Monday, 14 January 2013

interview: Anthony Archambault and James T Williams

After reviewing Waiting for Dawn in June 2008 I e-mailed a few questions over to director James T Williams and producer Anthony Archambault - who e-mailed me back with these replies.

How many people are involved in Mr Glass Productions and how are you organised in terms of who does what?
AA: “There is a core group of three people, which will include James T Williams usually as the writer, director and editor of most of our productions; myself, Anthony Archambault, who handles the role of producer, responsible for many pre-production logistical problems and communications with cast and crew, and once filming is complete being responsible for the marketing and hopefully eventual distribution and selling of the film: and Thomas Morton who is focused on sound design and score, but also does act for us. We have a number of other members of the team who help with script rewrites and editing, and extra tunes or tracks depending on the type of production.”

How close do you think the finished film of Waiting for Dawn is to your original plans?
JTW: “Due to time and budget restraints there were two sequences which would've explored more of the effects of time on Carl's path that could not be filmed. Also, again due to lack of finance and time, a full lighting rig wasn't used; instead the film was shot solely using available lighting. While this works reasonably well for the movie as a whole there are a few sequences (in particular the short scene in Carl's living room early on, the scene with Jeff and the scene with Harry) where the available light technique gets pretty close to backfiring.

“And the first scene with Den Peach was shot with two simultaneous cameras due to time restrictions (we had an hour to film both Den Peach scenes at the very end of the last day). This was done in other scenes but is blatantly obvious here as the tape used on one camera was slightly defective and came out extremely grainy while the other is crystal clear. The same is also so with the second Den Peach sequence before Carl's final talk with Darwin (Carl and Darwin having been shot days earlier), but is less obvious.

“Also a couple of the characters were interpreted slightly different by the actors than I'd originally envisioned; although I admit mainly for the better. But a few characters didn't come quite as alive as I'd hoped. These were generally incidental characters with only a short amount of screen time, although I do wish Darwin was slightly more malevolent in his final scene.”

What sort of restrictions did you have in terms of time, budget, equipment etc?
AA: “Working to a next-to-nothing budget Waiting for Dawn still cost around three thousand pounds to make so technically we are still in the micro budget arena of film making. Currently the funding comes from James T Williams and all equipment and resources are mainly his, with some additional equipment in terms of sound design being made available from Thomas Morton. We are normally restricted by time due to all members of Mr Glass having other jobs, so usually we try and focus film making around the summer holidays. Also this gives us a chance to use local sixth form media students for help with crew and extras. We planned for three weeks of the summer where most people would be free for most of the time thus covering us with enough cast and crew for each day on set.”

JTW: “I really wish we had the budget and time to have a trained cinematographer. We have a set of three redheads but I'm only skilled enough to light things in a very standard manner with any speed. To get the look I'd have ideally liked would've taken someone with far more skill than me. A more controlled and stylistic lighting design could've added greatly to the film.”

How has the film been received by those who have seen it and what are your plans for exhibition or distribution?
AA: “So far the film has been received very well. It has been sent off to a variety of film festivals and it has currently received three online reviews and write-ups in both major local Shrewsbury newspapers, all of which were quite highly rated. It was screened locally in Shrewsbury to cast and crew and it is due for another screening at the Stoke on Trent film theatre on Wednesday 2nd July at 7.45pm - free admission to anyone who wishes to view it. It may also get screened later in the year at the Ludlow Assembly Rooms. We are hoping to get it distributed and seen by as many people as possible, and build upon the Mr Glass Productions brand name and develop new contacts within the film industry and eventually be able to gain funding for new projects.”

JTW: “The general response to the movie is very good. So far it's been very satisfying that the people we don't know who've seen it have been so positive about it. My worry with it being so micro-budgeted was that people wouldn't pay attention, believing it will be amateurish. But that hasn't been the case so far. While it is quite obvious that it's not a slick $50 million production, people don't seem to feel they are being cheated by something cheap and nasty. And it's now a case of getting as many people to see it as possible: film festival screenings, university screenings, production companies, online reviewers...”

Which aspect of the film are you most pleased with and which aspect do you wish you had been able to do differently?
JTW: “The things that I feel personally most proud of are the pacing and emotional involvement of Carl's journey. The film had to start slow so you can set up Carl's character and his dilemma enough to empathise with him, but it couldn't be too slow or too long or the audience would've become bored and switched off before he actually enters the Waiting Room and the pace picks up. I feel I've got it pretty well. And I think that by the time Carl goes back to the Waiting Room to see Darwin the audience is engrossed and involved enough that the final act works nicely. And I'm personally very happy with the end. I never wanted a sentimental happy ending where they meet and all is fine but I also realised that just leaving him lost and wandering aimlessly through time and space looking for her wouldn't feel right too. As the end is, I feel it gives you closure while remaining ambiguous.

“The single most pleasing thing though is Rob Leetham. I think his performance as Carl is exceptional. The whole film hangs on his shoulders and he really brings it all together. Without a strong central performance for the audience to connect and empathise with I don't think the film would stand up anywhere near as well as it does. The vast majority of the film’s success lies squarely at the feet of Rob.

"The score and sound design is also, I feel, spot on. There's some technical problems with the sound from recording everything on set (those damn fridges), but the score and sound effects work so well it's only noticeable in the quieter scenes. And the score really brings the film to life. Certain sequences, in the first cut, felt flat, but really come alive now.

“If I were to make the film again the only major changes I think I'd make would be having a professional cinematographer, shooting the two deleted sequences from near the middle of the movie and returning the Jeff sequence back to its written form of being two scenes (shot as one as we only had budget for one location). But there's plenty of little things I'd change. The age group of the extras in the pub (they're all too young because the majority are friends of our sixth form crew), the amount of people in the night club, more varied locations when he's lost in the country, turn the fridges off when recording dialogue in the pub... the list could go on.

“And from the feedback I've received I'd probably have done another couple of re-writes and balanced the used of swearing better. And the opening sequence would ideally have more intimacy, but due to our time and budget restraints we'd had no time for rehearsals. Had we had a day with Iona and Rob together before shooting I think they would have been more comfortable with each other.”

What are the future plans for Mr Glass Productions?
AA: “Continue to produce more films and build upon our existing portfolio. As this is our first feature length film we are hoping that this will start to show our development as a group of film makers and make people sit up and realise that we are serious about what we do. The ideal situation would be for us to get in contact with film companies who can offer us funding or distribution deals and start to be able to make inroads into the major film industries and get our work shown to the masses and of course be paid for doing what we love!”

JTW: “We had a sort of break after finishing Dawn where we made some horror shorts but now we're focusing on our next two projects. The first, which we start shooting in the summer, is a very experimental film: nine screenwriters, five pages at a time. It's a chance to cut loose and try some things out. We are also writing another feature length script which we're hoping to put into production either towards the end of 2008 or early 2009. It's a story we've discussed making since Mr Glass's inception and now seems the ideal time.”

Website: mrglassproductions.co.uk
Interview originally posted 25th June 2008

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