Ten Questions with film director Ben Barton

BEN BARTON IS A SEASONED FILMMAKER RENOWNED FOR HIS TRADITIONAL STYLE OF FILMMAKING. WE WERE LUCKY ENOUGH TO CATCH UP WITH HIM AT A RECENT SHORT FILM NIGHT TO CHAT ABOUT HIS WORKS, HIS PASSION FOR SUPER 8 AND HIS CONNECTION WITH DAVID BOWIE.

HELLFIRE: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into filmmaking.

BEN: Well I grew up on the Romney Marsh, and now live just along the coast in Folkestone. I’m married to an amazing man, 14 years together, we have an adopted son and live in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of town. I love the country life. I’ve been making films since I was about 11 – film has always been my passion. But I work as a professional writer, journalism, copywriting and poetry too. That’s my bread and butter.

Some people get insulted by the word ‘amateur’, but I don’t. That word comes from the French for ‘love’, the same as ‘amour’. It means you do something for love rather than money, and that’s exactly why I make films.

HELLFIRE: You are known for your classic style of filmmaking with your shorts such as ‘Little Red’, which we screened at a recent Hellfire Short Film Night. What is it about the old style that appeals to you?

BEN: There’s a bit of a family connection. My dad made films on Super 8 with me and my cousins in the 80s. I still have all his films. So I grew up with it.

And there’s Derek Jarman. He famously shot films on Super 8 too. He was our local celebrity where I grew up, you used to see him on the High Street or in the local bookshop. When I first started making art, and coming to terms with my own sexuality, Derek was my hero. So I guess I began my own Super 8 filmmaking to follow him. That’s how it all started.

HELLFIRE: You recently made the ‘Abducted’ short film, can you give us some information about that?

BEN: There’s this annual competition called ‘Straight 8’ where filmmakers all over the world shoot a film on one 50ft cartridge of Super 8. The winners get premiered at Cannes Film Festival. The catch is you don’t get to watch the film – you have to send it to the judges undeveloped. That means no editing, and you have to construct the soundtrack completely blind. Then the judges watch all the films, with the big boys up against little artists like me.

I didn’t make the cut this year, so no Cannes for me. But I don’t mind. I still got a great new film out of it. It’s a thriller, a first for me.

HELLFIRE: What is it like to shoot on Super 8 – what are the pros and cons?

BEN: Well the main benefit is the aesthetic – Super 8 has that nostalgic, painterly quality that you just don’t get on video. And it can’t be faked.

As for the cons, well there are plenty! The cameras I use are 45 years old so they can break. It’s incredibly expensive: around £15 per minute shooting time. So you can’t just shoot away as much as you like. Then there’s the patience required. The film gets sent off to be processed in an old-fashioned photo lab, so it can take up to a month before you get to see the results. I also edit all my films by hand on a splicer and projector, so that takes a lot of time too. Of course I could do it all digitally, but I just feel closer to the films doing it this way. It’s really hands on.

HELLFIRE: What are your thoughts on the way filmmaking is going, is there still a place in the industry for older formats such as Super 8?

BEN: Obviously digital is the major thing now, and it’s here to stay, but I think it’s important we don’t let ‘real’ film die out. Kodak are launching a new Super 8 camera this year, so that’s a step in the right direction. Personally, I can’t see why we can’t have both.

HELLFIRE: What makes a great film for you and who in the industry inspires you?

BEN: I have an eclectic taste, but have been into horror films since I was a young kid. I’m a massive genre fan, especially French and Spanish horror films. And I’ve been obsessed with Hammer Horror all my life.

But generally, I love cinema that makes you think, rather than big rollercoaster thrills. Don’t get me wrong, I like blockbuster movies too, they’re a part of the magic of cinema, but my own personal taste is more low-key. My favourite director is Derek Jarman (of course) but also Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren, Robert Bresson, Michael Haneke and Andrei Tarkovsky. I love nostalgic cinema.

HELLFIRE: What is your favourite part of the filmmaking process?

