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Sixth Former Abe produces short film 'The Weed Killer'

Monday, 25 March 2019

This week sees the premiere of ‘The Weed Killer’, a new short film directed by Sixth Former, Abe. School newspaper, The Citizen, had a few questions for Abe:

Which filmmakers inspired you?
So many, in so many different ways. The ones that have had the greatest impact on me are probably those I encountered first, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Chris Nolan, Danny Boyle etc. Kubrick was a genius – a mad one at that – and it’s difficult not to watch his films in total awe – we’re talking 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. But I think the director that has influenced me the most has got to be Hitchcock. He was the master of suspense, and his style of setting up a scene certainly comes into play in my short films. There’s the famous ‘bomb quote’ where he talks about showing the audience a bomb underneath a table with two people completely oblivious to it, and then their conversation becomes so much more tense, creating really good suspense. It’s not just me he’s influenced; Hitchcock was one of the original auteurs who has had one of the biggest impacts on cinema ever.

How many short films have you been involved in so far?
I’ve made three so far: Sleep Tight, Analogue and The Weed Killer. Beforehand, I had a YouTube channel where I made some really amateurish, terribly written and shot mini-episodes. I look back at them now with a grimace on my face. I had to start somewhere, and it was sort of a gateway into relatively decent short films. With each one, I’ve learnt from and improved, and that for me is the only way forward.

What are the ingredients of a short film?
With a short film there is so much you can do. For me, I have tended towards making it part of a much bigger story and focusing in on one scene or two. For that, you have to find a way to establish the plot of the story as soon and as quickly as possible, as well as establish previous events that have happened off-screen, whilst also telling the story on-screen. It’s essentially a balancing act where you try to avoid clunky exposition but also have interesting and engaging characters. It’s relatively difficult to do and the only way I have become decent at it, is practice.

How did you put The Weed Killer together?
It’s a long but such a fun process. Pre-production is the toughest part of filmmaking, but for me probably the most exciting. Firstly, you’ve got to come up with an idea, and then start writing and writing. You have to love writing and telling a story. I then sent out casting calls on various actors’ Facebook pages, asking for headshots, CVs and showreels, and I was jumped on. (Basically, if you throw a stone in the street, you’ll probably hit an unemployed actor). After sorting out the decent from the rubbish, I then asked for self-tapes, using pieces of the script to see how they interpret the character. For the two characters, I got about fifteen to twenty different self-tapes. Some were OK, some were dreadful, and a few were very good indeed. I held actual auditions for the first time for the last remaining four which was so fun because we all sort of bonded. You get people from all different backgrounds working together and I love it. Finally, I narrowed it down to two: Scott, 42 and Henry, 23 (who I knew already). I already had my Director of Photography (the guy who holds the camera and deals with the lighting) – he was my good friend, Toby, who has worked on all my short films with me – love him to bits. I also had a boom operator and a make-up artist (my sister).
The shoot was a really intense 14-hour day for just 10 minutes! It was stressful for parts of it but so fun and I loved everyone on set so much. It was a really good atmosphere and I’ve established some strong friendships out of it.

What were the challenges?
There are always numerous challenges, a lot of which you never expect. As director and producer, you have to know what everyone else is doing, where they are supposed to be, and when. It’s a tough and occasionally stressful job, and it is so important to be organised and make spreadsheets! Filmmaking (and I suppose most jobs) will always entail encountering obstacles and overcoming them. More precisely, I’ve had actors and crew-members drop out, and you have to come up with ways of replacing them. Other challenges include: scheduling, keeping up a good atmosphere (as director, you are supposed to be the leader, the one people go to for support) and so many others I don’t have enough words to go into!

When can we see it?
Now! The Weed Killer is currently doing the festival circuit so it’s not on YouTube, but it’s still available on the internet with a link.

What advice would you give budding film-makers?
Make films. Honestly, it sounds simple, but you need to have passion. You need to make the effort and get out there. You can watch as many film-making videos as you want, but unless you get actual experience, you won’t be able to learn and develop. Of course, watch videos, and other people’s short films, but ultimately film is an art which you have to exercise in order to master.

What’s next for you?
Well, I’ve just heard that The Weed Killer has been selected to be screened at a Short Film networking night on Monday 25 March, which I am ecstatic about. In the long-term though, if I get the grades, I’m off to Bristol University to study Film and French, which will be wonderful and hopefully get some more short films under my belt and then move onto feature-length films!

With each short film, I’ve learnt from and improved, and that for me is the only way forward.
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