Director Matt Carter joins us to speak about his acclaimed film, In From The Side.
Following a drunken encounter, two equally attached men from a cash strapped and divided gay rugby club unwittingly sleepwalk into an adulterous affair but must conceal their growing feelings or risk destroying the club they love.
Can you tell us about the story of In From The Side and where you got the inspiration for it?
I’ve been involved with inclusive rugby for 8 years, both as a player, coach and referee. The world of grassroots rugby was a culture I thought would lend itself perfectly to being explored on film. I’ve been with, and played, a number of different clubs and the fictional rugby club in the film is an amalgamation of many I’ve known and I wanted to create a representative archetypal club that would be familiar and accurate for anyone who has spent any time in a rugby club.
You co-wrote, co-produced, shot, edited and scored the film. Why did you decide to be so hands-on with every aspect of the filmmaking process?
This was very much a necessity of low budget film-making. We simply didn’t have the budget to hire the extra hands to carry out those tasks. Since I’m trained up in the multiple disciplines required, it made sense to take on the work myself.
And what were the biggest challenges that came along with these many different roles?
Juggling multiple roles on-set was tough as this obviously provided more stress and required a greater constant state of focus to ensure everything obtained the correct amount of attention they needed.
But in post-production, the challenge felt like standing at the base of a mountain and staring up at the vast amount of work ahead that needed to be completed. The edit was a huge undertaking alone and something that felt unusually solitary. Conventionally, an editor will work closely with the director, having a strong rapport and collaboration with a back and forth of ideas. Doing this on my own was challenging as it was easy to second guess your own creative decisions without having that second mind to bounce ideas off. In the end, I had to just follow my gut until things ‘felt’ right and trusted my instincts.
Then came writing the original score. This alone was around 8 months of work. Without the time provided by the pandemic lock-downs to do this task, I honestly don’t know how I could have carried it out.
How inclusive is rugby as a sport, especially compared to football, cricket and other mainstream sports in UK?
Rugby is quite a uniquely inclusive sport compared to many others. I feel this is in part due to the culture of respect that is the foundation of the sport. As rugby is such a physical sport, without this respect, it would be chaos. So it’s partially ‘built-in’ so to speak. More and more ‘conventional’ clubs (that is, clubs not specifically set up as ‘inclusive’ that cater towards an LGBTQ+ member base) are gaining greater numbers of LGBTQ+ members, as they feel more comfortable being themselves in those environments.
There is a wealth of talent that LGBTQ+ people can bring to the sport and it’s great that so many clubs are recognising this and capitalising on it to enrich the game.
I’ve seen incredible sports movies that still failed to capture the essence of the sport itself. What was your approach to filming the rugby action scenes and capturing the general atmosphere at a rugby club?
There are many sequences in the film that show the game itself in various levels of focus. Having played rugby for many years, I knew how I wanted the sequences to ‘feel’ as I wanted to replicate that experience of being on the pitch. So I focused on many of the elements that give the game it’s flavour and atmosphere. The centrepiece match at the film’s midpoint is one played in terrible weather and heavy rain. It was in part inspired by a match I once played many years ago in similar horrific conditions. It’s shot using lots of smaller moments often in slow motion, which made the rain, mud splashes and impacts almost as beautiful as much they are brutal.
Throughout most of the rugby sequences in the film, I also enlisted the help of many friends I’ve made at the various clubs I’ve known to help it out as extras on the field. So there are many people on the pitch playing very authentic rugby alongside the actors. It was really important that it felt as authentic as possible.
Who is your favourite rugby player of all-time?
That’s a very difficult one to answer, in truth, I’ve always been a greater fan of playing the sport at the grassroots level, more than watching it regularly on TV at the professional level. So I’d likely just pick a very well known player over someone probably far more deserving.
And who is your favourite film-maker of all-time?
This is an equally difficult question but for the opposite reason, I’m a film obsessive. There are so many filmmakers who I absolutely love and have been inspired by for so many different reasons, it’s so it’s almost impossible to pick just one. So to buck the trend, I’ll chose a Cinematographer instead of a Director. I absolutely adore all of Roger Deakins’ cinematography work. The way he approaches lighting and composition, he’s just such a creative powerhouse. I also love that has a forum on his website where he takes the time to discuss his work and process with anyone who asks.
What impact do you hope In From The Side has?
I genuinely hope that the film not only entertains but perhaps also inspires people from all walks of life who thought sport might not be for them, to look up their local rugby club (or any sports club) and get involved. More importantly for LGBTQ+ people to realise that sport is for everyone including them. It’s such a common story to hear amongst LGBTQ+ people who have had a bad experience in sport at school and never return to it, missing out on the amazing benefits sport can bring to enrich people’s lives and well-being. I hope the film might play a small part in changing that.
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
I’m really looking forward to pursuing more film work and developing more feature film projects, hopefully with a greater budget perhaps that will allow me to enlist more help in bringing them to life and taking on less of the burden myself. I also look forward to continuing to introduce more LGBTQ+ people into the sport of rugby through my coaching work.