Lisle Turner is set to make his feature film directorial debut this week with Here and Now.
We caught up with the filmmaker to chat about the film, working with up and coming stars, and what lies ahead.
- Here and Now is about to hit the big screen, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
Here and Now, which is very happily out in cinemas on the 4th July, is an old-fashioned love story.
It is a romance between an inner-city girl, who was dragged kicking and screaming to the countryside for a holiday with her parents, but when she is there, she meets a very quiet and thoughtful boy called Say.
After some initial animosity between them, they fall in love. It is a sweet, summery, sunshiny movie.
- You are in the director's chair and have penned the screenplay, so where did this project start for you? And what inspired the story?
There were three things that inspired the film when I started writing the script: after many years of living in London, I had just moved to the countryside. That really did give me the framework to the story.
I had also just become a father: my wife and I had a daughter. That really got me thinking about issues and what it would be like when she grew up, which informed some of Grace's character and the storyline.
Also, for the character of Say, my own father died in an accident on the mountaintops, so that was autobiographical. All of these things came together to give me the idea for the script.
As a first love and coming of age story, that is a good story dynamic; to look at things again with fresh eyes, examine issues and think about them because what the characters are experiencing is new to them too.
- That was going to be my next question. I had ready that you had lost your father and had become a parent yourself. I wondered how much that did influence the characters you created? And how comfortable you were exploring something that is very personal?
As a writer and a director, you have to engage with personal stories if you are going to make something that has the feeling of being true.
If I am developing a character, the first thing I try to do is find people who have similar life circumstances to that character.
I am not a fifteen-year-old girl from East London, do when I was writing for Grace I went to East London and I interviewed some fifteen-year-old girls, got their perspective on life, and worked it into the film. The same for Say, I interviewed some boys in Herefordshire.
At the heart of it, are some issues that are very personal to me. One of the reasons that you write is to engage with stuff and to work it out. There is something about making a piece of work that you then let go, goes out, and has a life of its own in front of the public, which is also letting go personally: it is quite cathartic.
- How has the script changed from that initial idea that you had to the film that we see on screen?
The process between writing the first draft of the script and the film going into production was very fast: I started writing it in January/ February 2012, and we actually started shooting in September that same year.
We were lucky as far as our executive producers and Creative England - who was our major backers - liked the early versions of the script. I did do some work on it, where I worked with Lauren Johns and Andy Rush, where they had an input to their characters.
I was also lucky to be working with Susan Lynch, who is not only a superb actress but very experienced as well, and she gave me lots of input on the script. We really did develop it as a team: that was a very enjoyable part of the working process.
- This movie marks your feature film directorial debut, so how have you found the transition away from shorts?
I love it, I love it. Many people told me that this was going to be really stressful and that I had no idea how difficult it was going to be.
It is difficult and it is stressful but it is great: it was like coming home after a long time away. I knew that this is what I wanted to do, and I was so happy that I was right and really did enjoy it.
I want to me lots more, and I already have three more in development: I have already written the next one and I have started writing the one after that.
I am fully of enthusiasm for it. I love Here and Now, but I am very keen to get started on doing some different material in a different tone and style.
I use to run cinemas before I became a filmmaker - that was so I could watch lots of movies - I just love movies from top to bottom.
- How has that background in shorts prepared you for a feature? And what made now the right time to tackle a feature film?
A lot of the short films I was made, I was lucky to work with an organisation called Amnesty International for several years, and I made a lot of short films for them.
That gave me access to working with some really great actors and some great production partners: I met people who had a lot more experience in the industry than me and they taught me a lot. As a writer or a director, you never stop learning and you should always be open to people who are more experienced and who are giving you guidance. That prepared me.
Also, I worked in the theatre and wrote some plays so I would get that experience of working with actors in a very involved way. All of those things really did help in getting ready for the big screen.
That also took some edge of the fear off it: I had done quite a lot of stuff - it wasn't a feature - but I had done a lot of work and I was raring to go by the time we got to Here and Now.