BEN: Editing, I think. I love seeing it all coming together. That’s the magic of filmmaking for me. I actually find shooting quite a stressful process. Sometimes it’s hard to get what’s in my head into the shots. Lots of trial and error. It’s when I’m alone and the elements all come together – titles, final edit, music – that I start to enjoy it.

HELLFIRE: What film projects are you currently working on?

BEN: I’m editing my lo-fi sci-fi film called ‘Stella Erratica’ which I shot late last year. It was a big project that involved me hiring a NASA spacesuit. I was all set to shoot in Folkestone one weekend, then I was informed by the spacesuit company that David Bowie needed one for ‘Blackstar’ over in Romania! So his production team asked if we could fly the suit over there first. Of course I said yes! For the inconvenience he paid for my suit hire – such a kind gesture. It was only 500 quid but a lot of money for me. I had no idea it would be Bowie’s final project. When he died just a few weeks later I was devastated, like millions of others. So I want to make sure I do this film right. That’s why I’m taking my time.

I also have a horror short that I’m hoping to film this Summer, plus a longer film called ‘Demigods’ that’s currently in the writing stage – set to be my longest film yet at over half an hour. I’m slowly working up to that first feature!

HELLFIRE: What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker?

BEN: To just get out there and do it! I spent too many years stuck in my own head, planning films I wanted to make, writing outlines and scripts, all just dreaming of ‘one day’ when I had the budget or time to actually make them. But now I know you have to just get off your arse and make the most of what you have.

HELLFIRE: And finally, if we want to see more of your work where do we look?

BEN:In the past, I’ve always been a bit wary of having my films online. Back when YouTube was quite new someone downloaded all my films and started selling DVDs on eBay without my permission. In anger I took them all down, and even today I don’t have much online.

But this year I set up a new Facebook page where I’m sharing short clips and selected films. It’s facebook.com/benbartonfilms if anyone wants to have a look.

Another thing is that, for me, the Super 8 format just doesn’t come across the same on a computer screen or iPad. I’d much rather people came to an actual screening, at a film night or festival, and watch my films with a crowd of people. To have a drink, socialise and chat afterwards. To see them being projected, like they were intended. It’s another of those old-fashioned quirks of mine, I guess…

Aardman set for next Short Film Night

WE’RE DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE MAKERS OF WALLACE & GROMIT ARE SET TO JOIN US AT OUR NEXT HELLFIRE SHORT FILM NIGHT.

The multi-award winning production company Aardman Animations have submitted one of their short films to be screened at the June event.

Aardman are this year celebrating the fortieth anniversary of their first ever creation, Morph, who appeared on the children’s TV art show ‘Take Hart’.

Happy Birthday Morph!

The Hellfire Short Film Night is at the LiME Bar Cafe, 46 Tontine Street, Folkestone on Thursday 2nd June from 7.30pm.

Ten Questions with film director Scott Lyus

Scott Lyus is a British independent filmmaker based in London. Lyus, 27, has been involved in filmmaking for several years and runs his own production company Crossroad Pictures. We were lucky enough to catch an interview with Scott about filmmaking in general and his short film ‘Silently Within Your Shadow’ which will feature in the next Hellfire Short Film Night on June 2nd.

HELLFIRE: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into filmmaking.

SCOTT: Filmmaking for me all started when I was young. Cinema and watching old VHS tapes was my gateway into this life and to college where I studied film, photography and media for three years. I then decided against Uni or film school on the advice of an old teacher and decided to concentrate on making my own films, working on my craft and developing my own style. This all came to a head in 2012 when I made Supernova, my first film with a proper cast and crew.

HELLFIRE: Tell us about ‘Silently Within Your Shadow’, what’s it about?

SCOTT: Silently Within Your Shadow is the story of Lucette who’s obsession for ventriloquism and her dummy Hugo starts to strain her relationship with her boyfriend Jace. To Lucette Hugo is more than just a dummy, he’s her best friend and represents her ambition as an artist, to her, he’s very much real.  But to Jace Hugo is just a puppet, or is he?

