‘Fight’ dir. Lewis Metcalfe
A study of the curiosity and anxieties young males face towards violence.
C8: ‘Fight’ was your graduation film, how much free reign did you have over story and production?
LM: If I recall correctly I believe I had complete reign over story. The tutors would offer their two cents and they still had to green light but I don’t recall them being adverse to anyone’s ideas, and only asked various questions to make sure we had belief in what we wanted to make. However, production was a complete different story. They had a rule where all graduation film crews must entirely consist of the course students, which, to myself and one other filmmaker, seemed like a backwards way to approach a final year film. If this should represent my progress as a director and writer should I not be allowed to pursue the best possible crew for heads of department? Apparently not. But I pursued them anyway. I’d met a cinematographer, Doug Walshe, earlier in the year and knew I wanted him to shoot my film. No one on the course had abilities anywhere near his, and I really believed in my idea and I wanted the best possible outcome. He also had a Redrock lens, which at the time was quite revolutionary, and to this day I feel it adds a genuine filmic aesthetic to the HDV cam it’s attached to. Along with Doug I also used an outside sound recorder who had great experience and his own gear. My friend followed suit and together we made films that broke the curricular rules. On the graduate screening ours stood out in craft (and arguably content) by a long shot, and other students complained, which I understand. But we got the better films and that was more important that any reward the uni could have given us. Ironically we weren’t punished, and I’m told the films are still used to this day to advertise the course. The following year after we left I also heard they invested in some Redrock lenses for graduate films.
C8: The film is slow and atmospheric, with a sense of building menace – how conscious were you of your stylistic influences at the moment you were making the film?
LM: At the time I’d stumbled across a few very decent shorts, and generally I’m not a fan of shorts, but all good ones I come across have taught me that you have to make the film fit the medium. I believe shorts allow more accessible room for style and atmosphere and experiment than features and to make them interesting you have to embrace this, as unlike features, you don’t have the time to really indulge in story or character. So based on these great shorts I’d seen, I knew I wanted to make a highly atmospheric piece with an unspoken sense of threat throughout.
C8: New filmmakers are often told to write what they know – what is it that most attracted you to Fight?
LM: High school was a very anxious time for me and I remember there being quite a few playground fights that would be considered quite the spectacle. It was a big high school so it would draw in big crowds and I remember feeling very sensitive to the energy in the air. I somehow felt excited but personally threatened, and with this I wanted to explore or just highlight the fascination we have with violence in general and how it’s starts at a very young age. Oddly, my morbid fascination is with everyone else’s morbid fascination, and not the violence itself.
C8: The peel of church bells in the background is no coincidence – are you making a comment about violence as the new communal worship?
LM: Ha. No. But if it works for you, then yes, I am. But I think it’s fair to say that the communal craving for violence has been around longer than the bible. It’s part of who we are. I saw The Passion of Christ, those Romans enjoyed watching Jesus having his ass-kicked for three hours.
C8: If you knew then what you know now as a director would you have gone about anything differently?
LM: I actually believe it would have a very similar outcome. The edit would be better/tighter, for sure. I would of perhaps played with alternate ways of showing pressure on the boy forced into the fight. But other than that it’s quite hard to say what I would do differently. The idea came to me at that time in my life and it was the perfect film for me to make at that period.
C8: Your Collabor8te project ‘Irreversible’ continues the theme of young men involved in violence and responding to that violence – is that something you are interested in exploring in a feature film too?
LM: The features I’m developing have violent aspects, but don’t revolve around the violence. Story is what draws me to any idea, so if they happen to be violent then that’s fine by me.
C8: Irreversible will be a structural and formal departure from your previous work given the way it plays with time and perception – did you feel it was time to start pushing the boundaries a bit?
LM: I didn’t go out to write something with a complex approach to time and perception, the concept came to me as this older-brother character leading the film with his police interrogation tape where he’d be convincing his interrogator and the audience into believing he wasn’t involved with a missing person. And in order to reveal the truth I needed another perspective, the younger brother, that could be delivered in a way that wouldn’t clash with the older brother. So the concept kind of dictated the complex design. The early drafts got very confusing, and resulted in many brain mashing conversations with my developer (you, you big sausage), as what we’ll see on screen often dips in and out of the truth. There is actually only 3 or 4 shots that could be considered as absolutely false, and they go by very quickly. The script did feel like progression for me. It felt ambitious and a bit of a risk, which didn’t ever act as a deterrent, quite the opposite. And I know now I wouldn’t want to tackle any project without that risk factor, without it I’d never stumble on something special.
C8: What would be your advice to new filmmakers looking to break into the industry?
LM: I haven’t broken it, so I wouldn’t know. I can say I’ve had some small successes, being accepted into Callabor8e being my biggest. So do what I’m doing and just keep going. Apply for any funding you see and if you don’t get it, make the film anyway. Then it’ll become arsenal for your next funding application.
C8: What is the essence of a good collaboration?
LM: Shared passions, shared goals, mutual respect and good communication.
C8: What’s next on the horizon for Lewis Metcalfe?
LM: I’m working on a feature script, a passion project that feels perfect for me as a debut feature. It will need a budget, but not an unrealistic one for a UK feature. So I’m currently channeling all my creative efforts into making the story design watertight before I delve into drafts. I’ve learned the process for writing features is very different than on shorts. With shorts you can do a lot of the design in your head or with a few scribbles before you get going. With features you’re telling a full story and it’s like you’re designing a physical structure, if one piece doesn’t fit then the whole thing comes crashing down. I know because I’ve tried! I’m serving my story best by ironing out the logistics early on. I also have another smaller feature idea that I’m considering making as a micro budget for enjoyment of the craft as much as anything else. Making a film is a very stimulating and creatively awarding experience and best-case scenario I could still be looking at a good few years before I got to make my passion feature. So I’ll be looking to fill the gaps somehow in the meantime.