Pencil Face

It's time for part 2 in the sometimes series that I like to call Lists here at late Film, with today's rather titularly self-explanatory list coming luke warm off the heels of Fi's Fave Films! - An Alternative List. Back when late night TV was great here in the UK, I would avidly watch short films from the random showings on Channel 4 (some, such as Alison De Vere's The Black Dog, were regulars) to less random collections on Shooting Gallery. For as long as I've loved film, I've loved short film, for there is something so powerful and emotive in these short few minutes. Yes indeed, I loves me a short film, and here is my pick of top 5 fave's...

1. The Tale Of The Rat That Wrote (Billy O'Brien, 1999)

Anyone who knows me will tell you I just simply adore rodents, so it's probably unsurprising, then, that my favorite short would feature a rat. Any rat owners out there will also tell you that rats are extremely loving, intelligent creatures and this 14-minute UK/Ireland short explores this. As the title suggests, this is one rather creative rat which can both draw and write and uses the unusual powers invested within it to help out its ratty friends. Black & white and largely silent, this tale of ratty retribution is gorgeous on the visual front as well as the story.

Available to view as an extra on the DVD of Billy O'Brien's feature-length film Isolation.

2. Forklift Driver Klaus ( Stefan Prehn and Jorg Wagner, 2000)

This German instructional video spoof is a glorious 9 minutes of comedy/horror caper. Featuring the hapless Klaus (Konstantin Graudus,) we get involved in his unfortunate shenanigans as he pays little attention to his safety rules on the first day of his new job. Needless to say, much comedy carnage ensues and all set to a lovely bit of muzak. An absolute must for short film fans into the comedy/horror genre.

Watch it here.

3. The French Doors (Steve Ayson, 2002)

This 13-minute New Zealand short was a late night on Channel 4 fave and among my dear collection on crappy, taped VHS. But, no matter, for this little flick is an absolute corker. Barnie Duncan plays an unnamed man doing a spot of home renovation and installs the titular doors. So far so nice and fine and sunny, but before long things take a turn for the darker in more ways than one. Genuinely a very neat and unnerving film.

Watch it here.

4. Talk (Lukas Moodysson, 1997)

I caught this 14-minute Swedish short as an extra on the Lukas Moodysson boxset after watching Show Me Love, and it was love at first sight. Birger (Sten Ljunggren) is out of work and out of company until a Hare Krishna recruitment girl calls at his door. This film appeals to me as, if I ever made a short, apart from a wish to make a creature feature or horror film, I would most likely make a study of loneliness, and that is in essence what Talk is. It's pretty harrowing stuff and rather devestatingly darker than you might expect, but all the more beautiful for it.

Available to view as an extra on the Lukas Moodysson boxset DVD with the superb Show Me Love and Together.

5. Pencil Face (Dandy Dwarves, 2008)

This cheeky little number just snuck in to my top 5 fave short films not 2 days ago for its rather deliciously dark and strange ways. Quite literally featuring a large pencil with a face, this is a stunningly surreal warning to be careful what you greedily wish for...

Watch it here.


David Noel Bourke

Hi David, tell us a little about yourself.

My name is David Noel Bourke, an independent filmmaker. I grew up in Ireland and studied acting and writing but eventually drifted into spec screenwriting. Feeling a little frustrated moved to Australia and took up drama and creative writing for a few years, tried to do a little acting, didn’t work out, so came back to Europe and settled in Denmark with my wife Catrina, we now are married and  have two kids and try to eke out some sort of living making independent films!

You’re based in Demark, but No Right Turn, to a certain extent, feels like it could be set in any northern hemisphere nation . Was it your intent to deliberately not tie the film too heavily to any specific geographic location?

It must be all the snow in the movie that lends a northern hemisphere vibe, but it was very deliberate to make something not linked to any one place, something with more of a timeless retro-feel. One of the benefits of being timeless, besides giving it a more fairytale feel, is actually it frees up a lot artistically especially with characters, production design and the overall style of the movie.  It’s an English language movie but could be any place, any town, your town, my town and I like that universality.