The film is another attempt of mine at a character driven horror film. I did not want to rely on cheap jump scares or blood and gore. I want to make a horror films where story and character are king. So many horror films today rely on the jump scare or gore angle, so I want to try and give the audience a little something different.

HELLFIRE: It’s a very intriguing concept, so what inspired you to produce it?

SCOTT: The inspiration for the story came from my own personal life. The subtext of the film is the struggle between pushing yourself to achieve your dreams, while also trying to put all of yourself into a romantic relationship. Your passion and desire for what you believe is your calling in life and spending your time trying to achieve that can put a strain on your relationship and jealousy on both sides can grow. What breaks first, your desire to achieve your dream or your love for another? It’s a struggle I’ve personally faced and one I wanted to further explore within the film.

HELLFIRE: Who in the film industry inspires you?

SCOTT: So many people within the industry inspire me. From guys like Walt Disney who built an empire from his imagination, to directors such as David Fincher, Steven Spielberg and Jeff Nichols for storytelling and style. There’s also a handful of filmmakers on the current independent scene. I’m inspired by filmmakers that try something different, that don’t just make the same old pictures we’ve seen a thousand times. Especially in the horror genre.

HELLFIRE: You spoke about your thoughts about horror movies. Would you say horror is your favourite genre?

SCOTT: I go through stages of favourite genre but horror is the always present. On average I watch at least 1 or 2 horror films a week. Horror was the first genre I fell in love with, and certainly the one I’m most passionate about. My passion and desire to bring back story driven horror comes from my love of films such as Frankenstein and Silence of the Lambs. The horror genre has so much to explore and you can say so much within it.

HELLFIRE: So what makes a great film for you?

SCOTT: Probably not a big surprise given my previous answers but solid story and character are essential. All my favourite films and those that inspire me have amazing stories and characters that I identify with great cinema. Great characters and story is what last the test of time and that’s what we all strive to achieve.

HELLFIRE: And back to yourself and the filmmaking process, what equipment are you currently using?

SCOTT: Camera wise, Supernova, Order of the Ram and Silently Within Your Shadow were all shot on a Canon 5D. I’m not a believer in the idea of needing the best equipment to create a good film. Story and character will always be the most important part of my work, with a great cast and crew alongside that. I’m extremely lucky to have had an amazing cast and crew on Silently Within Your Shadow, with my DOP from Order of the Ram, Sharad Patel back behind the camera for Silently. Alongside the 5D, Sharad shot the film with an amazing set of Zeiss lenses and Arri lights.

HELLFIRE: What are you currently working on?

SCOTT: I’ve just finished the extended cut of a film we shot for a 60 hour challenge titled Holding Back. We’ve got a brand new colour grade and sound design, the film looks and sounds amazing. It’s a one character piece within the drama genre, so I’m really looking forward to getting it out there and seeing people’s reaction. However the big project right now is the feature screenplay. I’m turning in the second draft to my producer very soon with our goal to shoot by the end of the year. While I cant say too much yet, the feature is horror and is titled Walking Against the Rain.

HELLFIRE: If you could give a piece of advice to an aspiring filmmaker, what would it be?

SCOTT: Go out and make something. Anything. Don’t worry about getting the best camera, equipment or even cast and crew. Find a group of passionate people, come up with a great story and go shoot it. So many people put off making that first film until everything is perfectly in place and the trouble is, it will never be perfectly in place. Going out and telling your story is so much more important than the equipment you use to tell it.

HELLFIRE: And finally, if we wanted to see more of your work where can we look?

SCOTT: You can find my previous films Supernova and Order of the Ram on my YouTube Channel, youtube.com/CrossroadPictures, where you’ll also find the trailer and bonus content for Silently Within Your Shadow; and the soon to be released trailer for Holding Back. Comments are very very welcome. I’m always looking to interact with other indie filmmakers and check out their work. So please check out my films and share yours.

‘Silently Within Your Shadow’ will be screened at the next Hellfire Short Film Night on June 2, 2016 at Lime Bar Cafe, Folkestone. Watch the trailer below.