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[Interview] – Paul Franklin – ‘The Escape’ – A Short Film

 

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Posted May 21, 2017 by

 
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Director Paul Franklin’s drama “The Escape” will receive its world premiere on April 20th at the Tribeca film festival, and stars Julian Sands [A Room with a View, The Killing Fields], Art Malik [True Lies, Sherlock], Olivia Williams [The Sixth Sense, An Education] and Ben Miller [Death in Paradise, Johnny English].

An ordinary family man is offered the chance to live out his wildest fantasy; all he has to do is hand over everything he owns. What secrets are held in his heart and just what is it that we really dream about?

The Escape marks Paul Franklin’s directorial debut after winning numerous awards, including two Academy Awards and two BAFTAs for his work as a Visual Effects Supervisor on Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Interstellar. His other impressive VFX projects include The Dark Knight, Captain America: Civil War, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Trailer:

Interview:

To begin with, tell us about your latest short film ‘The Escape’, what is it about?

The Escape tells the story of Lambert a man who receives an extraordinary offer from the mysterious Kellan – in return for a fee Kellan will free Lambert from his plane of existence and allow him to live, for a while, in the fantasy world of his choosing, all he has to do is hand over everything he owns and give up ten years of his lifespan. It seems incredible, but clearly Lambert is tempted. Still thinking about Kellan’s offer, Lambert returns to his family where the pressures of everyday life lie heavily on him – parental responsibility, the demands of work , the steadily worsening weather. We see a man who appears to be detached from his life, drifting through the world. Is he just another mid-life crisis in the making? Will he really take Kellan’s offer?   The surprising truth turns everything on its head and asks us to consider what really is it that’s important in our lives – what do we dream about?

Where did the idea come from? How did you get involved with the film?

The Escape is adapted from the short story The Store of the Worlds by Robert Sheckley. I first read it when I was a teenager and it’s stayed with me over the years. As I got older, gained my own career and built a family, I found that the story spoke to me in a new and important way – a few years ago I began to look for ideas to develop into a short film and The Store of the Worlds immediately came to mind, but it took me a while to work out how to make it personal and to really address what it was that I found so compelling about Sheckley’s story. It wasn’t until I’d cracked it that I approached Robert Sheckley’s widow, Gail Dana Sheckley, who very kindly gave me permission to adapt her husband’s story.

This is your directional debut, why have you decided to make the switch?

I first got involved in filmmaking as an art student many years ago, working with friends to make short films. My intention was always to direct my own films, but I guess I got a bit distracted by the revolution in digital visual effects which was just kicking off when I graduated. VFX took off like a rocket and I rode it a very long way, working with some amazing filmmakers on a number of spectacular films. Over the years I learned a lot about filmmaking and I began to really want to put my experience to use telling the stories that are important to me – The Escape is my first definite step in that direction.

You have previously worked extensively in the field of visual effects, alongside directors such as Christopher Nolan in his Batman trilogy – can you explain how you got into this field? What influences from your visual background have you brought to your direction? 

As I mentioned, I’ve been lucky to work with some brilliant directors, creating visual effects to help realize their films. I best known for my long-running collaboration with Chris Nolan on his Dark Knight Trilogy and also on Inception and Interstellar. My interest in VFX goes back to my childhood when I first saw movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and also TV shows such as the original Star Trek. I loved the idea of building my own worlds and the sense of immersion that a film can create. Later, as an art student in the 80s, I discovered the emerging world of high-end computer graphics which was just beginning to turbo-charge the business of making movie effects in films such as Tron and Terminator 2. VFX and computer animation offered everything I was interested in at the time – creative visual story telling combined with the incredible potential of an entirely new medium made from digital imagery. Over the years I worked in video games, broadcast design, television advertising and increasingly feature film visual effects. My visual influences obviously include a lot of genre films, such as 2001, Bladerunner and other science fiction movies, but I’m also very inspired by modern art, especially the work of the Russian Constructivists from the early part of the 20th century.

Tell us about the film’s cast? Who is staring?

We were lucky enough to bring together the most amazing cast which includes Julian Sands (A Room With A View, The Killing Fields, Leaving Las Vegas), Art Malik (True Lies, The Jewel in the Crown)and Olivia Williams (Rushmore, The Sixth Sense). I wanted to make a film that was driven by character and emotion and the cast took it to places that I never even hoped I could get to – working with them was a fantastic experience.

When and where can we expect to see ‘The Escape’?

The Escape had its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival in New York – it was an absolute honour to debut our film in New York, the home town of Robert Sheckley, the author of the short story on which the film is based. We’re hoping to get the film into a number of other film festivals around the world, so there should be more opportunities to see it – watch this space!

You are a two time Oscar winner, what is it like to receive this kind of acclaim? Where do you currently keep your Oscars?

Anyone who has worked on a large Hollywood feature film will know what a commitment it can be in terms of time and the stress it places on the rest of your life – everything goes on hold until the movie is done! I don’t think I’ve ever set out to try and win an award – it strikes me that’s the wrong way to go about your business as a filmmaker – but of course, it’s incredibly satisfying if your work gets recognized by your peers. Winning at the Oscars was quite a surreal experience – VFX is very much a part of the technical side of movie making, so it was great fun to hang out with the stars and experience something of the glamourous image of Hollywood.   My Oscars have a special display shelf at home – something that only recently happened as we just didn’t have enough room in our old house to keep them out on display all the time!

What are your influences as a filmmaker? What advice would you give to any up and coming film enthusiasts?

I love the films of Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and the UK-based director/producer duo Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger who were very active in the 1940s. More recently, I was very taken with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and, of course, I’m a huge fan of Chris Nolan’s films (including the ones that I didn’t work on!). My advice to aspiring filmmakers is to watch as much as possible, learn from others and also learn from life, but ultimately, the only way to learn how to make films is to get your hands dirty and make one yourself. The great thing is that these days it’s easier than ever to get access to the equipment and just start putting something together.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I’m attached as a director to a couple of projects which are in development at the moment and, of course, my ongoing work in visual effects keeps me very busy as the Creative Director of Double Negative in London. I feel very lucky to have been able to find a place in the world of filmmaking, a business that is always changing, always moving on – it keeps things exciting!

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