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Britflicks' Jane Foster had a Coffee with director Gareth Bryn, to talk about his feature THE PASSING (Yr Ymadawiad).
It is generally agreed that feature films have become far less expensive to make due to digitisation, and as a result, made film making accessible to anyone with a story to tell. This democratisation has led to some amazing, but also, very mixed results. So it’ not surprising that recently, there’s been a gradual return to the actual craft of film making, where the benefits of cheaper, better and easier processes has finally found a great match with up an coming, well-trained directors, photographers, screenwriters and producers. In turn this has enabled filmmakers to stretch creatively like never before, and make films unfettered by commercial demands, films which push story-telling to new heights, and the increasing emergence of the ‘auteur’ film maker. THE PASSING is one such film. Uncompromising and unique for sure, but also a truly modern piece of wonderful film making, THE PASSING is a fascinating supernatural, genre bending story. So when the film’s Director, Gareth Bryn (GB) came to London for the day, Britlficks' Jane Foster (JF) snapped up the chance to have a chat with him.
JF: Gareth, what made you want to become a Director? You started out as an actor, so what prompted the switch?
GB: Well, yes, I was an actor – And I was having some success to - And I loved the process. I’d got to the point where I was working with good people, and I was in a play with actors like Julie Walters amongst others, but somehow I felt there was something I wasn’t getting – How could they work so hard, to be so good at what they do, yet work for so little? After a while I realised it was me. They were all in it for love, but I wasn’t feeling it, and it dawned on me as a process of elimination that I might be better the other side of the camera. I’d always struggled with being shy, so the thought of stepping behind the camera once I’d had it made complete sense to me once I’d accepted that it was ok to do so. So, I made a short film, (I’ve always loved cameras and how they work) and, I was sold. I loved it. That was in 2005, and since then it’s been a gradual training and learning process which finally led to his debut feature, THE PASSING.
JF: How did THE PASSING come about, and why the supernatural theme?
GB: I’d worked with Ed Talfan the writer/producer on; Hinterland and we’ve found out that we just sort of really get along. This developed into the idea for, THE PASSING, especially when based upon the actual story of the valley. It’s great to find someone who you can really work with towards a project, and we plan to work together again. As to why, I’ve always been drawn towards the darker side of life, I love to work with deep issues. However, there’s not much that’s shocking or taboo anymore, so I think we chose the concepts and themes running through the film, because they are still issues that are uncomfortable; They also really helped with the idea of giving the lovers in the story something to run away from which was believable, and made their being cut off in the valley, and not really wanting to leave plausible – The car crash that sets the story off was also a good way to get rid of modern technology, and the modern world, like cell phones, as they could have been damaged in the crash. Modern technology can be the death of suspense because it makes plot so hard to make interesting, because everything’s so easy. However, the idea of being cut off because of being in the valley, and not having any telephones is believable not only because of the valleys themselves, but because of the way Stanley is portrayed, (the third character)
JF: Was it always your intention to just have three actors?
GB: We wanted to make a film that was completely on our own terms creatively, and not dependent on being sold, or commercial. So, we set out with the low budget premise of, fewer characters makes it cheaper, and few locations the same, but just the three of them work with the story too, and make it even more like a ‘lost’ world.
JF: How about the photography? It’s stunning and very ‘dogma-esque’ in that it’s natural.
GB: That was an organic process; during the first few days filming, we’d tried to light the house, light’s shining in from outside, usual sort of thing, but then somehow it looked fake – We realised that the natural light where possible gave the film a more believable feel as somewhere in no particular time, with no modern convenience, even electricity. However, there are actually more special effects in the film than you’d think – Like when it wouldn’t rain when we wanted it to and vice versa .
JF: That brings me onto one of my last questions, why a VFX house? For such a naturalistic, actor, character driven film, you seem to be a director whose talents in VFX seem incongruous in comparison.
GB: Well, we all play to our strengths, and since I was child I’ve loved cameras and effects, so, it’s one of my strengths, and it’s also a way to make a living too. I think many film makers need effects these days and we love to help out and work to create effects that are taken as real.
JF: So what next?
GB: We’re working towards the second film, but a lot will depend on how, THE PASSING does. It’s got no named actors, it’s an uncompromising film theme wise, it’s in Welsh, and it’s not a straight genre film. (Laughs) We’re wondering whether to be more commercial, or, play to our strengths again and stick with the support that has enabled us to make THE PASSING. There’s a lot of films that we could make that would showcase Wales and the language – However a lot will depend on what we can raise and what happens as a result of, THE PASSING.
JF: What about Festivals? Surely that’s a good route.
GB: You’d think! - But because of the genre-less story style, it’s a hard film to pin point, but it’s been accepted by one festival, so we’re hopeful. We think there is an audience but it will take time, we like the film, so let’s just see.
A very humble wish, but this is a film that deserves to do very well, purely because it is so different. Also, a good story in a great setting/world, with great characters who emotionally engage us, is what narrative film making is all about, whether it’s a blockbuster Marvel tent pole film, or a supernatural, weird tension winder set in wet and windy Wales. And yes, THE PASSING has all three all right: Very right. For fans of a great story - Don’t miss!
THE PASSING is in selected cinemas 8 April 2016.
Interview by Jane Alexandra Foster
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