existent species, even a human species, back to life.
What was the most challenging part of bringing William to life?
A core idea of the film is that the main character William has a cognitive difference. He thinks differently than us. But how to think about what thinking differently is? It’s a conundrum, or oxymoron, that my co-writer JT Allen and I wrestled with. It was fun and challenging!
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
Yes, but I have never made a full-time profession of it. I’m not sure why. I have always been involved in other business at the same time, or during hiatuses between film projects. I’m grateful for all the other non-film things I get to do, but ultimately there is nothing more fun, interesting, and demanding as the making a movie. I really love the camaraderie and collaboration with so many talented and creative people. I saw Francois Truffaut's “Day For Night” as a young person and I’ve been hooked ever since.
What was the first film you worked on?
My first film experiences were as a “story man" in the animation department at Disney. I had the good fortune to collaborate on the screenplay for the movie “Oliver and Company”, and to be around when “The Little Mermaid’ and “The Lion King” were being made. It was a culture of quality.
How much has your approach and style to your work changed since your debut film?
Experience and generally maturity have certain benefits. I think I’m getting a little better at focusing on the most important things. On the other hand, it does get harder to stand up for 14-hour stretches.
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
Someone once told me to always have fire and water in your movie.
Now you can be reflective do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
I have no advice to give except to start with a good script.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?”
I hope we will have hit upon something real and sincere with our story and characters. I hope a viewer might think “yes, me too - I felt that”.