Director and writer Musa Alderson-Clarke joins us on Close-Up Culture to talk about his short film, Killing Boris Johnson.
The film was conceived at the height of the pandemic and follows the inner turmoil of grieving Kaz (played by Shadrach Agozino), whose life has been turned upside down by the actions of Boris Johnson’s government whilst tough Covid restrictions were in place. In the wake of the notorious ‘Partygate’ scandal, Kaz decides then Prime Minister Boris Johnson should be held accountable, coming up with a plan to kill him. The 24-minute film is a visceral and thought-provoking exploration of grief, anger and accountability.
Thank you for sharing your powerful film, where did you get the idea from to create “Killing Boris Johnson”.
I think it was just a general feeling of frustration and confusion. I was coming to terms with my own grief and felt that party gate reflected how much disregard politicians like Boris Johnson have for us as citizens. My Mum passed away towards the end of Covid and the last time I saw her we kept it brief and were social distancing. I couldn’t even give her a hug, which is heart-breaking to think about it, but obviously, I didn’t know it was going to be the last time I saw her.
The lead character’s feelings are incredibly drastic, and so he decides to take drastic action. My feelings were intense and angry, so I wanted to capture some of that intensity in the film.
What was it like seeing it on the film for the first time and what reaction did you want audiences to take from this film?
It was great – I see it as a great honour to share my work with people and I will never take it lightly. Why I love film because of how powerful it is and to be in a position whereby people watch my work, honestly means the world. I want to make sure when I do make a film, I am taking that into consideration and giving my absolute all. What did I want them to feel? Nothing, because once you finish a film it isn’t yours anymore and there is something beautiful in that.
The film is brilliantly gritty and real, you also bring out a wonderful performance from your lead actor Shadrach Agozino. What is your creative process?
Thank you. I really love my cast and actors in general. I allow them freedom and sometimes you need it to find those idiosyncrasies in your characters. But for me I like to really scrutinise my writing, be honest with myself about it, and have other people I trust really break it down, which can be very painful but ultimately worthwhile so that when it does get to the actors, I can explain what my intentions were, whether they work or not. I feel like that builds trust because they can see I take it very seriously which in turn frees them up because we’re not there wasting anybody’s time with material that is unimportant or not thought out.
Actors are frighteningly brilliant when you cast correctly, and my actors were terrific in contributing and bringing another level to the script. Ultimately, they embody the character so can see them from a perspective maybe I wouldn’t truly understand so I want them to collaborate, and we can discuss everything. By the time we get on set, we improvise if we feel to but never deviate too far because then it feels like our prep wasn’t right. Not that they can’t deviate it’s more that we don’t see the need to because we know what film we’re making. I did read over Killing Boris Johnson again the other day and found that we probably deviated far less than I thought we did! But you do need to feel free when creating, it’s as much their work as it is mine, so I’m really open to suggestions from everyone.
I read you sadly lost your mother in the pandemic, it is brave of you to share a story so close to home. What reaction have you had to the film?
Yes, she did. Thank you. I see it less as bravery and more as this is just what I must do as a creative person. I think I understand the world more through working, and that’s why I enjoy writing, and usually, it’s about understanding what is close to you. The reaction has mostly been good. I think if one person really connects then it’s great.
The film is so outstanding that it would make a great feature, is this something you have considered or planned?
I think this story fits perfectly into the short film format, so no chance of exploring this film in the feature space. But all my work shares similar themes and ideas. All will be socially and politically charged and have elements of humour and a level of intensity. These are my preoccupations and I guess the way I see cinema, so for the next few projects expect more stuff like Killing Boris Johnson.
What is next for you?
I’m really getting excited about the next one! It touches on some similar themes but is maybe more comedic than this one. Currently getting the treatment right and then will begin to write it.