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[Interview] – Rob Savage – Director


Posted March 10, 2016 by

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To begin with, tell us about your latest projects?

Well, I’ve got quite a lot of things that are at various stages at the moment: I’ve just finished two short films, both of which are heading for film festivals this month. One of them is a thriller called “Healey’s House”, about two twenty-somethings making their way from London to Scotland with a gun in their hand and revenge in their mind. The other is “Dawn of the Deaf”, a horror film about a deadly infection that leaves only the Deaf unaffected.

This week I’m also releasing a short film I made last year called “Absence”, which is a 3 minute drama about the grieving process, starring Paul McGann (Doctor Who, Withnail & I):

Where did the ideas come from? Who will be staring?

Healey’s House, the revenge thriller, stars the fantastic Ben Tavassoli, who you’ll be seeing soon as the lead of Anthony Horrowitz’s new BBC show “New Blood”. I wrote the film with Kate Herron, an amazing writer-director in her own right, and most of the film was formed over the course of a long walk we took together while throwing ideas back and forth in a wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-this-happened kinda way.

Dawn of the Deaf and Absence were both written with Jed Shepherd, a man with near-encyclopedic knowledge of the horror genre. He came to me with the essence of both ideas and we built the script and structure on top, which was a real joy as both concepts were so inherently cinematic.

Working with Paul McGann on Absence was an incredible experience – Withnail & I was a seminal film for me and was hugely influential in making me pick up a camera in the first place. I literally have a piece of “Crow Crag” sitting on my desk as I type this (I use it as a paperweight).

You are a writer as well as a director, which of these roles to you prefer? How do you approach each?

I’m a Director first, and a Writer second. There are a few stories that I feel I’m suited to as a writer, but I’m happiest when working with co-writers or having input into a script that another writer works on.

Tell us about some of your previous films and people you have worked with…

Over the last two years I’ve made a handful of music videos, commercials and short films with a pretty consistent team of people, whose work is consistently blowing me away. I came from a self-shooting/self-editing/self-everything background, making my BIFA-Winning debut feature “Strings” when I was 17 years old with a crew of three, so building a team who I could surrender these roles to has been a long process.

I regularly work with cinematographer Ollie Downey, who has recently shot Fresh Meat for C4 and Vera for ITV, as well as Sam Heasman whose work on Dawn of the Deaf will win him all-the-awards if there’s any justice in the world. Shout out also to David Mackie, another amazing DOP who I regularly work with, most notably (and beautifully) on our video for Dear Reader, “Took Them Away”.

The last three short films I’ve made have all been collaborations with super-producer Douglas Cox for Shadowhouse Films, who will always find a way to make our increasingly mad ideas come to fruition, no matter the obstacle.

This is starting to sound like a rambling awards speech, but I also want to mention Production Designer Dale Slater, who is always doing wonders with whatever insulting budget we give him; Composer Robin Schlochtermeier, who created incredible scores for Absence and Healey’s House; Costume Designers Alexi Kotkowska – who clothed nearly 500 people for Dawn of the Deaf – and Charlotte Young, who I’ve worked with for almost five years and has an incredible eye for detail; And Riccardo Servini, an awesome editor and director, who’s edited almost everything I’ve made.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

Steven Soderbergh is probably the filmmaker whose work I’d take to a desert island with me, but I gorged on so many films as a teenager that my influences come from all over, often without me even realising. I used to pick a filmmaker/actor/country/genre/era and watch and read everything I possibly could, before moving on to the next, so I have a very broad frame of reference and find myself calling on filmmakers like Lucio Fulci, as much as masters like Kurosawa or Spielberg. When I was putting the finishing touches to Dawn of the Deaf last week I realised that there was a lot of DePalma in the way that I’d shot it, which was a nice surprise.

You have had success in various film festivals, tell us about this, which festivals have you been involved with & which of your films featured?

I’ve screened at quite a few festivals over the past few years, but here are a selection of the festivals that have impacted my career the most:

My debut feature, “Strings”, premiered to sold out screenings at the Raindance Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Debut. This led to Strings being nominated at the British Independent Film Awards, where it won the Independent Spirit Award. Strings also played at the Rome Film Festival for its European Premiere:

“Sit in Silence”, a film I made in 48 hours when I was 18 years old for the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival Challenge, picked up the BFI Future Film Award and 2nd Place in the main competition:

My music video “Took Them Away” was nominated for Best Music Video at Encounters Film Festival last year, and won Best Music Short at London Short Film Festival:

Recently, “Absence” premiered at the BFI London Film Festival, as well as screening in the short film competition at the Raindance Film Festival, who have continued to be amazingly supportive since they premiered Strings.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to succeed in the industry?

It’s easier than ever to make stuff now, the emphasis has to be on what you’re making. How is it different? Why are you the only person in the world who can tell this particular story in this particular way? Sometimes this means going out and shooting a whole load of things, so that you can figure out where your style and interests lie, and sometimes this means locking yourself away until your script is perfect. Either way, an interesting perspective will get you further than shooting on the sexiest camera with the most expensive kit, so make sure to keep your priorities in the right place. But then again I might be full of shit, everyone figures out their own path their own way.

What is the next step for you? What projects do you have line up for the future?

The big project at the moment is “Seaholme” – a feature film about a bunch of fucked-up kids who discover a mysterious, wounded creature and, in turn, fuck it up when they try and raise it back to health. We’re just finalising the script and – touch wood – should be shooting either this year or early next. The film is being produced by Salon Pictures.


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