We're delighted that the fourth Whaam! Shorts film is the excellent Rabbit Punch from the most excellent team at Arpeggio Pictures.
Stuart Condy and Sara Forbes, Arpeggio's head honcho's discuss it's creation, TV premiere, BAFTA NT win, Funding, the future of Scottish Shorts and more.
SC - Rabbit Punch was made in 2012 and was our first short film after graduating from film school.
How did you come to find the project and what led you to bring me on board?
SF - Rabbit Punch was written and directed by Neil Hartop who was a writer director alumni from Napier. I met him when I was studying at Stevenson College , pre ECA as I worked on his grad film Fable in the sound department during this time. We have been friends and film collaborators since then and worked on many projects. He brought me an early draft of the script to read over and I loved it. Neil had tried really hard to get the project off the ground and as we all know development, especially short film development in Scotland, is a long and arduous labour of love to get greenlit and get funding. I thought about it that night and called him late after deliberation (and a few whiskeys) to say that I wanted to help him make his film as I had a good feeling about it. As cliched as it may sound in this day and age, I trust my gut feeling and believe when it feels right, it feels right. It’s almost like magic, you can't quite explain it to others but you just are mesmerised and get excited in the wonder and possibilities. I thought the script had great potential and wanted to see the film on screen.
I got you involved as your love of cinema and unrelenting passion in storytelling was unmatched. Having worked together from various ECA projects, I knew you would either be all in or not. Which is how I work as well. (No half measures, ever!) I felt that you would see not only what I loved about the script but a whole lot more. I hope between us we could creatively push the film beyond all what we could imagine and make it the best it could be. I sent the script over in the next few days and that was it, we were in a very early pre production.
SC - What was it about this story that interested you? What did you want to bring to screen?
SF - I think what I liked about the story was that it was unpretentious and honest. There isn't a happy ending in the film, these boys friendships are metaphorically and literally tested as they are pitted against each other. They are forced to have to deal with very sobering adolescent situations before they even know themselves where they stand and what they want to be yet. It with a simple and subtle story of innocence lost and the consequences of the unknown we all face when growing up. Having spent 6 years in education honing and understanding the discipline of film and watching endless films, I felt that it was important for the film to be seen and to be made as it had a real strong voice of the younger generation sense of place in the world and it’s crucial that this was shared.
SC - Neither of us went to film school as producers and found ourselves in the role quite organically through the making of Rabbit punch and projects beyond. What do you enjoy most about producing work in the way we do and what do you think is most difficult?
SF - I’m a sadist? haha I don’t know, It isn't what I wanted to do initially, Production Design was my end goal but that didn't work out due to various elemental factors, so I think I poured my heart and soul into producing and began working on films as firstly, no one wanted to do it at ECA, mostly everyone wanted to direct, which I also NEVER wanted to do, and secondly with my love of organised chaos, it just came naturally to me. I fell into it and loved it. I love collaborating with fellow filmmakers and being able to work on a slate of various projects. Producing is a hard graf and endless things to juggle at once so it’s not for the fainthearted which you well know as well, but it's exciting and working with directors and collaborating with wonderfully talented people whom all share your enthusiasm on a project really is priceless. I love being involved from the start to the very end and STILL getting butterflies when you see everything come together for the first big screening. I think the hardest thing for me is when you fall in your stride and are close to giving up or things seem impossible, the thought pops in that “it’s just a film” it’s never just a film. Usually if that time comes, I take some time, restock and focus on what matters, making the film and proving it's not JUST a film.
SC - This film was self funded, were you aware of what finance options were available at the time? Do you think the visibility of routes to funding are more prevalent now than they were when we left film school?
SF - I was aware of the process, and aware that there was always an over-subscription for these programmes and that they are very, very,difficult to get accepted to. Not to mention they take a very long time for development, which for a short film especially, seemed a bit ridiculous to me. Self funding we could create our own time frame and structure it how we felt best.
