David Schofield is the director behind this week’s short, This Time of Year, a film that takes an altogether more sombre approach to the festive season.
THIS TIME OF YEAR IS WONDERFUL, BUT ALSO QUITE A SAD AND LONELY FILM – WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM?
I had this image of an old tramp dressed as Santa walking through snowy streets on Christmas morning stuck in my head for ages and decided to explore the journey that led to him ending up in the costume. I am always drawn to characters on the fringes of accepted society or behavior. They provide an objective, somewhat removed, viewpoint on what most take for granted. In a sense they make the mundane interesting and poignant.
THE FILM ASKS US TO RECONSIDER NARRATIVES THAT PREVAIL AT THIS TIME OF YEAR AROUND TOGETHERNESS AND RECONCILIATION – WAS IT ALWAYS YOUR INTENTION TO MAKE A SOCIAL FILM THAT WENT AGAINST THESE IDEAS?
To me that is what you have to do as a filmmaker, challenge traditional narratives and the general consciousness. I’m lucky to have a loving family and friends around me but I recognise many people have nobody, either through fate or their own actions. To me part of Christmas and all the hysteria that comes with it serves to remind some people of what they don’t have or what they have lost, what they can never get back. Ultimately the message I tried to convey at the end of the film is that Christmas should simply be about children finding some joy and in that hopefully Jacob (the lead character) finds some peace.
WHERE DOES THE FILM SIT IN YOUR CAREER, WHAT HAD YOU DONE BEFORE?
I had only done a couple of shorts worthy of note before this one, both much smaller in scale and in a fairly different style. There were only a handful of characters and single locations in each so from a production sense much simpler. It was also the first time I had worked with a funding agency and script developers which was a whole new world to me.
IN WHAT WAY WERE YOU STEPPING UP TO PUSH YOURSELF FORWARD AS A DIRECTOR?
Larger cast and crew, more elaborate shots, an original score and a more detailed character. It was a big learning curve and I would do things very differently given the time again but ultimately the film conveyed the mood and themes I intended.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO SHOOT AND WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST PRODUCTION CHALLENGES?
The shoot was five days, a little longer than usual for a short. This was down to a combination of horrific weather and over elaborate set ups. Yet one of the biggest challenges was working with a very young child actor. The girl who played Amy was only five at the time and although a precocious talent, certain child actor rules meant she was only allowed onset between certain times and durations. This repeatedly threw an already frantic schedule into chaos. But we dealt with it and I love her performance.
IF YOU COULD DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Firstly I had a change of heart on set and cut some dialogue from the main character in one scene. This was against the wishes of the exec producers and on reflection they were right. The scene needed the energy but I let self doubt take over and decided unspoken was simpler and more fitting when in reality it just kills the pacing. Secondly I should have remained true to my previous directing style and ditched some of the more elaborate restrictive shots in favor of a rougher more energetic hand held style that would have allowed the actors more freedom and let me just set up realistic situations for the action to play out in organically.
WERE YOU LUCKY WITH THE ELEMENTS? THERE’S A HELL OF A LOT OF SNOW IN THAT CAR PARK?
The snow was a double-edged sword. I had written snow in the script. Not a good idea on such a tight budget. We spent weeks trying to figure out the best way to add snow into shots and then during the shoot we had the heaviest snow fall for 30 years and temperatures around -14 at times. Looked great but lost us a whole day through crew getting trapped on route to the location. There is nothing like shooting a 15-16 hour day then digging several cars out of two foot of snow.
WHAT ARE THE FILMS AND WHO ARE THE FILMMAKERS THAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET INTO DIRECTING?
As a kid I loved the usual stuff, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Goonies, Aliens and all the 80s classics. They were pure escapism and are films I still hold dear. When I left school I worked as an engineer and in pubs so didn’t really start making films till my late twenties. By then I had developed a social conscious and as such had a lot of time for the British and European masters like Loach, Leah, Clair Denis, Haneke and the Dardennes. These days I look out for things by David Michod (Animal Kingdom) and the rest of the Blue tongue films collective from Australia. Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone, A Prophet) and Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories) are both directors I get excited about.
WHAT, FOR YOU, IS THE ESSENCE OF A GOOD COLLABORATION? C8:
Simply to have genuine relationships with the cast and crew. I like to work with actors I can sit down with and discuss the emotional dynamics of the characters and story in the hope that we both get a better understanding of what we are trying to say with the film. Likewise with the crew I want an openness of thought whereby everyone feels they are contributing to the same vision. Making time for such discussion in the pre-production is key so once we reach shoot time everyone is excited and pulling in the same direction.
WHAT’S NEXT ON THE HORIZON FOR DAVE SCHOFIELD?
Since This Time of Year I have made a few other bits and bobs including another short that has done reasonably well. The ultimate goal is to make a feature but it needs to be the right script and the right time. I am working on scripts all the time but would also love to make one more short and put into practice lessons learned on prior productions. It is a difficult time for filmmakers but all we can do is keep working and believing in our ideas.