Raindance Film Festival 2021
Shorts Programme: Resonant Chronicles
& Max Barron
The citizens of Dobre, a small farming village, vote to acquire a Unicow – a revolutionary new cow that promises the same output as 10,000 normal cows. When issues arise around delivery, the Extraordinary Committee must decide whether to pursue the democratic will of the people, or face reality.
Hey Michael & Max, it's great to talk with you, how have you been keeping during these strange times?
Likewise. Thank you for having us!
To be honest, we've been feeling an uneasy mix of lucky (to be safe and healthy), and concerned (that we may have lived through the best of human history already, and only realised it when it had already gone).
Has this time offered you the chance to find some new inspiration or opportunities?
In many ways, yes, but perhaps more than that, it has helped us to realise how much we already had. It's a bit like losing your wallet and then finding it again - it's a better feeling than never having lost it.
Congratulations on having your UK Premiere of Three Meetings of the Extraordinary Committee at Raindance 2021 where you are nominated for Best UK Short, what does it mean to you to be at the festival?
Thank you. It's lovely and a great honour to be accepted to Raindance. We're from London, so it's also our first chance to see the film ourselves on the big screen, after so many 'virtual' festivals in the last year or so.
Can you tell me a little bit about Three Meetings of the Extraordinary Committee, what inspired your screenplay?
The film is set in a small dairy farming village in Eastern Europe. The people of the village vote for something problematic, and then have to work out what to do about it. Perhaps readers will be able to guess the inspiration at this point.
In seriousness, although it's a satire and to some extent allegorical, the film isn't supposed to be about any one political event. It's more about a mood that seems to be in the air in recent years across the world. We started thinking about how and why that has come to be. We're particularly interested in how, once people have bought into something on a certain level, any counter evidence just causes them to double down on their original belief.
It's really a film about the power of hope, in a bad way.
As co-directors and co-writers who important has this collaboration been for you both whilst making this film?
As one half of the team, I (Max), would like to say not important at all. I could have done it all myself, probably better.
Michael (the other half) is supposed to be the pretty face, although since the accident he's not even that pretty anymore.
What was the most challenging scene for you to film?
On a boring level, the THREE MEETINGS themselves were pretty challenging, as there's a lot of dialogue and every character has their fair share, so it was just a lot of long takes of people saying the same stuff in Bulgarian with the camera on different characters in order to get the coverage we needed.
More interestingly, I play the driver of the donkey and cart in the opening scene (an emotional masterclass). There were some nerves on set about that, as it required skilled donkeymanship. Steering wise, a donkey is an entirely different proposition to a horse.
In the event, nobody died and I felt that even the local donkey wrangler was impressed, though that may have just been my reading of his inscrutable face.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I think it's more a passion for expressing yourself, and filmmaking is the way we've found to do that.
It's a terrible choice. There's no other artistic medium where the barrier to entry is so expensive, so you're always fighting to just get to a point where you can be heard, and having one eye on what everything costs. It becomes more about creative problem solving than pure imagination or craft.
And yes, you can technically make a feature film on your iPhone etc. But you can also paint a portrait with crayola crayons, and nobody does, because proper paint isn't prohibitively expensive.
Saying all that, being on a film set is about the most fun anyone can have, and it's such a complete, immersive, beautiful medium that when it goes well, it makes everything worth it.
How did We Are Jones come about and how much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
Actually, we're just called Jones. Our site is 'wearejones.org' because 'jones.com' was for some reason already taken.
Since we started out, I think we've just kept growing up as people, and our work has evolved along with it. Part of that is finding a way not to be too influenced by other things you like. There's a saying something like 'you have to lose your idols to find your voice', and that's been really true for us. Looking back at our early work, we were trying to make something that felt like something else we liked, without really understanding what had gone into the thing we were (unconsciously) imitating. It's a nice feeling now to see stuff that you love, and yet not feel like you wish you'd made it, because for whatever reason it just isn't you.
It's been a very long road to get to the point we're at now, where we feel like we've found what we're trying to say, and a style that can fit it. THREE MEETINGS is the first expression of that, and it's been very heartening that it's gone down so well.
"Work out the minimum you can make it for without having to get someone that you don't know to give you money..."
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer fellow directors?
We certainly wouldn't presume to offer advice to peers! But if you mean people who are just starting out, or perhaps haven't made something yet, I guess it would be to spend a lot of time working out what you want to say, and an interesting (to you) way of saying it, and then just to go for it and see what happens. Work out the minimum you can make it for without having to get someone that you don't know to give you money, and then make the film and show it to people. That's the best part, and the part where you learn the most, and yet most people never even get there because they spend 4 years in development at some funding body or other and then their development person leaves to start a Kombucha business, and the whole project dies of inertia.
The industry, at least in the UK, just seems completely unplayable and unhelpful, and mostly interested in helping people who need its help the least. If there's any way to cut it out of the process and just express yourself directly to an audience, jump at it.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away Three Meetings of the Extraordinary Committee?
That we are brilliant, and our career is a great use of their spare cash.