Richard Gorodecky’s short film, Little Shit, follows a misunderstood boy growing up in London.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Richard about the film, drawing from his own experiences, working with Badger Skelton, and much more.
Q: How much was ‘Little Shit’ informed by your own experiences growing up in London?
A: Little Shit is fiction but to a great extent the themes are based on experience. It would be fair to say that I was a little shit and my friends were little shits. It was almost impossible to imagine anything particularly good coming out of life. You didn’t really try. That was for other people. ‘Getting by’ or ‘getting away with something’ was pretty much the height of ambition. It was all too easy – in fact almost inevitable – to walk down the wrong path.
Luckily, I discovered the Grand Union Canal when I was little. This place, this ‘natural’ world provided an alternative reality. Dragonflies as big as your hand, sparrow hawks, and carp swimming in the murky depths. It gave wonder to a fairly cynical childhood. It felt like a safe place to be a kid. So Little Shit is a fictional amplification of some of those experiences.
Where we filmed on the canal are the very same places I spent much of my time. It was powerful and strange to be filming there. There was definitely a blurring of reality and fiction.
Q: We see a very different side of Paul (Badger Skelton) when he is close to nature and away from high-rise estates and graffitied walls. How much of a role do you feel surroundings play in a person’s attitudes and approach to life?
A: There are so many factors that define our attitude and approach to life, but our surroundings certainly play a very significant role. There’s an increasing focus on this topic and in particular, the essential role of nature in childhood. There are multiple books and studies on the subject and organisations like The Wild Network in the UK are trying to educate and ‘re-wild’ childhood.
In my own experience, discovering and developing a love for nature was one of the most defining and positive influences on my life.
Q: We see the different responses of Paul when he is around John (Tommy Jessop) – a person who would face prejudice like Paul – and when he is around the Older Boy (James Backway). How do you view Paul’s interactions with these two figures and the impact they have on him?
A: There are two worlds in Little Shit – the estate and the canal – and I think the energy of each is manifested in a character. John, the canal; the Older Boy, the estate.
John is an adult with Down syndrome. Although this isn’t really explored in the film, it would be reasonable to jump to the conclusion that, like Paul, he faces challenges, prejudice, and through disability finds himself on the edges of society. There’s an innocence and an openness in John that’s desperately lacking in Paul’s life. Although very different people, there is some common ground and a connection that could lead to much-needed friendship.
The Older Boy is a bit harder to talk about without spoilers but he is, at the other extreme, a manifestation of fear and negativity.
Q: Through the film you reveal different aspects of Paul’s character, often contradictory. What lasting impression of Paul do you want to leave with the audience?
A: At the film’s start I show Paul as you would see him and as you would dismiss him. I want the viewer to jump to conclusions. To label him and dismiss him. As the story progresses, we see beyond the immediately visible and we reveal more sides to Paul and challenge your opinion of him.
I’m not saying ‘bad kid’ is actually ‘good kid’. That’s too simplistic. He’s complicated. His life is complicated. He does some pretty bad stuff. But, when you don’t have role-models, morality can take on some very strange shapes. I suppose the lasting impression I want to leave with the audience is that there is always more than the first impression.
Q: Charlotte Regan is currently doing terrific telling British working-class stories similar to ‘Little Shit’. Do you think we see enough focus on these types of stories in the media?
A: Charlotte Regan is making great film. On the whole I think the UK does a great job of representing and telling working-class stories. We always have done. I think we’re still obsessed with class to be honest. We like to imagine we’ve moved on, but I’d say not that far.
But working class in itself is not a story. What’s important is to tell unheard and unseen stories from those living on the edges of society and behaviour whether they are working-class stories or any other.
Q: I believe you filmed ‘Little Shit’ in the summer of 2016. What are your memories of the shoot and working with young Badger Skelton?
A: This film is almost entirely hinged on Badger’s performance. Anna Kennedy found a lot of kids that fitted the bill, but when Badger walked in the room, there was no question. He’s such a talent. He worked incredibly hard and delivered such a solid performance. I hope Little Shit contributes to the success he absolutely deserves.
Q: What are your hopes for the film now that the public can see it?
A: Like anyone that creates anything for an audience, you want to create something that touches and moves people. As many people as possible. Little Shit has had a great festival run, starting with winning Best British Film at London Short Film Festival, but unless you attend film festivals and most people don’t, it actually hasn’t been seen by many. So, it’s really exciting to be able to share it now.
Q: Do you have any other upcoming projects to tell us about?
A: Very exciting things thing’s going on.
A new short to be shot in the next few months called Intervention. It’s the story of a night in the life of a thirty-something schizophrenic who has stopped taking her medication and is deep in the throes of a psychotic episode. We’re just casting that at the moment. It all happens in a small apartment. Everything stripped back and it’s all about raw performance.
And I’ve been developing a feature with a very heavy-weight British producer over the last eight months. I can’t say much more at this stage but I’m crossing everything.