For cinephiles, there are films that have the capacity to move mountains for you emotionally. For me, one of those films has been ‘Wreckers’, written and directed by D R Hood. It was a film which knocked me over the head (in a good way!) and spurred me on to make a difference for the filmmakers and audiences we work with over at The Film Sprites. You may not have heard of ‘Wreckers’, but you will most certainly have heard of its magnificent main cast: Claire Foy, Benedict Cumberbatch and Shaun Evans. After an acclaimed debut, D R Hood and the Likely Story team are back with their second feature, ‘This Family’, currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Sex, death, cooking, and a poetic journey through the life of a family, ‘This Family’ promises to be poetic and funny. Currently the film has Robert Sheehan (‘Misfits’, ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’), Diana Quick (‘Brideshead Revisited’) and Sinead Matthews (‘Mr Turner’, ‘Wreckers’) attached, so ‘This Family’ is shaping up to be a fantastic feature. I was fortunate enough to speak to D R Hood about ‘Wreckers’, ‘This Family’ and the filmmaking process.
You’ve said that you began writing ‘This Family’ even before ‘Wreckers’. Can you tell us why ‘Wreckers’ happened before ‘This Family’?
It was for practical reasons really. ‘Wreckers’ is three characters in a house with two other characters appearing from time to time and one crowd scene. ‘This Family’ is 10 people on set for a lot of the time, although the locations are actually a lot more contained than for ‘Wreckers’. I am glad that we made ‘Wreckers’ first, it’s quite an angry film, in a way, and it was good to plunge into that anger before making ‘This Family’ which is more about the richness and beauty of life as well as struggles in the family. ‘This Family’ is funny as well – ‘Wreckers’ had humour in it but it was somewhat hidden (!) – (the Russian audience incidentally understood that ‘Wreckers’ has a lot of humour – intriguing).
One of the things that’s very apparent when you watch ‘Wreckers’ and then delve into all of the source material for ‘This Family’ (the test films, mood board and sizzle reel) is that there feels like a lot of linkage between the two films in terms of story and theme. How did making ‘Wreckers’ influence the way the script for ‘This Family’ is currently?
The script for ‘This Family’ seemed very different to me and it’s only now that I am realising it is linked in themes – family and secrets and ‘going back home’ as an adult… however it is going to be in a different key. I think there will be a linkage in the kind of fragmentary way we’re building up This Family and the texture of it. It’s become very exciting building up the texture of the film out of these fragments of filmed landscapes and experience before shooting the core drama – and ‘Wreckers’ has something of that fragmentary quality too I think.
Delving into family dynamics and secrets must be emotionally exhausting after a day’s filming! How do you ensure you decompress after filming?
That’s a very good question! I am not sure how. Go somewhere very quiet and put a cold flannel over my face! I also find comfort in making lists – sad I know. But not until after the cold flannel. Cups of tea or something stronger. Prayer! I was interested how our different actors dealt with the stress of ‘Wreckers’ – sense of humour is crucial.
What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned from your own family?
Love despite everything – and there can be a lot of “everything”. Illness is in the story of ‘This Family’ – it has also been among my family and friends – and in the end all that’s left is love. But you don’t always get to say goodbye the way you intended in the end – this happens to the character in ‘This Family’. Keep your sense of humour is another thing I’ve learned. Sometimes you have to stand up to people. My mother loved people and found them endlessly interesting. That’s a great lesson.
You wrote and directed ‘Wreckers’ and you’re doing the same with ‘This Family’. What prompted you to write and direct both feature films?
These two films feel very intimate. I have written to commission for other directors and have also been attached to other writers’ scripts as a director so it can also work well to separate the two functions depending on the piece of work. I wrote a script for some animation directors and I love the way they expanded on my story visually in ways that I could not have possibly imagined. However the script is the soul of the film so many times I feel, why would I not go out and make the film myself.
What did you take away from making ‘Wreckers’ that will see you in good stead with ‘This Family’?
So many things. Right now I would say something about communicating with actors – don’t try to be liked necessarily – just try to communicate clearly and instil confidence in cast and crew. Mostly I feel that actors have a wonderful instinct once the drama is set up well, but occasionally they need to understand something about what the visuals are doing or a nuance. Get more time to shoot – that is often difficult for directors I think, though a certain amount of pressure is good.
Who/what inspires you creatively?
A few of the old-school filmmakers – Fellini, Tarkovsky, Pasolini. Big fat novels and inane TV comedy shows. Wandering around among trees and on moors. Making cakes. People I meet, people I know.
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
Keep going. Try and make stuff. Try and be clear with yourself and others about what you’re planning. The director’s job is not only to have a vision but to communicate that vision.
Lynnaire MacDonald does publicity and marketing for films. You can find out more at her and The Film Sprites at their website.