I don’t feel that it was at the forefront of what we were learning during our time at film school, as all our grad films and projects were also self funded, and everyone was in the same boat. I feel now that these processes are much more prevalent and accessible for people to apply to them. Crowdfunding has peaked and dipped as well, so the whole structure is evolving, which is a good thing.
SC - Thinking about the actual shooting of the film, what do you remember as being the biggest challenge?
SF - I was worried about multiple things, staying true to the ambition of the project and making it a tangible thing, shooting with the kids, shooting over multiple locations, shooting with the RED camera for the very first time... I found the trick to overcoming these challenges was to never think about them all at once. We had a close tight knit crew and I think that helped a lot. A lot of planning and plan B’s and adapting to problems as they came up is all part of it. Everyone worked hard and did their absolute best on the film, if it’s not a challenge it’s not filmmaking.
SC - We used non actors in the lead roles, did this give you cause for concern?
SF – It gave me less concern than using actors that needed boxing training! During development we talked a lot about it, but we always felt that it would work out better and be more believable and important for the story. After seeing the kids in their local gym fighting each other and training hard, I realised then that any concerns I had would be quashed. Neil had done a lot of R’nD across various gyms, meeting trainers, families and young fighters so he knew it could workout.
SC – I think it’s safe to say we didn’t know a lot about distribution when the film was made. What would you say are the most important things to think about in terms of distribution? Do you think
this is something you should be thinking about before you make the film, especially when the film does not have the support that comes with being traditionally funded?
SF - Absolutely. I feel we have learned a lot more about it in the last year that we didn't know back then. It’s an integral part of a films life cycle. Saying that, we didn't have any “formal” distribution plan but RP still played in festivals here and abroad, won a new talent BAFTA for best fiction and was on Shooting Gallery on Channel 4 so I think we did okay! :)
RP was a huge learning curve, one that i'm glad we did our own way know knowing more about each process, distribution and sales especially. From a very recent master class we attended we know that distribution, even for features, can still be carried out on your own terms, which I like. I think both sides of it have to co-exist, and you find what way works for you and your film.
SC - Arpeggio Pictures was born as a result of Rabbit Punch, what do you think running our own company has given us in terms of the work we bring to screen?
SF - It gives me an immense sense of pride and accomplishment that we do things our way and are ALWAYS challenging what can be done. It’s a great adventure and I feel personally that setting up AP and the work we produce is like shaping a slate of work that we both feel incredibly proud to be apart of.
SC - We’ve always prided ourselves as a company in being a bit “punk rock” in our approach to cinema and filmmaking. This was never a considered approach but it’s worked for us. Why do you think this is?
SF – I think it's our nature and personalities of how we work. It’s unpredicted alchemy and you have to go with the flow and also respect others and work hard. It’s never the same film experience twice and it’s shape shifting constantly. I think with anything creative in art it’s someone saying it can't be done, or its never been seen before and then you go make it and have a great time doing so. I guess that’s the punk rock side for me. Making the unexpected come together.
SC – Do you think not having funding should ever be a barrier to creating new work?
SF – I think that it shouldn't be, give free software, drones and phone capabilities now but I understand why sadly it can be given the scale of some projects. Filmmaking is what you make of it, so if you absolutely need a jib and £50,000 and you can't make it any other way, you need a better producer! :) You are only limited by yourself. If you want to film to happen and will make it regardless of whatever gets in your way or whomever says you can't, then it will be made. We are living proof of that with our last fiction short we produced, Take Your Partners.
SC – What’s your first impression of Whaam shorts and what do you think it can bring to the table?
SF - it feels energising and like what the Scottish industry needs at the moment. Given the political climate and the level of uncertainty people are facing not only in the arts world but across the
country, I feel that creating and sharing ideas which open people's minds can only be a great thing. excited to see what WHAAM has planned for 2017!
And you can see the full version of the amazing Rabbit Punch below!