- This film will introduce us to Andy Rush & Lauren Johns: this is Andy's first feature & Lauren's second. So what were you looking for in the characters of Say & Grace? And what did you see in Andy & Lauren?
For Grace's character, we really needed energy and Lauren came bouncing into the audition. She was dressed right, she was talking right, and her preparation was really good for the audition. She had found it: she knew what it was, she knew what it was going to be, and used her own experience to bring her character to life.
Not only is she beautiful, but it was a fantastic first audition. I knew within a minute of her starting that it was her: that is how on fire she was in the audition.
Andy is a real rising star; he has a real serious career ahead of him. He has just been in this thing on ITV about Tommy Cooper where he played Tommy Cooper's son.
He just looks right on camera and he has this presence where without having to say much and these small gestures he can convey what he is feeling inside: that is a real gift as an actor.
To be able to perform without speaking is a real talent. I think he is going a long way and I really hope that I do work with him again soon.
- How did you find working with two actors who are relatively inexperienced when it comes to film? Or was that something that was actually a help?
It was a help. To work with new actors when it is their first lead in a feature, they are full of enthusiasm and get up and go, which is great.
When you have a film where is all shot on location - we weren't on a nice comfy soundstage in Pinewood - we were up a mountain, in a cave, in a river, and they both really up for it. That was great fun.
We were all learning as we went along - it was a first film for me as well - but we were learning together. There was a great atmosphere on set and we had a really great time.
- Here and Now is also a beautiful looking film, how important is the countryside backdrop to this film for you?
You see many gritty urban movies made in Britain on the tough inner streets, but there is an awful lot more to this country than that. I had been experiencing that personally, and I wanted to show that.
There are these beautiful places and if you want some respite from city life - and I love city life - and find some space to breath, think and reflect, then these beautiful places exist. We are an island; they are on your doorstep.
But I also wanted to show them in a way that the Americans might show Monument Valley or the Italians might shoot Tuscany; I wanted to show them with real reverence and respect.
From a story point of view, we shot at the turn of the season from summer to autumn and as the characters, all have big changes happening in their lives, the environment is changing: we went from the lush greens of summer through to the gold and orange of autumn.
As the first love happens and the coming of age happens, the seasons change.
- The film is shot all on location, so what challenges did you face in shooting in the countryside?
It is challenging shooting 100% on location, but I was very fortunate that I knew all the locations well: they are all in an hour of where I live.
They are all real places and they are all used in the way that you see in the film: kids really do swim in that swimming hole in the river and local kids explore the cave.
They are all serving that same purpose. I took Andy and Lauren to the location in advance during our rehearsal week, so they could get to know them and become comfortable with them as well.
I also made sure out Will our DOP - who did an amazing job - got plenty of time to reckie this locations and to spend time without cast and crew where we just had some dedicated photography days.
- The movie hits the big screen this week, so have you been able to gauge the response to the film?
We have played four or five festivals now and we have had a uniformly positive response from audiences. We get asked many questions like 'where is this place? It looks amazing'.
We have also had some really nice comments about Andy's performance. He is a hunky film star in the making and Lauren is full of attitude. It is nice to see a young female teenager getting a really big role, holding the screen for so long, and being allowed to carry the film.
We have had lots of positive feedback about that. It is one of those films that if you buy into the atmosphere of it and let it charm you; it will take you on a beautiful journey.
- Finally, what's next for you going through the second half of this year?
With my boundless enthusiasm for making feature film, I have got several new projects that I am developing. I am very much a self-starter and I have written the first script already: we are starting work on financing that as soon as we finish promoting Here and Now.
That is a very different film to Here and Now, in as far as Here and Now is all sweetness and summer love and the next one is a modern reworking of a revenge Western. It is death and destruction, but with a moral sting in the tail. It is nice to be doing that.
I have two other films that I have to write by March next year. We are happy to be attracting development money and happy to be working.
Here and Now is out now.
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