Tell us a bit about yourself and your film-making background.
Born in Paris, France, brought up and educated in London, then did a Fine Art Degree at Liverpool College of Art. I attended NYU film School for a while but had to drop out due to lack of funds. I worked on a few feature films in New York for a few years then from late 90s onwards did odd jobs; mostly lecturing while I developed a few feature scripts with one being optioned but then abandoned after a long development process.
I had almost given up the filmmaking dream ten years ago until equipment started to get cheaper and so I started to get back into the directing saddle very slowly and sporadically. I now needed more practice to ready myself should the miracle of getting a feature script funded happen.
Do you have a certain style when you make films? Are you quite detail obsessive, relaxed? What’s your style?
I couldn’t really say what my style is as it’s hard to observe yourself while you’re making a film. I don’t have a big enough body of work to say ‘this is a consistent style’ running through my work. If I had to make a self-observation, I tend to like making stuff that challenges viewers in their expectations of the film they are about to watch and not give too many answers. I also like to play around a bit with genre and film grammar conventions.
My early films were very visual with no dialogue which was probably due to my fine art background. Due to budgetary constraints more recent films have tended to be more dialogue-driven but this is a trend I’m trying to reverse for the next few projects. The only film I directed which wasn’t my own script was much more visual and atmospheric but it wasn’t my money so I had a certain freedom (which is strange as if it’s your money you should be in control) which I think is very true. But budget and writing style has led me in this direction.
I also don’t like to take myself too seriously. Even though sometime tackling serious subjects a sense of humour and irony tends to creep in it’s not a conscious decision, probably just the way I am and probably the films I’m influenced by.
I think if I had to define the work I would say it always has a sense of repressed melodrama. But others might view it differently.
My working method is quite laid back. I don’t like to have everything too planned out, which some may say is a weakness. I think if the text has a strong foundation I get excited at the way the production process can develop more layers into the script, bringing it to a level you never anticipated. This is mainly due to the talent of your collaborators, especially your actors. It is still amazing to see living breathing characters on a big screen that were once a few lines on a much smaller computer screen.
What gave you the idea for The Naked Screaming Man?
In my last flat which had back-to back gardens going up the hill. We often heard in the summer nights the sound of distant male screaming. It was told to us, although never confirmed, that there was a small kind of halfway house ‘institution’ up the road. And sometimes the source of the sounds carried in the wind is very hard to pinpoint. Sometimes distant, sometimes very close. And so that was the starting point and inspiration for the story; mixed in with a bit of possible sci-fi, domestic drama and romantic comedy.
Who are the main characters? Are they very similar or different? How do you think that element adds to the film?
Although The Naked Screaming Man is the most dominant force in this film the main stars of the story are the three main teenagers: Martin, Josh and his half-sister Liz.
Each of them have their own unique character traits which creates a bouncy dynamic chemistry and even more so when the Naked Man appears before them.
Martin who is Josh’s stoner buddy and dope supplier has a lot more to him that meets the eye. He is probably the ‘straight man’ out of the duo, only because he seems more affected by his own drugs and Liz, who he is besotted with. In a strange way he also speaks on behalf of the audience by questioning the reality of the situation he’s in and trying to find plot holes in the Naked Screaming Man’s story.
Josh on the other hand takes the situation in his stride and is the comic relief with his sarcastic one liners. His half-sister is usually the butt of his jokes even when the situation in the story demands more sensitivity.
Although Liz seems brimming with sexual self-confidence her repressed feelings and vulnerability are unlocked when The Naked Screaming Man makes his appearance.
Which actors and actresses start in this film? Are they new to the game?
Jerome Thompson is a recent graduate of London Academy of Dramatic Arts and is a real find. He is a major talent and since casting him he has already been cast in the lead for a BBC Feature. I see him as a young Michael Fassbender and will bet that in five to ten years he will be at the top of his game.
Jonathan Ashby Rock has already established himself starting his own theatre company. He has the kind of face and timing that is essential for physical comedy and could also be go far following the long tradition of British comedy actors.
Brittany Ashworth has already established herself as a talented teenage actress cast with major talent on BBC dramas. After taking an educational break to do a degree at Oxford in English Literature she has now been cast in a feature film to come out. Without sounding like another DVD extra cliché but she is definitely a natural. She’s a very instinctive actor that goes deep into her character. Combined with a professional discipline she will be any director’s dream to work with. I know this as I saw every nuance of her performance in the outakes. There’s a lot of emotion in her waiting to burst out. And she’s not professionally trained which proves my point at being a natural. My main concern with Brittany is when her career takes off again I won’t be able to afford her!
Natasha Alderslade who plays the Mother is also an experienced TV actress who also likes to challenge herself in quirky roles in independent films. Her experience made directing easy as did Scott Joseph who played the policeman. He has played in more genre-based films and was once again I was blessed by choosing him. If you cast well in the smaller roles and have actors who love the material it makes life easy.
This is a comedy. What moments or areas do you use a lot of humour to ease the mood or brighten the situation?
I don’t usually do comedies. It’s usually the situation that these characters are in which will set the mood. Are they funny characters? All depends on the context. There are a few gags which I’ve had to cut due to sounding false otherwise I tried to make sure the comedy played out is truthful to each character reacting to an absurd and often surreal situation.
The rest of the comedy I think comes from the audiences expectations from certain scifi film references and good old British dysfunctional family dramas which I think this has in spades.
Alain thank you very much for talking to Cinemaddicts NZ
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