‘Love Does Grow on Trees’ dir. Bevan Walsh (2008)
A coming-of-age comedy about a teenage boy whose life is thrown into chaos when he discovers adult magazines, girls and the embarrassment that goes with both.
Director: Bevan Walsh
Writer: Bevan Walsh
Producer: Geraldine Patten
Key Cast: Luke Ward-Wilkinson, El Krajewski and Tom Brooke
Winner, Newcomer Award, 2008
Presented in association with Rushes Soho Shorts Film Festival 2012
5 Questions for Bevan Walsh
C8: This is a wonderfully plotted film – how long did it take you to get the screenplay locked down?
BW: It was originally two different scripts – one about finding porn and the other about falling in love with a girl at the bus stop. Neither were quite working but all became easier once I realised they were the same story.
I always want shorts to work as self-contained stories and not feel like a sketch or a longer film squashed into ten minutes. Once I had the structure figured out, it was then all about tightening the story and to lose anything that wasn’t essential to telling the story. We didn’t have the time or the budget to be extravagant so every scene (and later when I storyboarded, every shot) had to have a solid reason to be there.
C8: New filmmakers are often told to write what they know. Dare we ask if this is the case with Love Does Grow on Trees?
BW: Of course! It’s almost entirely autobiographical, or stolen from friends experiences at the same point in their lives.
When I first wrote a draft I was very nervous about showing it to anyone because I was scared they’d think I’d been this weird little teenage pervert. When I eventually asked a few close friends to take a look, I was blown away by how many people had had almost exactly the same experience.
And it turns out this is an international phenomenon – I ‘ve taken the film to festivals all over the world and have been approached by men of many nationalities telling me that I have written their story. I could almost see the weight lifting from their shoulders as they told me that seeing the film had made them realise that it wasn’t just them. I’m really proud that the film has helped to make people feel better about themselves.
I also wanted to make sure that this wasn’t a film that could only appeal or be understood by men, and I’m equally proud of the fact that I’ve been able to make a film that women enjoy just as much as men do. And I think that is because it’s not just about finding porn in the woods – it’s also about love, loss of innocence, sexual discovery and growing up. And those are things we can all identify with.
And that’s the point of ‘writing what you know’. If you’re being really honest, it will feel real and that’s what makes a good story. The problem is it can be difficult to open yourself up like that and you have to trust that other people will have had similar experiences and get it. I think of writing like therapy, and (I’m misquoting somebody here) if you’re not finding it difficult, then you’re not doing it right.
C8: Where did you find your lead and what has he done since this?
BW: We knew from the start that if we didn’t find the right lead, we were in trouble. So we had to get a great casting director on board (the wonderful Alice Searby) and then over a couple of weekends we met forty or so actors for the part.
Luke was amazing from the first second we met and instantly our first choice. He’d memorised the script, was fantastic in the audition and had that wonderful mix of confidence and innocence that meant he could talk about the character and act in the scenes without being embarrassed, while at the same time portray the naivety and wonder that the character needed.
He’d been acting for a while before we met him, had already been in a movie and was shooting a TV show for ITV called ‘Wild at Heart’ so I can’t claim to have discovered him. He went on to star in the fantastic comedy show ‘Beautiful People’ for the BBC and I’m convinced he’s well on his way to becoming a big star.
C8: You have managed to recreate the 80s in luxurious Grange Hill pallet – was it hard to achieve the look on the budget?
BW: I knew we didn’t have much money so it was all about finding locations that hadn’t changed much and didn’t have shops, billboards or cars that gave away the time period. We shot half the film outside of London just because finding locations (the bus stop in particular) that weren’t obviously modern day was considerably easier outside the M25. I also managed to secure a friend’s parents’ house for the interiors, I really wanted to shoot there because I knew they hadn’t decorated since 1987 and it would be perfect for us.
It was also about keeping costume simple and getting the details right, so finding the right shoes and bags and, most importantly, accurate vintage pornography.
C8: Is it just us, or is the first moment the young lad stuffs the porn pages under his jacket a nod to classic puzzle game show The Crystal Maze?
BW: You’re not the first to mention it, and I totally understand why you would think that, but it wasn’t something I did deliberately. It could well have been a sub-conscious homage though.
I did reference a scene from “Brazil” (in the second bus stop scene) but fewer people have noticed that than have mentioned The Crystal Maze so obviously my sub-conscious is doing a better job than my conscious self. But as long as they continue working together, I’m happy.