i-D presents the 5th film in our collaboration with the London Short Film Festival, showcasing a total of 10 emerging filmmakers over the year in the run up to the London Film Festival’s 10th anniversary, January 2013.
This edition features writer/director Scott Graham whose short film Shell has just been made into a feature film with Scottish Screen. Shell was originally completed in 2007, depicting the dysfunctional relationship between a girl and her father living and working on a remote petrol station in the Scottish highlands. Scott has a unique voice as a director, skilfully weaving unspoken desires between characters, resulting in a superb performance by newcomer Lorna Craig. We spoke to Scott to find out more about making short films and the beautiful, haunting and isolated setting of his film.
What was the very first film you ever made? It was called Born To Run, inspired by the Bruce Springsteen song, about a boy racer destined to make the same choices as his father and never leave his hometown. But it was about the hope that can be found in finding love in your youth and how that love that can sustain you if you let it.
How does your early work compare to what you are doing now? I’m still concerned by conflicts to do with family and place and how they can both cause a kind of emotional and physical isolation. I’ve just finished a film about a teenage girl living and working with her father in a remote highland petrol station long past the point when it’s healthy for her to still be there.
Why did you choose to set Shell in such a remote setting? The setting came first. I got the idea driving between Fraserburgh where my first film was set and Glasgow where I live now. I was passing run-down garages and diners and I thought about a character emotionally and physically tied to such a place.
What was the most important aspect of casting the main character Shell? I wanted someone who would seem trapped by the isolation and decay of the garage. Someone in bloom but with no one to see it. Someone engaging but with no one to engage with.
What do you find are the biggest challenges of making short films? It’s definitely having less time. We had time pressures on the feature film as well but if something is important you can usually find a way to return to it somehow. I remember a feeling of moments slipping through my fingers on the shorts and it’s hard because everyone is working so unbelievably hard for very little money and you want to at least be able to tell them ‘we’re getting it’. It’s incredibly uplifting how much everyone cares when you’re making a film and that has been my experience on shorts and on the feature.
Do you see short films as a stepping-stone to making features? Yes but it’s not helpful to think that way while you’re working on one. It should always be about that particular story, character and moment you’re focusing on. Everything else to do with your progression as a filmmaker comes from the work you focus on there and then. Looking outside of that makes your work self-conscious and it can make the road very very long.
Where do you see yourself another ten years from now? I have two more Scottish based films I’m writing at the moment and two for actors I have worked with who I want to work with again. It’s hard to look beyond the next year or so but I’ve learnt a lot and I hope I have the opportunity to put that experience into new work.
Text: Joe Cohen