Showcase – Thrown (2011) – Ryd Cook and Dave Clark
September 11, 2011 1 Comment
Welcome to the first short film showcase on Write-Shoot-Cut. It’s my pleasure to give you an exclusive sneak preview of the short film Thrown and a behind the scenes interview with its writer Dave Clark and director Ryd Cook prior to the film’s premiere this Friday.
I have known Dave and Ryd for a few years through the Shane Meadows Forums and it’s really exciting to see them collaborate in such an uncoventional (read more below) manner; though perhaps the way they worked is the future and anyone out there struggling to find collaborators should take heed of their experience and advice.
Having seen the finished film I can confirm that it is both funny and moving; a beautiful slice of life and death revolving around a road-trip with an old chair. As a first time writer Dave has produced an accomplished piece which is understated and funny. Ryd, having made a load of short films in the past, has most definitely produced his finest work to date and is really finding his voice as a director.
I’ll let them both go into more detail on the whole project in the interview below but first here’s the exclusive clip:
Without giving anything away, what is your short film about?
DAVE: “A family bereavement leads to a favourite chair being assigned to the scrap heap, until a seemingly insignificant discovery leads to a change of heart.” That’s the short synopsis for the film that we have been using, but I guess the film is also kind of a very mini road trip in which two friends transport a well-loved piece of furniture to its final resting place.
Can you tell us a bit about the writing process and taking the film into production?
RYD: I am not a writer. I come up with a lot of ideas, but could never get a story written up myself. Knowing this, I made it known to people I know that I’m open for them to send me ideas, and scripts for films. And if I like them, they may get made into a film! Dave sent me a couple of short synopses in an email and I liked them both. One of them was the idea for Thrown.
DAVE: I was really lucky with this story because the ending came to me first. I remember having this striking image come to me out of nowhere (which I won’t give away here) and I thought it would make a great ending scene for a short film. From there it was a case of working backwards and coming up with a satisfying story which would lead to this final scene.
The first thing I sent to Ryd was a one page outline of the whole story, and thankfully he liked it and was keen for me to write the full script. When I completed the first draft, I sent it through to Ryd for him to give it a once over and email me any feedback or ideas. This back and forth of emails went on for each draft of the film as both minor and major changes were implemented. Ryd’s feedback was invaluable. Being so immersed in the writing of your own idea, you can miss clumsy little mistakes or obviously clunky dialogue that sticks out like a sore thumb to a fresh pair of eyes. By the end I think I was up to draft seven, and it wasn’t until about draft five that I had a sudden brain wave for brand new scene in the middle of the story. The clip of the film on this page is from the scene in question, and it is now probably my favourite part of the film.
RYD: Originally I liked Dave’s other idea better [than Thrown], but somewhere along the line I changed my mind! Dave wrote it up and after a few drafts we submitted it for funding but we were rejected. I knew all along I’d just go ahead and make it anyway, so after a couple of new drafts I got the ball rolling on pre-production. I started enlisting friends as crew, looking for stuff I needed (locations props etc) and held auditions for the first time in my filmmaking career!
Is it true that neither of you have even met one another, how did you find working together?
Our original connection came about through the official website of British film-maker, Shane Meadows. I am actually the person who started Shane’s website in 2004, and it was in making the site that I decided to include a forum for fans of Shane’s films to connect and chat about their common interest. Ryd was one of the very first people (if not the first) to visit the forum and he has been a regular ever since. As the Shane Meadows site expanded, I created a larger forum and decided to include a section for budding film-makers to discuss short film-making and to show off their latest films for constructive feedback. This part of the forum is still going strong and provides a good place to showcase short films without fear of being ridiculed by the usual internet trolls. We’re all really polite and helpful, and there are some seriously knowledgeable people knocking about on there these days.
Both Ryd and I had posted short films and sketches on the forum over the years and we both enjoyed each other’s work. Before Thrown I had previously helped Ryd edit a four part spoof ‘rockumentary’, and I also helped to write a script of one of Ryd’s own ideas. I also helped out on the editing of that project too which is named after the sentient laptop at the heart of the film, Noki.
After helping out on some of Ryd’s previous work, it became clear that he was on the lookout for short film ideas to direct. So, not wanting to miss the opportunity of seeing one of my ideas brought to life, I promptly sent him the story outlines for two different ideas. One was a strange ghost story idea, and the other was to become Thrown.
Despite never meeting, working together was great (or maybe it was great because we never met!). The good thing about a dialogue through email, is that you have time to consider your thoughts and opinions before replying to each other, thus avoiding any unnecessary short-term squabbles.
The two main rules that seemed to work for our web-based collaboration were that we had to be totally honest with each other, and we had to meet each other’s deadlines. Once we had proven to each other that we could stick to these two rules, I think we both felt that we could trust each other despite having never met.
How much was Ryd, as director, involved in the writing process?
