One comment Ive always had about my films, for better or worse, is that my films tend to look good and have great production value.
This is probably because my formative years as a filmmaker were influenced by Ridley Scott and David Lynch. Both artists who viewed style and substance as equally important elements.
Of the four cinematographers I've worked with so far, I've always been very clear about the kind of look Ive been after. Always cinematic, and always brave with the use of light. I guess thats why I've always had a consistent look to my work ever since I started.
That approach has not always been successful however, with style sometimes overshadowing everything else, when script and performance should have been prioritized higher.
With that in mind, I approached The Man Inside as primarily a character piece, with everything else initially taking second place in my priorities.
It wasn't until after I had finished crafting the script that I set about defining the look of the film, but in this instance I wanted everything to be defined by the characters and their relationship to the environment.
My principle reason for working so hard beforehand was so all the visual side of the film was fully covered and I could concentrate exclusively on directing the actors and exploring the script through rehearsal.
It gave me a more rewarding experience with the actors.
The upshot of this approach is a lot more pre-production work, but the results are definitely worth it.
With these "tones" from Beauty In Decay, I then set about looking at Newcastle as a city that would bring them to life.
The city itself was perfect, with a unique blend of old and new vying for attention and yet co-existing beautifully.
In many of my exterior shots I used older imposing buildings overshadowing everything, to create the feeling of an older malevolent entity always in the background, watching and waiting, like the character of the father Eugene in the film.
For interiors, I always wanted to echo the dynamics of the characters and add a level of expression that would bleed through the production design.
Mickaela, our designer, and I immediately clicked on what I was intending, and helped me realise the interiors with some wonderful ideas of her own.
For example, a key scene in the film, reflects the disintegration of a character, and how she reveals herself to be very broken and almost childlike.
I wanted her room to have childrens' wallpaper that was literally peeling off the walls, as if her father had tried to strip them after she had walked out on him as a teenager. The room had been left in tatters after the father could not bring himself to finish the redecoration job, and as such it was left frozen in time, but in a state of decay.
I'm fascinated by this mis-en-scene approach, having studied the great filmmakers of Orson Welles and Hitchcock as a film student.
The idea of using every element to tell a characters story or to enhance the plot is endlessly fascinating to me, and something I intend to explore even further in my next film.
Because The Man Inside was such a labour of love for me, I found myself wanting every element on-screen to be part of the storytelling process. I obsessed over everything!
With costume, I was very specific about what I wanted. I had colours in my mind that represented the characters and their relationships to one another.
These colours would shift and alter as the plot unfolds, representing the characters journey.
Its often quite subtle, like having two characters wearing only red or blue, and then at the end of the film, when they unite they both wear little elements of purple.
My view is that all film should work on a very immediate level.
You should be able to take a still-image from any scene and understand what is going on, because all the on-screen elements are painting a very vivid picture of the characters and their story.
In part two of this "Defining The Look" blogpost, I will explore lighting and composition in more detail and the choice of shots that proved to be quite a risk!