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Always In The Present
2016, 92m, drama, experimental
The debut feature film from Oliver Guy-Watkins, Always In The Present is the story of six individuals whose lives have been shaken by the disappearance of their friend, the writer Cass Horsely, after a number of detrimental articles were published about him. Six months later they come together to mark what would have been his 35th birthday, for an evening which reveals the truth behind the lies, opens old wounds and forces each of them to look at their actions.
Produced by: Martin Firrell, William Maughan, Ben Mortimer, Oliver Guy-Watkins
Cast: Tom Sawyer, Daphne Alexander, Kathryn Worth, James Payton, Matt Garrill, Lucy-Jane Quinlan, Helen Belbin, Isaura Barbe-Browne
10 questions with Always In The Present director, Oliver Guy-Watkins at the half-way mark.
Sunday, May 15th, 2016
1Hi Oliver! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Spring Festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? There was a great deal going on in the UK at the time regarding press intrusion, with a high profile inquiry into the media's conduct, and I just happened to pick up a copy of the New Musical Express from my childhood when I was visiting my Mother. It's cover was Richie Edwards from the band Manic Street Preachers. He disappeared in the 1990's and his car was found abandoned at a service station. He's never been heard from since and no one really knows if he committed suicide or if he just had enough and started a new life.
At the same time a close family member of mine became seriously ill and fought hard to survive. Then a week after he came out of hospital another family member took his own life. I didn't know how to feel. I couldn't grieve because I was angry that having watched one person fight another would just end it all. I wanted to use the basis of Richie's story, set in the media culture of our time, and try to convey those feelings I felt trapped in.
2You wrote this film as well. What was your writing process like and how long did the script take you to finish? It came quickly. I started writing on the morning of Boxing Day 2012 and had 60 pages by the end of the day. I used this template to attach the cast and then began a series of workshops in public spaces with them to formulate the finished script. I write very differently now, but the process was really rewarding, if a little frightening at times as well.
3This is your first feature film. How did you know you were ready to tackle a full feature? I'd made three shorts prior to this, and had spent a great deal of time working in the film industry on set. I was watching a director on a major production one day, and saw him really engrossed in a conversation with a young actor about the role, however when he turned to a more experienced actor, he said 'I don't need to tell you what to do, you're there already.' I was frustrated by this. Why would you not engage? This made me take my earnings from the shoot and make my first short. I wanted to be in the place where I could engage with someone and not pass the chance by. The shorts were fun, but I wanted a bigger challenge, and a feature seemed like the perfect opportunity to push myself.
4On IMDB it says you've been a snow technician on many huge blockbusters. How did you get involved with that? I have, and it was by far the best education I could have asked for. As with most great things it was just about being in the right place at the right time. I had been working as a roadie for some bands, and a friend asked me if I'd deliver some equipment to a set for him. I did, and then three months later I was still there. The only difference was I was making snow.
I actually love that role. It's such a creative part of the process, and to change the season on a set or location is amazing. The guy that runs Snow Business International, Darcey Crownshaw, has been such a great support to me over the ten years I've known him. He's always stood by me, and encouraged me to push myself. The first few years were tough, I earnt very little, and was constantly waiting for the phone to ring for more work.
But after I studied a Fine Art Masters at Central St Martins in 2011, I came back to the industry with two high profile snow supervisor jobs in a row. They were incredibly tough, but rewarding and inspiring. I decided to use all the money I earnt to set up Hyde Hill Productions, and shoot Always In The Present.
5You shot this film in the UK. What's the indie film scene like out there and how difficult is it to make out there? It's great, like anywhere it's hard to find the finances to shoot, and distribute, but we sit in a very good position between American and European Cinema, so you can investigate routes in British films that cross borders if you choose to.
There's some awesome guys pushing things here at the moment. I'm a big fan of Simon Rumley, who I first met six years ago. He has spent a long time making the films he wants to and really doesn't pander to commercial tastes. I'm excited to see his latest work about Donald Crowhurst, and his partnership with DOP Milton Kam has developed into a beautiful, unique style. The Brothers Lynch are also stirring some silt at the moment, they are two great guys with a love for SciFi and the talent to pull off Hollywood style production on restricted budgets. Obviously Ben Wheatley is leading the pack in Britain, his adaptation of JG Ballards High Rise is phenomenal.
I think anywhere is the same, you're either going to create everyday you're alive, or you're in it for adulation. We all need recognition for things to seems worthwhile, but it's those that are creatively driven who will always find a way regardless of money or time.
6Can you share a war story from the shoot? Really there wasn't an individual event. We had such a great cast and crew that really came together and invested in the film. I'm very conscious they essentially invested in me, and that is such a great thing.
Financially it was a battle. The film cost around £40,000, which is not a lot to work with, and just over half of it came from Hyde Hill. I made some decisions during the shoot that were financially driven, instead of directorial, and I regret that now. But at the same time the whole experience was vital.
7What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? I'm split. As a kid, I was intoxicated by films like Strange Days, Trainspotting, The Crow and Pulp Fiction, but all of these were really lifestyle choices rather than creative influences. I think as I started to really study film, everything I watched makes me want to write or direct.
Godard's Le Mepris is a masterful work of colour and texture, and is probably his most complete film. It's sexy and obtrusive at the same time. I adore it and aspire to reach that confidence in my craft.
8I really liked the concept of having a birthday party for someone that's already passed away. How did you come up with that idea? Thank you. It came about because a body hadn't been found, a funeral or wake seemed too much. I envisioned what it would be like in the shoes of someone who doesn't know if a loved one is dead or not, but who has to move on. A birthday party seemed like a way to celebrate someone's life without admitting death.
9What's the scene you're most proud of and why? I think it's the scene at the end of the party. Where Ader and Kathrine are singing. I've known Stephen the guitarist from Revere for a long time and really wanted to work live music into the film. James who plays Ader I also have a long relationship with, and we have a shorthand on set that is so rewarding. Kathryn Worth had been on my list of actors who I wanted to work with since I saw her in Joanna Hoggs Unrelated. The three of them combined in that moment are electric. When we shot, we had it first time, but I adored it so much that I just wanted to see it again and again. So we did four more takes, just so I could enjoy being a director! I loved every second of it. There's also a couple of supporting artists in the party scene who mean a great deal. The cats already out of the bag, but you can spot one of the greatest British directors family members if you look closely, and she was always standing by with advice and support through-out the process.
10What's next? I'be just completed a script for my next feature which has fully entered development. It is a stark departure from Always In The Present, looking at extreme politics in the UK. Imagine American History X meets This Is England and you are somewhere near the plot line. There's a female lead, it's violent and indelibly marked in the time we live in. Development is fully funded, and hopefully we will shoot at the start of 2017.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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