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Interview – Oliver S. Milburn – ‘Dunroamin’ – A Short Film


Posted October 23, 2016 by

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Interview – Oliver S. Milburn

Award winning director Oliver S. Milburn graduated from Bournemouth University and made his first feature as a writer/director, The Harsh Light of Day. Since then he has directed a number of award winning short films including 2011’s Speechless, music videos, commercials and documentaries. He brings this wealth of technical skills to his own filmmaking. Aside from Dunroamin, his most recent projects include producing TV pilot TEDDY 2K, currently in development at Baby Cow Productions, and working as 2nd Unit Director on the forthcoming Netflix/E4 series Crazyhead.

As well as Raindance, Dunroamin will play at Discover Short Film Festival on the 2nd October, at the Phoenix Cinema East Finchley at 3pm and at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York, in November.


Interview – Oliver S. Milburn:

To begin with, let’s discuss your latest film ‘Dunroamin’, what is it about?

Well, it’s really a film that benefits from being seen without much preamble as its easy to give too much away, but the basic premise is that a man named Steven (Robert Emms) is a prospective buyer viewing a house for sale. The owner, Joanna (Sarah Parish), is showing him around the property. Things quickly deviate from your average viewing in a pretty dramatic way, and both will come out of the experience substantially changed… I know that’s not much to go on plot wise! I’d say the core of the film is about the myth of happiness as something attainable in a lifestyle, something which can be found just by putting all the right pieces together.

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

It was written specifically for the actors. I had worked with them in a different role on the BBC fantasy series Atlantis. That series had an amazing cast, but Rob and Sarah really stood out to me as people I’d like to work with. Not just talented, but with the same humor and – I guessed – sensibility when it came to storytelling. So then it was a case of finding a story I wanted to tell that would give them some great characters to get their teeth into.

Let’s talk about the cast, who are staring and what was it like working with them? 

The film stars Sarah Parish (W1A, Mistresses, Broadchurch), and Robert Emms (Happy Valley, Capital, Atlantis), and working with them was simply amazing. As I mentioned I’d noticed them on a previous project and obviously thought they were extremely talented, but also that they were people I could collaborate with. They ‘got’ the script, characters and mood so perfectly that once we were on set my job was pretty easy as far as performance was concerned. The film has a number of tonal shifts, and it was really just a case of pushing the performances in the right direction for those shifts to work in the edit. With that level of talent at your disposal though, it’s very much your own fault if that doesn’t work!

What are your influences as a director? 

I just love good storytelling really – the medium defines the method, but there’s a lot of overlap. Obviously my first love is filmmaking and other filmmakers, but I’d say I get just as much influence from books, music, theatre, even some video games. I’d be more likely to identify with a sensibility than a specific genre, artist or style. Iain Banks meets Martin McDonaugh is where I’d love to be, though I wouldn’t claim to hold a flame to either.

Where can we expect to see ‘Dunroamin’?

It’s playing at the Raindance festival in London at the moment (Piccadilly), and will be screened at the Discover short film festival in east Finchley next week. In November it’ll be in York at Aesthetica film festival and in Crystal Palace (my neighborhood) at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival. It’s going to keep playing festivals until probably midway through next year, when it’ll become available online in some form, though whether that form is pay per view I don’t yet know to be honest. All profits from the film go directly to charity, by the way, so if you do have to pay at least it’ll be for a good cause!

Do you have any top filmmaking tips for the readers of FilmDebate? 

I think technical filmmaking advice is tricky because films are so personal, both in intent and outcome… So I think it’d be something cheesy like “be true to yourself.” I feel qualified to say that because I spent a lot of time trying to make films which I thought would either please other people, or be more likely to get made/funded, or be a ‘viral hit’ or some other round hole for my square peg. Ultimately, there are so many filmmakers out there, so many brilliant filmmakers, that all you really have to offer is your unique expression. You might be funny, or dark, or political, or whatever it is, but as long as it’s a film that in some way only you could have made, a story told in your voice. That’s the only way people are really ever going to take notice, because it hits them as something unique. Having said that, do keep one eye on making sure your audience is engaged – there’s unique expression and then there’s self-indulgence! Oh, and be nice, then people will want to work with you.

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

I’m writing a ton of different things at the moment. I’ve had an ongoing collaboration with Multistory Films and Abaddon Books to turn the novel School’s Out into a feature film, which we hope will be happening soon. That’s a very exciting project. A few other projects which aren’t so public yet. I’ve been working in TV a lot over the last few years in visual effects and as a 2nd Unit Director, so just trying to use some of the momentum from Dunroamin and those things to get a few balls rolling. Watch this space!

T: @oliversmilburn


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