First-time directors Darius Shu and Arron Blake are heading to the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival with a short film, titled His Hands, made on a budget of just £400.
Ahead of the festival later this week, Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to the co-directors about their incredible resourcefulness, exploring the issue of loneliness, creating a distinct visual style, and much more.
Q: The two of you met in 2017 while working on Caspar Muller’s film ‘Narcissus Revisited’. Can you tell us about that first meeting? Why do you feel you connected?
Arron: We met while filming a short film for Dutch director Caspar Muller. The script was very different to what I had done before and I was very excited to get started. While on set, I was immediately drawn to Darius and the way he captures life on camera. It was completely different to what I had seen before and I knew I had to work with him again.
Darius: I was the cinematographer for Caspar Muller’s film. Caspar and I were both very involved in casting for Narcissus Revisited. When we cast Arron, I saw that he was very strong in his acting and his presence in front of the camera, the expressions he is able to deliver and the way he uses his eyes was incredibly powerful.
We met again at the British Film Institute a few months later and it turned out after getting to know more about each other, we share the same vision and ideas in storytelling and love the same kind of films. The chemistry we both had just made everything easier and we are definitely very grateful that we met.
Q: Why was ‘His Hands’ the story you both wanted to tell in your directorial debuts?
Arron: We really wanted to capture a person’s loneliness, feeling trapped within their own world and their desperation to feel loved and desire for affection and touch.
It’s also sad to see because as one starts to age, they tend to be forgotten. They just want to be accepted but because of today’s society and the obstacles one faces in life, you never actually know who you can really trust and be open to entirely. Sometimes it can be meaningless and people can use and abuse you by putting you into a false sense of security where trust can be shattered and you’re left with nothing.
We believe it is a really relatable subject right now with a lot of people in the world, young or old.
Q: You made this film on a budget of £400. How did that shape the way you approached and told this story?
Darius: We made the film because we knew with our vision we could create something on an inconceivable budget. We also wanted to challenge ourselves that it could be done for £400 to prove that if you have the right vision and team you can create a beautiful piece of work.
We shot it on one camera, a three-man crew (ourselves), 95 percent on natural light and using all the resources we had. And specifically for this story we were able to make it a silent film. We wanted to create something that is thought-provoking, have people starting conversations and most importantly get people thinking. There hasn’t been many modern silent films and we wanted to create something different, new and fresh.
Q: What was the dynamic like between the two of you on this project? How did you cope with the multitude of roles you had to fill?
Arron: Acting and directing yourself is a tricky manoeuvre, so there was a lot of thought taken into making sure everything came across as intended and I felt safe in the knowledge that Darius was close by. It was a very relaxed set and ideas flowed naturally. It has been to date one of the best things I have worked on.
Darius: Working together with Arron was amazing because we are both perfectionists with our attention to detail when it comes to everything. So, we really went out of our way to get what we wanted and being the cinematographer for the film as well as co-directing, we definitely had a lot of control on how we wanted the film to look and feel from the music, tone, performances and style.
We worked together very well and therefore everything just fell into place. Film is always about having good collaboration.
Q: It sounds like the story has a strong visual style. Can you talk about constructing the visuals together? Did you draw inspiration from anywhere?
Arron: We draw inspiration from everything around us. Films we see, art, people we meet, places we go, it all has an effect on our creativity.
Darius: We definitely wanted it to be quite dark, surreal and intimate, up close and personal to these two characters in the film. I always love shooting something that is different and His Hands has been a completely different visual style compared to all the other films I have done.
The moment we wrote the script, we came up with a whole selection of different ideas. I saw it as a very mysterious, cold world, in hues of blues and greens and being a silent film, we had to ensure every frame and shot we had in the film created meaning, pushing the story forward.
Q: Actor Philip Brisebois rounds off this three-man crew. How did he slot into your team?
Arron: Philip is a very dear friend to me and a wonderful actor. I always wanted to work with him, so it was perfect and he was super excited to be involved. Darius and I are extremely proud of him as it was his first time coming back to acting after 50 years and he did a terrific job.
Darius: Philip was a joy to work with and a lovely person to be around. His performance enhanced the tension in the film. His role was perfect and he does so well with his minimal expressions.
Q: What are your visions for Little Deer Films and Silverprince Pictures?
Arron: Our vision for Little Deer Films and Silverprince Pictures is to continue to create ground-breaking storytelling and visionary films that integrates modern social issues.
Darius: We love making artistic and thought-provoking films that incorporates avant-garde visual language and it is our goal to bring that medium into a new age of cinema and deliver a whole new experience to people.
Q: There has been a wonderful response to the film from UK audiences and critics. How excited are you to bring the film to audiences at Tribeca?
Darius: We couldn’t think of a better festival to be a part of than Tribeca as their diversity in film and storytelling is one of the most supportive in the world. We can’t wait to see how the American audience responds to His Hands as the response has been overwhelming in the UK.
Q: What is next for you both?
Darius: We are currently in pre-production for our debut feature film which we are extremely excited about. It will be a coming-of-age thriller that will push the boundaries of visual storytelling and the messages within it will speak to a wider audience with a topic that is under debated.
We have also been approached to film a brand new British comedy which will be released next year.