By Jessy Williams
The Scar Tissue Q&A took place after a special screening at London's Prince Charles Cinema, and featured writer/director Scott Michell, stars Danny Horn and Charity Wakefield, and composer Mark Ayres...
Mark: I've known you for many years Scott, but where did that come from?
Scott: They say it's always the quiet ones. I don't know, is the short answer. Somwhere deep buried within my psyche, there is obviously some very dark thoughts. Thankfully, I've been kind enough to put it on to paper. But, that story has been in development for 12 years in various guises and I think it got darker and darker.
Mark: I read a few drafts and it started off as more of a pure sci-fi.
Scott: It did. It mutated over a few years and got darker and more character-driven, probably more cerebral.
Mark: And you were lucky enough to get Charity (Charity Wakefield) involved in this.
Scott: Absolutely. We had quite a long search for our Luke and our Sam. We had many auditions, but we were delighted to find Danny who hadn't done that many films. I just felt that he had that duality and touch that would bring both the instant likeability to the character, but also that little bit of darkness. You're going to have a little sense of wonder about him; was he as straightforward and likeable as you think? With Charity, well we needed someone who could capture both elements of the Sam character well; the strength and toughness and scariness, but at the same time, vulnerability, warmth and the pathos making you really feel for this character.
Mark: When Mark said he cast you (Charity) I was like, "that's good" because I remember you, we all remember you, from the costume dramas Sense and Sensibility and such.
Charity: Yeah, it was an amazing opportunity to play something completely different to anything I've done before. I didn't really have very long to get ready for it either *laughs* I had boxing lessons two weeks before getting the job. It's quiet strange watching it, because I don't feel like it's me up there at all.
Audience Question 1: Can I ask Scott, where did you see the film being set? You seem to have avoided all identifiable landmarks and such. Was that intentional; was it supposed to be hyper-real, almost like comic book?
Mark: I think you've answered your own question!
Scott: Yes, that's very perceptive of you. I did very consciously avoid setting it in a particular location. We avoided seeing any London landmarks; we shot the entire thing in London, but didn't want to go down that whole road of shots of the Gherkin, etc etc. I wanted that feeling of decay in society, I didn't want to pin that down, I wanted it to be a world that existed within itself. It's a story that can happen anywhere. The whole style of the film was slightly hyper-real with a very slight comic-book element to it.
Mark: We did that very much with the sound design, as well. We tried to avoid British police sirens, to try and take things out of the space as much as we could. We didn't want a very obvious number 9 bus going by or anything like that. So, Danny, what did you think when you got this part?
Danny: With Luke, a lot of things happen to him. He starts of in a very naïve place and that's how I approached it. A series of ridiculous things start happening to him and from the get-go he's in shock, really. He wakes up to find his friend dead! He doesn't really have time to focus on anything that's going on around him, because something else is always being thrown at him.
Mark: You've come soon out of playing the young Michael Gambon in Doctor Who. Was there a very different approach to this, in-terms of set-up of the film?
Danny: It was quite a different part, yeah. I hadn't done anything like this before or since. I remember reading the script and thinking it was creepy. It's one of those things where you read it for the first time and you try to take it all in. Then you get to the end and you realise that this guy's been clowned from this serial killer and you have to re-read everything. Everything that has come before that has a different meaning. I don't believe in the nature side of things, you decide your own fate. So, I don't think that he is the same as the killer. Nevertheless, he's going to have something there and I tried to work that in in the most subtle way possible.
Audience Question 2: I think there was a bit of Blade Runner in this, perhaps in one of the police characters.
Scott: I would be very happy if you thought that and any allusion to Blade Runner is one to be welcomed. There were a whole host of films that were influential when I was putting this together; Se7en was one of them which also had that thing of not being set in particular time or place. I was impressed by that element and the incredible claustrophobic, seedy flavour of the whole thing. Blade Runner, absolutely, with the hyper-real feeling and the colour palette. Although, we couldn't quite match the value of Blade runner *laughs*. I suppose The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is another influence, with the strong female lead character and the overwhelming darkness and twisted humanity.
Mark: One of the things where I think we were really lucky was with our art department. They were just astonishing. Luke's flat is actually the morgue a couple of days later, that's how good they were at doing an enormous amount with very little.
Scott: Absolutely, at times they were working 24 hours a day. They were sleeping on-set and building things through the night. They did an absolutely phenomenal job.
Mark: Alarmingly, the fetish club was rather how we found it.
Scott: Yes, as part of the prep for the film we had to tour some seedy London clubs, which was interesting. That probably wasn't one of the seediest. There were much, much worse ones.
Audience Question 3: Does the music come after you've seen the film the first time or are you writing the music as you read the script?
