Synopsis: A comedy of missing teeth, unrequited love and one dog’s potential to shape the fortunes of a couple destined never to be together.
How did the story for your film come about?
Half the building I work in used to be a drug rehabilitation clinic, mostly catering to heroin addicts in the local area. Heroin addicts aren’t known for their sparkly personalities, so the patrons of this place were generally pretty subdued and uninspiring people. Then one day, I was outside having a cigarette and this couple came out of the clinic. He asked her about her husband coming out of jail tomorrow.
"Listen Flommy, ists got noffing to do with you,” she replied.
"What’s happened to your teeth?" Tommy said.
"Flucking dog ate em", said Marjory, and right on cue, the dog came bounding out the rehab clinic.
I was watching this all unfold in front of me quite mesmerized. They were so unlike the other people visiting the place. They were so jovial and had something so endearing about them. And I thought: “Wow, that is extraordinary and would make a great scene for a film...and I just made up all the rest!"
Has the actress really lost her teeth?
Oh, God, no. Camilla Rutherford, on a day-to-day working basis, is the "Oil of Olay" model. It’s a massive brand and you have to be on top of your game to land that gig. But she's also been in Edge of Love, The Darjeeling Limited and Gosford Park so she's worked with John Maybury, Wes Anderson and Robert Altman-- top, top directors. I guess I’m trying to say she’s an actress of some repute with all her own teeth doing a good job of looking like someone who is neither of those things.
From the second they are on the screen, the actors are so in tune with each other, so comfortable together, it puts the viewer right at ease. How did you work with the actors, how did you bring them to this point?
In truth, there's a lot of luck in something like that. The character of Marjory is like a muse. I saw Camilla [Rutherford] in a bunch of things, but where I really saw her shine was in short film Je t'aime John Wayne, a parody of Breathless. There were elements of Marjory in that character, as if she was Marjory in an earlier incarnation, before she was caught up in the trappings of excess. The character of Tommy is a naif. He comes from a background where heroin addiction is almost inevitable and life offers few opportunities, so Marjory is this exotic and other-worldly proposition. It’s easy (and funny and charming) to see what he finds so attractive about this toothless wonder. I cast a young actor who was six months out of college with all those green qualities, most helpfully the enthusiasm and energy of an inspired young man. Casting two people of varied experience balanced out really well in the end. The actors are nothing like the characters they play, but there are certain parallels that transfer very neatly.
The film has comedic elements similar to some of Neil Simon's work, where you create a situation and give the viewer two choices: either to laugh or to cry. They choose to laugh.
When you put together a film in the UK, you can apply for money from your local funding body. In your application, you include something called “director’s notes.” At the top of my notes I put this quote by the great director Francois Truffaut:
“When humor can be made to alternate with melancholy, one has a success, but when the same things are funny and melancholic at the same time, it is just wonderful.”
This is the strongest statement I have found that I can identify with in my quest to try and explain the kind of films I want to make. I love life. I find a lot of it very funny, but the times that intrigue me most are those when I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t want to theorize about humor. Many have tried and failed before me and I don’t suppose I will be able to do any better with some trite explanation of my own. Finding moments or stories where this duality exists is very important to me. Fortunately, it’s also an idea that is completely divorced from genre, so it’s applicable to almost any idea as long as the writing is good enough to support it.
What advice do you have for someone who is about to make their first short film?
Get the script into absolutely best shape it can be. I am not the first person to say this and will certainly not be the last. If you have something good down on paper to work with, how badly can you screw it up? Not that much. But you will because you don’t have much experience. So where are you going to go after that? The answer is back to the text that everyone lauded and had faith in. The answer is in there. I had this problem with Luci. When I ran into problems in the edit, I had enough faith in the project to go and do things that cost extra money because the response to the script had been so good. My feeling was that it must have been me that made a hash of things along the way because there were so many people who supported the script. It turned out that was exactly what happened. We fixed the problem and suddenly had an A-list short on our hands. So my advise is, get the script into good shape and attract the right people to get your project and going. After that, you will have those two things to fall back on because good people won’t get involved if you don’t have a good script.
What's next for you?
I am trying to get my first feature off the ground. It’s a fantastic script written by Andrea Gibb (Dear Frankie). I’m hoping it won’t be too long until we can get into production.