The 10th London Short Film Festival is right around the corner. In our final edition of our series showcasing the previous award winners, we talk to the director of Compulsion, winner of last year’s festival in Best Short Film category.
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Compulsion tells the tale of Ian, a boy who becomes convinced his girlfriend has been cheating on him. It’s an emotional story of adolescence, fear, masculinity and bravado. Meticulously composed, and beautifully shot, it shows enormous potential. We caught up with its director Andy McVicar, who we can all expect big things from in the future.
Was Compulsion in any way autobiographical or based on memories of your childhood? It wasn’t autobiographical in the sense of specific incidents or situations. But I certainly drew on memories of adolescence. First love and sex, the casual violence and threat-making of adolescent masculinity; how conflicts can bottleneck; and how lonely it can feel at these times, even as the surrounding peer group is at its most raucous and pressurising.
How would you describe your filmmaking style? I couldn’t properly pin it down because it’s still evolving, and I’m sure always will be, but I tend to want to make things that explore evocative themes through the intimate experience of a single character. I’m drawn to the potential to render a character’s subjective experience by making visual and audio associations, as our minds do when memories or imagination are triggered by patterns in things we see and hear. So you can jump across different narrative timeframes as a protagonist’s mind might do, without it ever feeling like a plot device ‘flashback’; but rather poetic, thematic and narrative connections happening. I thought Terence Malick did some fantastic experiments in this with Tree of Life; and Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin constructed a really tense, intricate narrative in this way. I’m also pretty particular about image composition.
How did you start out making films? I did a course in Sunderland which allowed me to get my hands on some video equipment, made a couple of short things which were seen by the filmmakers I now work with at Third Films, and that relationship, and my filmmaking, progressed from there.
Do you see short films as more restrictive or less restrictive than features? Are you able to take more risks making short films? I think the only restriction on short film is length. Within the form anything can be tried, and because the audience tends to be other filmmakers or staunch cineastes at festivals there’s a willingness to engage with anything that is original and well executed. I’m yet to direct a feature but what I can observe is that in feature film you have this restriction of length but also of market. The investment is so large that you need to make something that will find a significant paying audience, and that will fit with the industry models for getting a film to reach an audience. Something that will give a financier confidence, a sales agent confidence, a distributor confidence; and their confidence is drawn from what they know and believe an audience will respond to – so there’s your constraint. There’s still a great deal of room to be original and creative within that constraint, I think.
Who are the directors which most influence your work? I keep going back to Stanley Kubrick, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Haneke, Steve McQueen, Philippe Grandrieux, Dominik Moll, Kelly Reichardt.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now? Developing, writing and directing films.
Text: Joe Cohen
Images: Courtesy of Andy McVicar