‘MOTH’ dir. William Kennedy

Two vulnerable young men form a symbiotic relationship based on shared feelings of abandonment and isolation. Together they decide to commit a terrible act of violence.

Writer-Director: William Kennedy
DOP: William Kennedy
Producers: Luke Blackett & William Kennedy
Executive Producers: Katie Dolan & Ted Filmer
Key Cast: Max Bennett, Paul Coldrick, Sally Guinness, Harry Melling


C8: Where did the idea for MOTH come from and how long did it take to write?

WK: I remember I was studying for a course called “Motiveless Evil” at UCL. I was reading The Talented Mr. RipleyIn Cold Blood and The Killer Inside Me. I became obsessed with the idea of violence being used as a means of self-expression by those who lack any other means of expression. I wanted to write something that touched on this idea. I wanted to make a film about two young men who feel alienated from the world around them and decide to commit a terrible act of violence. But I really wanted the audience to question the nature of their relationship. Are they friends? Are they lovers? That was very important. I know it took me a little while to write the script because I was doing so during my final exams. We were constantly revising as we moved towards the shoot as well.

C8: How did you work with the cast to develop their characters? Did you have a rehearsal process?

WK: I had some incredible meetings with Max and Harry before the shoot. We workshopped the script. We developed a reading list. We worked as a unit. It was incredible to work with actors who were so excited about getting under the skin of their characters. By the end, these two characters felt like real people in my life.

C8: The film moves between black and white and colour photography. What was the reasoning behind this choice?

WK: The switch between black and white photography and colour was something we had in mind for the film from the very beginning. I remember talking about it with my friend Adam Scarth, who is a phenomenal cinematographer. The colour switch relates to the cinematic landscape of the film. The serenity of the natural world is juxtaposed with the bleak neo-brutalist architectural aesthetic of the city. I’m a huge Terrence Malick fan and I wanted these contrasting landscapes to feature heavily, almost as characters, in the film. I wanted to differentiate between these locations by exploring the influence they have on the mind-sets of the characters. The most interesting way to do so seemed to be through the use of colour and black and white photography.

C8: What was the most challenging part of the production process and why?

WK: The whole production process was a huge learning curve. We threw ourselves in at the deep end. I was learning how to direct, produce, shoot, edit and grade on the job. On top of that Luke (my co-producer) and I were studying for our final exams at UCL at the same time. It was exhausting. We didn’t really sleep for a month or so.

C8: If you could go back and change anything what would it be?

WK: There are lots of things I don’t like about the film, but there’s nothing I would go back and change. I think your work is the product of a very specific time and place in your life. All the decisions and mistakes you make along the way are the product of a unique set of circumstances.

C8: You were also the Cinematographer on the film. Did you find it difficult on set wearing many hats?

WK: To be honest it felt great. I love getting stuck in to every aspect of filmmaking. It’s how I like to work. I like trying things out and experimenting for myself. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to make a film. That’s why directing is such an amazing thing. It’s what you make of it.

C8: In your opinion what is the essence of a good collaboration?

WK: Knowing when you are wrong.