LSFF Ones To Watch - Christopher Chuky
First up on our ones to watch from the LSFF is writer director Christopher Chuky who's film 'False Men' is screening in the Teenage Kicks section of the festival.
This short film is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello. Set against the backdrop of a London council estate, we commence from the final act (Act V), the dark reveal and misfortune of Othello's death. Keeping to the original language written by Shakespeare, we see the loyalty amongst a group of local ‘friends’ become unstable.
We spoke to Christopher about his directing process and his experiences on set...
1. Could you tell us a bit about your education in filmmaking? How you feel that affected your style or approach?
I studied a Media Production Foundation at Ravensbourne four years ago, and one thing my lectures constantly preached about was how important story is. So, I drowned myself in content and watched a short or feature film everyday throughout the course. This also affected how i planned and researched my films. I was open to all sorts of content from poetry to paintings . I don't think i can decided on a look for my film without researching paintings from different artists.
2. Your film False Men is screening at LSFF this year congrats! What inspired you to do a modern Shakespeare short? Why did you decide
to go in that direction?
As an actor, director and writer, one of the ways I try educate myself is to watch as much theatre as possible. I took Fola Abatan, my friend and cinematographer, to watch Red Velvet, a biographical play about the black American actor Ira Aldridge. The play highlighted his struggles on taking the role of Othello in a 19th century Britain. We left the stalls inspired however a young caucasian lady who sat next to me mentioned how ironic it was to see a play about diversity and race is being performed to a theatre filled with white middle class people. What this lady said stuck with me for a while. It shaped my intentions for FALSE MEN.
So I created what I wanted to see. I made the majority of the characters the same race and I focused the film on loyalty within a community. I have come across many ‘Iagos’ in my life. Maybe not as malicious but disloyalty will always hurt from someone who is close to you. I wanted to adapt Othello into a world I felt was authentic to me. It only seemed logical to use the place I grew up, a London council estate, as the backdrop for this film. The locations grittiness inspired me to adapt Shakespeare’s characters into the ‘real’ characters I’ve seen lurking in these same alleyways.
3. What's your process as a filmmaker; do you like to rehearse as much as possible beforehand and do you follow storyboards during the
Finding our cast was a meticulous process. To find actors who have trained in performing Shakespeare on stage and getting them to perform it for the camera was a great challenge. We coincidently rehearsed and shot this on the week of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary making shooting the film even more special than it already is. This was the biggest cast I had ever directed, the shortest time scale I’ve had to plan and shoot and was the first time shooting on analogue format. I’d studied Digital Film Production BA so shooting digital is all I’ve known however the texture created on 16mm film was synergetic to the grittiness and reality of this piece. Shakespeare’s plays were for the stage so I challenged myself a step further by capturing the actors performances once - just as if it was theatre. This meant that I had to rehearse with the cast thoroughly. I had a couple days just character building with the cast before we actually touched the script and then had one day on location to rehearse the whole performance with a DSLR as reference. I had a storyboard on set, which made it easier on the shoot day. It was also the first time I had ever shot chronologically so the actors and crew knew exactly what was going on.
4. What about your writing process; how important is the outlining process to you? How much does the script change after a rehearsal?
I stuck to the dialogue Shakespeare wrote. This wasn't a decision I made straight away however I really did want to make a world that was very believable through the screenplay. Tony Longe, the producer also agreed that I stuck with the original dialogue, as we didn't want to see another UK ‘urban’ film. I did cut out a lot of the dialogue and swapped a few words for clarity for my adaptation. I was still writing the script during casting and first day of rehearsals because of the quick turn around but I think it all worked in its favour as new ideas was being thrown at me as i saw different peoples
delivery of a character.
5. What did you learn from False Men that's helping you with future projects?
Well I learnt shooting on film is now an option. Never saw it as one before but I loved every minute of shooting on super 16mm film. The dynamics on set is very different when shooting on film than on digital. It really made everyone work hard under the pressure.
6. Could you tell us a few films that have inspired you?
I love watching psychological dramas/thrillers like Old boy, Seven & The Prestige. It’s the unexpected twists that I enjoy so much. I wish I directed them to be honest but I do have a short film coming out with a similar style as the films mentioned which always surprise people whose watched it. On the other side of the spectrum Whiplash has inspired me. The characters and story are just amazing. I remember going to the cinema to watch it with my film crew. We were blown away, the whole cinema started clapping once it ended and we couldn't stop talking about it for a long time. Then when we found out it all started from a short film we had to work. All these films I have mentioned are currently in my top 10 favourite films list however one that is not but has inspired me whilst growing up was Spy Kids… you gotta love Spy Kids!
7. What are you working on next? Do you have any plans for a feature or do you intend to create more shorts first?
I have a lot of content in the process to create for different platforms from short films to music videos and documentaries but that’s all staying silent till its ready to be released. Making a feature film has always been my main goal and I do have a few ideas in mind. I think I am ready to do one this year… who knows?
You can check out Christopher's short film Saturday the 14th of January in the New Shorts: Teenage Kicks programme, more details here.