Your characters have some great quirks and some really funny back stories. Without giving too much away, like the meat remedy and the obsession with trains, how do you come up with the ideas? Is it important to your style that the protagonists are more than just vehicles to move the story on?

Having character quirks makes it more fun if it suits the movie of course. For “No Right Turn” it was cool to create colourful and quirky characters, when your making these type of independent movies especially character based ones it really helps if your characters are larger than life.

About ideas, I believe everyone has ideas everyday, it’s putting them to good use that’s the key, and for a movie the trickiest is will the idea work for the story and character. Everyone who was involved in “No Right Turn” contributed to the movie in one way or another with lots of great ideas which is really cool, it was a big collaborative effort.

What were the differences between shooting your first film Last Exit and No Right Turn, both internally as a director and externally as a production?  Was there more pressure or did the confidence from having a film under your belt balance that out?

I’m always nervous making a movie! “Last Exit” and “No Right Turn” are like chalk and cheese.  “Last Exit” was shot without any crew, very fast, with no production design; no props; no locations; no sound and for 1000 dollars.

So it was very rough around the edges in more ways than one but can’t complain as its  turned into quite a cult film now.

With “No Right Turn” I managed to put some funding together and get a small professional crew which helps enormously. I still ended up doing production type work which is the most pressurised part of filmmaking but from an actual creative and personal level it was a much more enjoyable project.

I was very lucky to have a great cinematographer (Eric Witzgall) and a great production designer (Liselotte Justesen) on board. Most low budget features have little or no production design, but for this movie it wouldn’t have worked if I used only friends houses so it was important to build, dress and design our locations. We also used a special lighting scheme, lighting the whole movie using special neon bulbs which is very unique and gives a special surreal look to the movie with the colour and contrast.

As a writer and director, does what’s going on currently in the world of film have an influence on you or are you very much doing your own thing?

I’m a little old school and prefer to watch movies from the 60’s, 70, 80’s and seem to enjoy them more.  I try to keep up and watch stuff but I have a bad habit of falling asleep when I watch movies!  I actually really enjoy documentaries more and more these days and sometimes even preferring those to movies.  

The cast and crew on No Right Turn is fairly compact.  Is it important that they get along and do you think about the kind of personalities you're hiring or is it the case that you just assume they will be very professional?

I go what’s best for the project, I try to avoid those big egos but I know sometimes its part of the film business so it’s hard to avoid but when folk come on board, the project is number one. It’s one of the jobs of the director to keep everything in check if not the project suffers.

The film is a blend of genres, but there is a modern fairytale at it's heart. Was there a particular inspiration for that?

It’s great to mix genres. I don’t get a chance to make many films, so I like to throw a lot of different stuff onto the screen but it needs to work in the overall storytelling.  If the budget was higher I would probably mix it up even more. Regarding the fairytale element it was very important for the movie “No Right Turn” to have a heart and to have redemption and a fairytale feel, I love those movies that are a little magical but still based on real characters.

As a whole Europe seems to be able to cope with adult themes like sex and drug use etc. Do you feel this is an advantage over Hollywood in that films from Europe can treat the audience with a little bit more maturity?  Not to say that sex, violence and drugs is necessary for maturity, but more that you have the opportunity to make films that will resonate with a slightly older audience, rather than being pigeon holed into making films that are “one size fits all”.

I don’t think about that aspect too much. Of course, when your indie, you tend to naturally push the envelope a little more in general and I like to do that when it’s needed, it’s important to break the rules, you need to try to be a maverick or otherwise there is no point.  At the end of the day, if it works for the story, it’s worth doing, most audiences have seen everything before in movies in one form or another anyway.

Are there any directors working in Denmark and also Europe as a whole at the moment that you feel are doing interesting things in film?

