1) What was the first film that truly made an impact on you?
Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More (1965), my dad had primed me and my brother from an early age about Clint Eastwood so when – eating chips in my pyjamas – I saw my first spaghetti western on telly around 1980 it had quite a profound impact. The Clint anti-hero struck such a massive chord with me, he was the epitome of cool to an impressionable twelve year old. I didn’t then quite understand I was picking up on film grammar, but the combo of sound and vision – widescreen vistas, iconic close-ups, Morricone’s incredible score – resonated with me like an A-bomb. The haunting chimes of Lee Van Cleef’s musical pocket watch is the cinematic ear worm; Gian Maria Volonté as El Indio is quite possibly my favourite screen villain ever and the sound of reverb ricochet on those pistol shots together with the smell of my mum’s crinkle-cut chips remains a key sensory memory from my childhood.
2) Which films or filmmakers inspire you?
Patrice Leconte; Joseph H Lewis; Leo Carax; Zhang Yimou, his Eighties-Nineties work; Sergio Leone etc, etc.
3) Pitch us your film in one sentence.
Never meet your heroes.
4) Now tell us what is it actually about?
It’s about the space between the person you want to be and the person you actually are and how we reconcile that in ourselves. John Malcolm Brinnin was a Fifties NYC poetry tutor who brought larger-than-life Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to the shores of America. John’s idolatry of Dylan and his aspiration to ride the lightning with him sends him on a personal voyage of discovery. This is the story of our movie.
5) What was your favourite part of making this film, and what was the biggest challenge?
Favourite highlights include knowing – or rather, feeling – quite early on, that we were creating something special while we were making it; sharing an incredible journey with Celyn Jones from page to lens to screen; and, on a purely humanist level, seeing personalities blossom and confidence bloom within individuals. The sugar sprinkle on top was witnessing our Makeup Designer, who also happens to be my better half, take home the award for Best Hair & Makeup at BAFTA Cymru 2015.
The biggest challenge, certainly for production, was twofold: raising the money to make the movie and then raising the game to launch our film out into the world. Hardier souls than me stayed the distance in this respect, my biggest challenge as director was simply not to screw up, i.e. protect the depth and nuance in the script Celyn and I had written and not succumb to the pressures of our three-week shoot schedule.
6) What insights do you hope the audience takes away from your behind-the-scenes extras?
That Set Fire To The Stars was made with the most honest of intentions. This is rare in modern filmmaking. In fact, if our film was to spearhead a new movement I’d call it Cinema du Naïveté.
7) What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a filmmaker?
That filmmaking is rarely created in a vacuum of one. Someone drives the car, yes; but without a full tank of gas you ain’t going nowhere. Without Celyn, Mad As Birds and the solid support of cast and crew I’m just another guy tilting at windmills. I guess I’m saying the auteur theory is bullshit. Sorry, Sergio.
8) What are you working on at the moment?
The Level, a six-part thriller set in Brighton for ITV1.
9) Which is your favourite extra on the We Are Colony platform?
Maker’s Statements and Scene Shots.
10) What was the last film you saw?
I’ve been watching Miss Bala (2011) directed by Gerardo Naranjo every other night for the past four weeks as inspiration/meditation for the project I’m working on. I’m hooked on the minimalist grammar of its storytelling: slow burn, short lenses.
Set Fire To The Stars is available to rent and buy on We Are Colony from Saturday 14th May, with over 60 minutes of behind-the-scenes extras www.wearecolony.com/set-fire-to-the-stars
We Are Colony is a global film streaming platform connecting passionate fans to great films through exclusive access to behind-the-scenes extras including deleted scenes, interviews, documentaries, stills, scripts and more.