DAVE: Ryd was definitely involved in reviewing each new draft of the script, and while not actually writing any bits himself, he would point out sections which he thought I could improve on or fine tune… and usually I could.
Towards the end of the story, there is a pivotal dialogue scene which Ryd was keen for me to rewrite a couple of times to see if I could make further improvements. He was definitely quite right to do so, because without him pushing me, the scene just really wouldn’t have had the impact it needed. Once the final draft was complete and Ryd had finalised the two main actors for the film, he ran rehearsals in which he and the actors ran through improvisation ideas to expand on and tweak the script to make it feel more natural. This definitely worked wonders, and there are a few great lines that are now in the film which I didn’t write…. how annoying! haha
RYD: I’m a strong believer in the fact that a film gets written 3 times, once by the writer, in script form, again during rehearsals & shooting, and then finally once again in the edit. I had involvement in all 3 processes, obviously the last two more than the first. For the script I saw every draft, and we discussed line changes, scene changes etc. During rehearsals the actors would read through the scripted scene first, run it through and see how it worked. We’d cut out, or change lines that didn’t work and then we’d improvise off the script, keep adapting over and over, and then the actors learned the scene we had created, as oppose to learning the lines. During shooting there was still room for minor changes too. I like the whole process to be very organic; I’d listen to everyone’s ideas on set and take them into consideration.
Dave, what inspired you to write the piece and what are your creative influences?
DAVE: The main inspiration really came from the final image which my brain seemingly conjured out of nowhere. I liked the image so much it really did inspire me to create a complete narrative in which this idea for a final scene could work as a fitting ending. I guess that the subject of bereavement in the family is one that has touched most people (including myself), but I don’t ever consciously recall directly taking inspiration from my own experiences.
As for my creative influences, the realism of drama and humour in Shane Meadows’ work is really high on the list, but I also take a lot of inspiration from comedy writing in TV as well as in films. One of my favourite sitcoms is Sean Lock’s 15 Storeys High because each half hour episode is essentially a cleverly plotted short film where story elements are expertly set-up and paid off. It’s also really funny too! The structure of any well written sitcom episode can be a great place to learn about plot structuring for a short film.
More recently, I think Martin McDonagh’s script for In Bruges is a masterpiece and of a quality I aspire to reach… but if I could even get just halfway there I think I’d be happy!
Ryd, what made you want to direct this story?
RYD: I would never be able to direct any story that I couldn’t relate to in some way. I have to somehow know of the experiences the characters are having. Then I feel I am in a suitable position to direct. Although the story of the film isn’t something that I have actually done, parts of it I can really relate to. I have had similar experiences, from both of the main characters’ points of view. The themes of the film are of great interest to me. Also, the film’s story is thoroughly nice, funny and uplifting. I find that refreshing, too much British film is very dark, and bleak. There are no guns, drugs, gangsters, wife beaters, or murderers to be seen in this film!
Where did you find your actors?
RYD: This was the first time I ever held proper auditions. Before now I’d either use myself or friends in my films. I put casting calls out on Shooting People, and Mandy.com and made it known to all my friends & family too. The 3 actors came from each of these in the end; Steven (Ray) from Shooting People, Sam (Eccentric Man) from Mandy.com, and Ashley (Marcus) is actually my cousin. I would recommend Mandy.com the most, as we had a rather large response from that website. It’s free too!
Ryd, what inspires you as a director?
RYD: What inspires me the most is seeing filmmakers getting it done despite the odds. Shane Meadows of course was the guy who made me decide I wanted to be a filmmaker, mostly because of how he got where he is. He simply kept making films. Other filmmakers like Edgar Wright and Gareth Edwards who have worked with small budgets to great effect. Tom Wilton who you have interviewed on here as well, there’s a dude who goes out there and makes films no matter what. Just the other week I was helping on a small budget feature shoot with director Patrick Coyle, everyone there inspired me because they wanted to make this film happen. Knowing it is possible, you just need to put your arse into gear and work hard on it. I guarantee you, you do not need a whole lot of money to make a film; you need passion, drive, and hard work.
How do you both feel about the finished product?
RYD: I’m very proud of it. It’s the hugest project I’ve done to date and I’ve learned so much from it. I think everyone who worked on it has left their mark on it in some way, any film is a huge collaboration, and this film is all of ours. I’m just very happy to have worked on this film with so many talented people. We all made it what it is.
DAVE: Yeah, I am really chuffed with the finished film. When you are writing something you have a clear image in your head of who the characters are and how the scenes look, but after I saw the film for the first time I couldn’t even remember what I had previously been imagining. The finished film easily exceeded my expectations and I would say that it is definitely Ryd’s most accomplished piece of film-making to date.
Do you have any plans to collaborate together in the future?
DAVE: We have talked about it now and again, but in this current set up of me being the writer and Ryd the director, it all kind of hinges on me actually getting something written! I would definitely love Ryd to direct any future film ideas I come up with, I just need to knuckle down and get on with the hard graft of writing. I have mentioned a couple of ideas to Ryd and I am currently trying to fully flesh out another short film script for Ryd to look at. We have also toyed with the idea of a feature-length project too, but with me being very much a beginner, the idea of writing a feature-length script scares me to death at the moment!
