15th BFI FUTURE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 
17-20 February 
Interview

Will Wightman 
Heart Failure  

Section: Hearts On Fire
thecoolbeanteam.com

Heart Failure follows Frank and his relationship with Lizzie. From the one-night stand where they meet to the day she tells him she loves him; from the week she ignores his texts to the moment she says they need to talk. We've all been there. Breakups are the worst. Heart Failure is not a musical like you know it. No jazz hands. No show tunes. This is a musical about heartbreak and self-worth for the cinema and - the nightclub.

Hey Will, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

Thank you for having me guys, I’m doing great. I’d be lying if I said I’d enjoyed the weirdness of the last few years but I’m hopeful for 2022 and excited to finally have Heart Failure out in the world.

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?

Weirdly, I think a huge source of motivation for me has been how impossible everything has been. I love a challenge, so when people tell me something absolutely can’t be done, all I can think about is figuring out how to do it. Ultimately though, I think the most valuable thing we’ve had recently is time. Heart Failure wouldn’t exist without all the time we’ve had to put into it and figure out all the problems that we’ve come across along the way.

You won Overall Best National Student Film 2021 at the NAHEMI National Student Film Awards, what was this experience like for you?

To be honest, I was just excited to be selected. To actually win was a bit nuts. We were up against some really awesome shorts, a few of which are at BFI this year. To be given the award this time around was a huge honour.

What does it mean to be screening Heart Failure at the 15th BFI Future Film Festival?

Honestly? The world. I’ve loved the BFI and the future film festival for about as long as I’ve been making films. When the festival was online last year, we binged the whole programme while in lockdown and the quality of all the work was honestly mind blowing. It was a huge source of motivation and inspiration as we were trying to get Heart Failure off the ground, so to be able to show the film alongside what I’m sure will be an equally awesome selection of films is a dream come true.

Heart Failure is going to be in the Hearts On Fire Section of the festival, will there be any nerves ahead of the festival?

It’s funny, you spend all this time making something, then all this time trying to get people to see that thing. But the moment you finally get what you want, and people do see it for the first time, is always terrifying and sort of horrible. I’ve done a lot of performing as a musician over the years but for some reason I always find showing my films much more scary. I think because there is no control? You just have to sit there and hope you made something people are going to like. I’ll be fine. My mum says I need to just enjoy it.

Can you tell me a little bit about how Heart Failure came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

I think the initial idea for Heart Failure honestly just came from a desperate need to make something that actually captured what it’s like to be a Gen Z. I get really frustrated with how so much of the world talks about young people, and the nature of the film industry is such that basically no high end content is ever written or directed by anyone under the age of 25. With that in mind, writing Heart Failure was really just about trying to distill down my own experience of being 21 into something that captured that as authentically as possible and creating this alternative musical seemed like the perfect way to do that.

When working on a short film like this how close where you able to keep to your screenplay once you started shooting, did you allow yourself much flexibility?

Heart Failure was a strange one for this. Of course, a huge amount of it was really carefully planned and choreographed so it fitted with the music but, as is always the case with filmmaking, a lot of the best moments were coming from the unplanned. As the shoot went on I tried to lean away from the strict plans where possible. As a result, there are a lot of sequences where we were just filming for 5 to 10 minutes at a time and just trying to really capture chaos on screen. I think that blend of really sticking to the original vision and also just throwing caution to the wind is kind of where the final style of the film came from.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing Heart Failure to life?

The virus. No question. With so much lockdown content being made in response to the pandemic, I really wanted to make something that was like the antidote to that, where you just forgot about covid for a bit. That being said, we still had to plan and shoot all through the plethora of government orders. In our 10 minute film, there were 200 camera and lighting set ups, 15 locations, dozens of costumes and props and because of the COVID-19 situation, only 6 people on set at a time. It was a logistical balancing act that I still don’t know how Georgia Cunningham, my first AD, pulled off.

For inside sequences, we had to get pretty clever with the way we filmed everything to keep numbers down. We shot a lot of the film through these POV shots so both actors didn’t have to be in the room at the same time and we used a lot of whip pans and digital masks to bring our actors into the same space. Believe it or not, we also bought a mannequin that was used in the sex scene to pull that sequence off. In the end, we also squeezed a couple of extra more intimate shots (like the kissing scene) a little later on when restrictions were lessened. That helped a lot. Looking back I can’t believe we pulled any of it off to be honest, and I’m even more amazed that Leon, Izzie and Harry gave such fantastic performances with often no one to bounce off.

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"Making something that is really authentic to something you have a unique understanding of is always a great thing to make a film about, especially when you’re young and don’t have access to loads of resources."

Since making Heart Failure what has been the most valuable lesson you have taken from making this film and will you continue to write/direct short films?

How important a great team is. I’m nothing without Will Marchant, my DoP and music producer; the films cast Leon, Harry and Izzie truly made this film; my producer was a miracle worker getting this funded, our art team injected the film with a sense of style I’ll never have and my 1st AD Georgia Cunnigham moved mountains to get the actually film shot. Never underestimate how many people you need to make a great film great.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

I’ve always loved making stuff, whether that’s writing music, or short stories, or taking photos, or acting, or interior design or graphic design. I love filmmaking the most I think because it sort of brings almost every artform together. No two days are the same as a director, you get to work with a different medium every day.

Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?

Of course! What’s the point of filmmaking if you're just going to make the same stuff as everyone else? If you don’t have at least a few people thinking you're nuts when you explain your next story idea, you're not being brave enough. That’s my opinion anyway.

For anyone out there thinking about directing their first film do you have any tips or advice you would offer them?

Authenticity. Making something that is really authentic to something you have a unique understanding of is always a great thing to make a film about, especially when you’re young and don’t have access to loads of resources. If you can capture your own specific view of the world in a creative and genuinely truthful way you almost can’t go wrong, because nobody will have more authority over the subject than you.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Heart Failure?

Enjoy it! Everything has been so dreadful recently. What’s even the point of a musical if you can’t have fun?

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