“I SEE YOU is a dark, twisting thriller. It starts with a young boy’s disappearance, the second in so many days, and reveals itself to be a case eerily familiar to one that took place fifteen years earlier. While the lead detective tries to discover what happened to these boys, strange, and increasingly sinister happenings begin to take place in his home. As his marriage crumbles due to infidelity, and his teenage son goes off the rails, the frightening events at home force him to question who, or what, is doing it. And how is it related to the disappearance of the boys…”
Congratulations on your film playing in at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?
Yes, first time to SxSW, and I’ll definitely be going to the first two screenings.
So how did you get into this movie-making business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.
I studied filmmaking in London, worked in the industry; everything from script reading to various assistants, and in the meantime wrote and directed short films, virals, promos, etc. After many years developing, writing, and trying to get various features off the ground, I made two films back to back, LEVEL UP and iBOY. Soon after iBOY came out I read I SEE YOU.
How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!
As with most independent films, it had it’s issues getting to the finish line! When I was attached, it was all supposed to happen quickly and shoot in the summer of 2017. Various delays and issues meant this wasn’t the case. But we got there! We shot in spring 2018, posted that summer and autumn, and finished the film earlier this year. It was my first US film, and we shot in Ohio, which was a great experience. It was a fast shoot, 20 days, so that was a great challenge. It took a lot of planning, which is where the previous delays didn’t hurt us as they gave me a lot of time to plan the film.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee/sugar/tea are we talking about here?
Plenty of coffee. Plenty of tea. But I genuinely find the waiting for projects to get off the ground more tiring and frustrating. I love being on set, no matter how early the call time, or late the wrap. It’s the bit in between films that’s the struggle.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
That we had to shoot in 20 days, when up to a few weeks before the shoot we thought we had 25 days. This obviously created many challenges to overcome. And in a sense it was rewarding to figure out how to still make the film I wanted within that limited time, how to hold on to my shot list, to the ambition of the film, despite it seeming impossible. And then there were the challenges inherent to this story, which will make sense once you see it, but there are multiple layers to much of what you are seeing, and it needs to work both before and after certain things are revealed. So that was hugely rewarding, figuring out the tricks and techniques to best make sure that it’s satisfying both in real time and retrospect.
I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
We used the Alexa Mini. I tend to think in shots almost immediately on reading a script, so I shot list the whole film very early. I then reworked and reworked, almost like the redrafts on a script – encompassing how I imagined the edit, the blocking, the design. This often works side by side with the script, one affecting and impacting the other. In prep, the DP and I went through the film shot by shot, and it evolved again, encompassing his ideas and ideas sparked through conversation and practicality. We spent a lot of time in the house, just walking the rooms, and talking it all through. A big challenge for him was the incredible amount of windows, and how to quickly allow for time of day changes, when time was massively against us. As well as all this planning, there were certain scenes that I wanted to go into totally open and see how the actors took to the space, especially in the mid section of the film. As the film evolves, the visual style changes, the language we use, from the type of shots, the movement and framing. It’s hard to go into without giving anything away… But very early in the process it was clear to me how we need to develop the visual style over the course of the film, and how it should reflect different characters and plot threads.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?
I’m excited to see the film with an audience, especially an audience of film fans. And then I’m equally looking forward to chatting after, and the days that follow, to see what people made of it.
After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?
We’re figuring out an exact plan now; I say we as it’s more the producer, sales agents, financiers and so forth. But generally it’s more festivals, theatrical and then online.
If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?
The Phoenix Cinema in London is one of the oldest cinemas in the city, near where I live, and a presence in my life since I was a kid, so would love to show it there. I’d also love it to play at one the iconic cinemas in LA like the New Beverly Cinema, because who wouldn’t!
What would you say to someone who was being disruptive, like talking or texting, during a movie?
Various words that are probably unsuited to this Q&A.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?
It’s hard not just repeat the cliches because they’re so true… keep fighting, don’t take no for an answer, watch as much as you can and learn, etc etc. But I guess in practical terms I would say make sure you find another way to make money on the side. I know plenty of people who have had to give up because they couldn’t afford to carry on – in my own experience it’s been cliff edge living for most of my adult years..! But if you have another way to earn a living, then you can keep fighting the fight until you get your break.
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
I’m gonna cheat, but a couple of years ago I went to the London East Asia Film Festival and within one week I saw THE WAILING, AGE OF SHADOWS and THE HANDMAIDEN. It doesn’t get better than that.
This is one of the many film titles playing at SxSW 2019. For more information on this and any other title playing in the festival, point your browser to http://www.sxsw.com/film!