In general not a huge European film fan. Lars Von Trier is still the most interesting in Denmark.  I like French films, especially the genre stuff,  Gaspar Noe movies really get under my skin.  The horror flick “À l'intérieur” was whacky and very gory even for me. Let me think, Terry Gilliam is still making great movies. Tideland was fantastic. There was a movie called “Cashback” that was very cool by Sean Ellis. 

When you watch films, what kinds of things do you go for and over the last few years what are some of your personal favourites and why?

Mainstream wise, I’m a big Kubrick fan; “2001”, “The Shining” being favourites for cinematography, characters and great storytelling. I can always watch Scorsese, Coen Brothers films, especially their early movies, “Taxi driver”, “Barton Fink”.  I admire dialogue driven films very much, like early Kevin Smith in “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy”. I’m a sucker for old Spielberg and Lucas, love “THX1138” and of course “Star Wars” and “Jaws”!

 I try to see new indie films when possible. Over the last few years Darren Aronofsky, Todd Solondz, Takashi Miike and movies like “Sheitan”, “L2DK”, and  “The Dead Girl” are movies I really liked because they push the limits a little, are quirky, funny and original. 

Both of your films so far seem to centre around people who are somewhat on the fringe, losing the game of life you might say. Is there a reason for that?

It makes for great drama and it’s fun. Actors always have a great time playing the bad guys and I enjoy working on getting underneath these type of characters. Anything can happen in their world, there is no law, no rules so it’s interesting.

Creative people tend to be filled with ideas, but film from conception to wider release can be a long process.  Is it difficult to select which idea to go with and do you feel a nagging prescience to move onto the next project? Especially say like now where No Right Turn obviously will need your attention to promote, but at the same the creative process is largely over. In many ways independent directors often have to be their own marketing department, is this a role you're comfortable with and even enjoy, or is it a necessary evil?

I wish I could make a movie every day. Movies are expensive and time consuming , especially if you want to have decent production values, so you cannot jump from movie to movie without fleshing out a good script and promoting your last one. It is indeed a necessary evil, all the marketing stuff, it eats up time required for writing and developing projects, it can get very frustrating.

In some ways the Internet has made indie distribution and promotion easier, but as they mature, the leading websites in any field inevitably become more mainstream and populist as that’s where the page views and therefore the money is. Inevitably they become (knowingly or not) more and more extensions of marketing. In the case of film it’s getting less common to find film sites that really talk about film (i.e. theme and content of the movies themselves) the weight of the content is really promotional material and pre-release hype, casting news etc. (I’m not pointing fingers I’ve felt the pressure to do that to).  Much as I like my site and it does Ok for what it is, I know talking about a film or any other product here is never going to expose it to a huge audience, do you think that internet based writers and the sites they write for pay enough attention to independent film? Have you approached any of the larger sites or do you feel that their audience only wants a certain diet and its best to stick with independent sites and those that specialise in independent film and cult movies?

You touched a few important things there. With indies you usually tend to try get your movie to some film festivals and get some reviews and then make a decision on how best to distribute it to a larger audience.

A lot of the major movies sites tend to ignore the independents because usually we have no Hollywood stars or big directors attached or the fact that your movie is not big budget sequel or remake. The internet helps somewhat and there is some really cool independent sites out there that support us, and every little bit helps, but the net is only one aspect, the traditional marketing of posters in cities, on billboards, buses etc and TV spots still is the best way to market a movie and we independents of course can’t afford that kind of thing. Hollywood usually has 50 million dollars set aside for this kind of thing, for “No Right Turn”, we have a couple of bucks, so of course we struggle.

What’s next for you?

I got a project tentatively titled “Yield”.  It’s a fantasy based psychological thriller about  a man returning home to solve a mystery from his youth,  if you thought “No Right Turn” has some strange characters and a funny story, this movie is off the scale! I’m very excited about it, it’s bigger in scope again and probably needs a larger budget but hope to get it kick started early next year. I’m also developing a big science fiction project, a bio pic, and looking into a TV series based on a couple of concepts.  Lot’s of fun challenges ahead!

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