‘Close’ dir. Geoffrey Taylor
On the week of Charlie’s 13th Birthday he makes a terrible discovery that brings him closer to his Father.
Writer-Director: Geoffrey Taylor
Producer: Fiona Lamptey
DOP: Nick Cooke
Key Cast: Jamie F. Glover
C8: Where did the idea for ‘Close’ come from? What inspired it?
GT: I was inspired and also haunted by things I had heard about; young people discovering the dead bodies of their relatives and trying to deal with the circumstances of that. I was also struck by Mark E Everett’s comments (the singer of the The Eels who I am a huge admirer of), on discovering his own Father dead. He was not very close to his Father but on discovering his body this brought him physically closer to him. This really stuck with me and I used these stories as a starting point, writing about a young teenage boy I was able to explore a combination of ideas and themes I wanted to talk about.
C8: How long did the script take you to write?
GT: ‘Close’ has been an idea that I haven’t been able to completely forget about. I first drafted ideas back in 2009 / 2010, I got short listed in the UK from a couple of schemes and also interest from someone in Denmark but nothing really happened. I then made other low budget projects and when I saw the Film London ‘London Calling’ borough scheme call out, I felt there was something still worth pursuing and developing with the script.
I think this just proves that you should never completely let go of a good idea, and keep pursuing ideas if you still believe in them. I suppose knowing when they are not a runner is the challenge…
C8: What was the biggest obstacle you faced during the writing process and how did you overcome it?
GT: In terms of scripting, the biggest challenge was trying to make the moments with his Father convincing and realistic, without being too whimsical or too dark. I wanted to show how Charlie, who the film suggests is not all that close to his Father, would spend time with the body and become closer both physically and emotionally towards him. I wanted to suggest to the burden and weight he might carry in not telling anyone, without telling or showing too much in this short film format.
I also toyed with the ending a lot, how the Mother would discover and interrupt his world and how to hint there is a lack of Mother in the film and make the audience wonder what has happened to her, without distracting from the main storyline. There is a fine balance of what to show and what not to in a short film script and these were the main things I grappled with.
C8: The film is visually quite dark. Did you make this decision consciously before you started shooting or did it involve a heavy grade in post-production?
GT: Yes it was a decision we consciously made before shooting and tried as best we could to achieve this look in camera. We had a great opportunity to work at Mollinaire on the grade with a talented colourist. It was great to see the capabilities and the possibilities one can achieve so effortlessly on such technology.
We obviously changed the colour and helped enhance the overall tone we were going for and masked / darken certain parts of the image, isolating our characters within the frame, but most of the dark elements were really all worked out before in camera.
C8: How did you work with Cinematographer Nick Cooke to achieve your vision?
GT: I worked closely with Nick Cooke to achieve this vision and tone to the film. I would show him some references I was inspired by whilst writing and Nick would show me other references that got him inspired. Nick then would find beautiful lighting references from a whole mixture of genres, which expanded our vocabulary of what we wanted to achieve, so between this and working closely on the storyboard with him we had quite a clear vision about what we were going for.
C8: What was the most challenging aspect of the shoot and why?
GT: Some of the major challenges came before the shoot in pre production. We had a fairly tight deadline once we were commissioned to make the film, so had to get straight into it. The film stars a 13-year old boy and finding that boy was very difficult. I saw so many young actors but it was about finding the one to carry the film and bring something new to the script. It took months but when we finally found someone, Jamie F Glover, I knew he was the perfect fit. We also spent a lot of time looking for a cheap location, which is very hard to come by in London.
As for the shoot itself, I knew we were going to be up against it time wise (as always is the case on these types of films). So it was about improvising and chopping and changing both the script and storyboard to be able to get enough coverage to tell the story. I think we embraced these limitations into our style with longer wide shots to capture the action.
C8: The film had a good run on the festival circuit including being selected for the BFI London Film Festival. What do you think contributed to the success of ‘Close’ on the festival circuit?
GT: I think the film has had a modest festival run, I wouldn’t say it’s got into as many festivals as I would have liked, but you can never predict what a festival is going to accept and submitting is also a timely and expensive process. I am very happy with the run and also the quality of the festivals it has been to. It was certainly nice to have it premiered at the BFI. It’s a quiet film but I am glad it has been picked up and I have had some lovely comments and feedback.
C8: Do you think film festivals are still the best place for emerging filmmakers to showcase their films?
GT: I certainly think film festivals are a good place to showcase work and I hope this continues. However, I am also happy to see more and more festivals being less concerned about having a premiere status or a ‘keep it offline’ policy. Just recently my film had a Vimeo ‘Staff Pick’, and it was refreshing to see thousands of people watch, comment and ‘like it’ from all over the world – it’s a universal story and as a director it was humbling to see so many people moved by it.
C8: What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers who are embarking upon their first short?
GT: My advice for a first time filmmaker would be to just go for it. It’s a platform to experiment and work out how to tell stories and just needs your energy and enthusiasm to get it made.
However what I’d say to film makers embarking on any project, especially if they are looking for funding, is to be true to yourself and your ideas, be prepared to get knocked all over the place trying to make something, so be honest with yourself, how fresh is that idea? How much do you care about it to take it on, on an often long and treacherous journey?
I suppose you have got to be realistic and clever about what you can achieve on the budget, resources and time you have, but embrace those limitations. As long as the story and your vision is clear and you have the passion for it, then you will be able to make something – somehow.
C8: What do you think makes for a good collaboration?
GT: Firstly, choosing the right people for the right reasons, what can they offer to the project? Do they have an understanding of what you are trying to achieve and what the story is about?
Listen and be open to their ideas and to change, but also maintain that strong vision or gut feeling that you had for the project / script in the first place. Then it’s up to you to carry that energy for it and excite the people around you. This will get the best results from a collaboration in my experience.
C8: What’s next for Geoffrey Taylor? Any exciting plans?
GT: Well, it seems like I’m doing everything that does not look or feel like ‘Close’. I have a short documentary coming out soon online, I have a lot of documentary ideas I want to explore. I am also writing and grappling with a longer off beat black comedy, which feels important for me to explore. I also have a short film to influence it, so hopefully the short will get off the ground soon.
You can find out more about Geoffrey Taylor and his work here.