Mark: It's a bit of both. Scott and I have worked together over a number of years and I've read this script in various incarnations. I did some writing in response to the script, but only about 10 minutes in total. I knew early enough where we thought it was going and that saves me a lot of time. Most of it was written afterwards. What I had written had to be, pretty much, re-written anyway as the synchronisation changes. I like working with a director from the start. All you can really do is react to the film, if you've actually been involved with it. If I've been on-set when Scott has been shooting a scene, I don't have to ask him what he's trying to do with the scene, because I already know.
Audience Question 4: Scott, how difficult was it to you to go to the producers and go, "Hey! This is my film, can we make this?"
Scott: Pretty much everything in the British film industry is tough. Right in the beginning we tried to get off the ground and get the money. There's not many things in life where you go, "Give us...well, in our case, not a lot." It's a heck of an ask for something that's just come out of your head. So yeah, it's a long and difficult process. But, obviously, this is a fairly low-budget production and we managed to get it off the ground. Once we got started it barrelled along pretty quickly, we only had about 2 months prep and it was all madly coming together at the last minute. It actually moved quite quickly which is very very unusual for the film industry. Making the film is only half the problem. Once you've finished post-production you've got the other task of getting it out there and persuading people that this is something that they should buy or ship around the world. We really really wanted to get it in to cinemas. All the way through we very strongly tried to make it a cinematic project, so we tried for very long to try and get a distribution deal that, at least, got us in to some cinemas. Finally we're here, it's long road.
Audience Question 5: Were there any real serial killers that you got inspiration from?
Scott: No, thankfully I don't spend my days studying serial killer reports. It's more more of an overarching sense.... When you read newspapers or watch the news reports will come on and you will be just be watching them open-mouthed being like, "How on Earth does someone do something like that to another human being?" You just cannot relate to it. You just can't get in to that type of mind. I think that that general sentiment, what does make people do these things or turn them in to monsters was important. There wasn't one typ eof inspiration, just more of an over-arching sad feeling about the stories you see every day. Not just serial killers, everything you read every day.
Audience Question 6: Were trying to to get this in to a major film distribution or were you trying to aim this to an independent market? Awards like Sundance, Cannes etc.
Scott: That's an interesting question. I guess we sometimes thought that the British Film Industry sometimes feels a bit small, The cinematography is a little bit grey sometimes, the soundtrack is a little bit muted. So yes, I think we were thought, we'll push this and we'll try and make this a big, loud, cinematic experience. Just go that little bit further. At the same time, to expect a small British film like this to make a massive sum of money..you never expect this. But we were aiming for it.
Mark: We don't really have a British Film Industry. Every film is a start-up and the start of a new business. We do the best we can with the best we can get, really.
Audience Question 7: Charity, your character is a bit unstable, as you call it. How did you prepare, thinking about your previous roles as well?
Charity: Yeah it was very different. I found myself being quite angry on-set all the time. She's in a constant state of anger and wanting to fix things, that she's totally unable to. A) because she's not really capable and B) she doesn't have the information. All the way through the script they can't work it out and it's an obvious concern that she's making everything up in her head. All she's been thinking is killing this guy and getting revenge fr years and years. It wasn't very unenjoyable in a weird way, it was very hard for her. I quite enjoyed playing a character that doesn't let everything out all the time, I've done lots of really emotional parts and she keeps everything back. I really enjoyed the switch of gender stereotypes. It's really rare to get a part where you lead the action and the male character is left running behind. It's quite unusual and odd to play, and you realise that that very rarely happens on-screen. That was great. I suppose she sort of did get rescued sort of at the end, but that was kind of played around with.
Mark: Both of you, do you find it hard to leave a part like this at work when you go home at night?
Charity: Not hard at all, no. *laughs*
Mark: I find writing music for something like this, when I go to bed it's still churning around in my head.
Charity: I think did have some nightmares when I was shooting, because we spent all day in these grimy scenes that you saw. Even though they were sets, they were based around all the same parts of London.
Mark: It was only in a little art studio off Cable Street where we shot it, so it was really run-down area. There were lots of little studios in this one courtyard and yeah, it was a run-down area.
Danny: We shot quite a lot of it in an abandoned hospital, as well. Occasionally you;.'ll walk down a corridor and there'll be a few fake kids. *Laughs* It was a creepy place and we spent about a fortnight shooting there, didn't we?
Mark: There was a dungeon area we actually shot in, in that hospital and it wasn't very nice.
Scott: It felt like it had ghosts, so it was a great place to film something like this. We invested the day in that sort of spooky, menacing feel that maybe came through on-screen. It was an ideal place to shoot something like this.