RYD: I’ll definitely look at any of Dave’s ideas and scripts, and I can definitely see us working together again in the future. He is a talented writer, and I can’t wait to read what’s next!
What are you going to do with the film?
RYD: I’m currently entering it into as many film festivals as I can afford! It’s set to premiere at TridentFest 2011 at the Cambridge Film Festival, and has a second screening too in the Local Tastes programme. I really hope it gets into more film festivals, and hope it’ll be screening some place near whoever is reading this soon!
What’s next for each of you?
RYD: Having just finished this project, and also having completed some other little short films I’ve been working on, I’m at the stage where I have to make some decisions on what’s next. It’s quite odd after having something to work on for so long. I have some footage I shot at San Francisco to edit together, so I’ll work on that. I’d also really like to make a proper documentary, and have a few ideas on topics, but nothing is set in stone yet. I’m definitely going to work on some more poem films too.
DAVE: At the moment I am pulling together the ideas for another short film script and I will hopefully be helping out in the editing of a first time feature-length project called Field Trip from Patrick Coyle (who’s short film Dirty Egg I see was mentioned by Daz Spencer Lovesey in a previous interview on this blog). I’m really looking forward to helping out with Field Trip as the script was great fun!
General Write, Shoot, Cut Questions
All-time top 5 movies (as of this date, we all know it changes daily)?
- The Wrestler
- Dead Man’s Shoes
- Taxi Driver
- All About My Mother
- Withnail & I
- This Is Spinal Tap
- A Room For Romeo Brass
- Raising Arizona
What is the best short film you’ve seen?
RYD: A Friend For Christmas, never has a short film chilled me, and moved me so much.
DAVE: This is even harder than the top-five-movies question! I think I’ll have to say that Chris Shepherd’s film, Silence Is Golden tops my short film list. It’s just a stunning piece of work that mixes live-action with animation, and social realism with fantastical surrealism. It touches on some particularly dark subject matter, but all filtered through the vibrant and energetic imagination of a cheeky young lad which lends things an optimistic outlook which isn’t really there. I also absolutely adore the brilliantly funny dialogue for the lead character’s voice-over.
I feel like I must put in honourable mentions for Martin McDonagh’s short film Six Shooter and Deborah Haywood’s Sis too!
Favourite film related website?
RYD: Vimeo, hands down. So many brilliant films and videos, and a thriving friendly, encouraging and awesome community. Love it.
DAVE: Now you come to mention it, I guess I don’t really look at any on a regular basis. IMDb is the one I turn to the most for information and news. I also find myself heading to Collider.com if I’m looking for some strictly mainstream action.
What advice would you give to first time filmmakers?
DAVE: Well, being a first timer myself, I’m not sure I have anything wise to impart, but I would say that you should make sure that whatever you are creating is not being influenced by uncreative forces. So, for example, don’t find yourself trying to predict what you think an audience might want. Make sure you stick to your own creative voice.
From a writer’s perspective, the most important thing is to finish things! It’s great coming up with ideas, but until they become part of a completed piece of writing with a beginning, middle, and end, they don’t really amount to much. To some extent, the ideas are the easy part. You can ask pretty much anyone, and they’ll probably have ideas for a film, but it’s building these ideas into a complete story which is the hard part. So if you can do that, you are already way ahead!
It’s also a great idea to get someone to read over your work and give you their thoughts. They may point out obvious problems that have slipped under your radar. If you don’t feel like exposing your writing for criticism at an early stage, then it’s also a great idea to take a break for a few days, and then re-read what you have written. After leaving your script for a few days you can often pick up problems and see room for improvement where previously you were sure you had it nailed.
RYD: Banish every reason you have not to make your film out of your mind. You can do it, think positively. If you feel your idea is too big, try something simpler first, and get it out there. No money for a camera? Use your phone. Don’t have actors? Use yourself. Don’t know how to edit? Learn. These days almost anyone can make a film. There is no excuse.
Next, you need people, people is a huge thing you need to make films, so show people the film you made, and get to know as many people as possible who are into making films, and work with them. You’ll meet people with cameras, or editing skill, or someone who can act. Even if you never meet these people in actual real life, in this day and age anything is possible. Thanks to the internet. I’ve worked with numerous writers and musicians I hadn’t (or haven’t) met. Then you can collaborate with all these people and make a bigger film.
Just make films. The minute you make a film, you are a filmmaker, and no one can tell you you’re not. You’re not a filmmaker unless you make films. Keep making films, get stuff done, learn from your mistakes, take the criticisms on board, accept rejections and keep your chin up. That’s my biggest advice; it sounds obvious; just go ahead and do it, make films!
[Neil – Dave doesn’t do photos… do you think he even exists?]