esterday Sondhi posted his featured review of The Un-Gone. Earlier this week I got in touch with director Simon Bovey to dive a little deeper into the creative process behind this splendid short.
The Un-Gone his based around a strong idea ripe with moral dilemmas. Where did your inspiration for the film come from?
Well I’d been trying to come up with an idea for a science fiction short for a UK Film Council scheme for a few weeks. Something different but achievable within the form. I wasn’t getting anything that really pleased me. I’d planned a few days away in Venice with my girlfriend and we were waiting for a flight. It had been delayed a couple of hours, thick fog at Venice apparently. I suggested to her that it was a shame science hadnít yet delivered a means of transport as quick as the Transporter in Star Trek, no problem with fog there! So I think I filed that away subconsciously. I went looking for a cup of tea and all my fellow travellers were also aimlessly wondering around the concourse and shops, glazed, bored, looking for diversion. I said we were the un-gone. At an airport to travel, on the other side of security, but unable to go anywhere. And bang. The two thoughts collided. Had the script outlined by the time we got to Marco Polo airport.
I think those are the best ideas, the ones that just come. Sometimes you can sweat over an idea for ages trying to flog it into shape, shoehorn some moral or thematic core into it and the thing is like a landed fish. Dead on the dock. Easy to say I know, hard to do. The script for The Un-Gone still took thirteen drafts to bring all those moral dilemmas out though.
Do you have any favorite moments in making the film? What part of the process do you enjoy most?
Making a film is in itself the best fun you can have with your clothes on. So moments tend to blur into the process. I was lucky to work with a terrific bunch of people making it. The production designer, Bridget Dowty, and I had a huge challenge turning a disused Victorian hospital into a cutting edge transportation hub. That was hairy, hard work and also very satisfying. I’d like to say we saw a ghost but we didn’t. The police used to train in there so we kept finding rubber bullets which was pretty cool. Iíve still got some if you want one.
The bit I enjoy the most is the moment you say “action”. The blood is pumping, adrenalin has sharpened your decision-making faculties to a fine point. All the hard work is done, all the prep. As they say in magic, the work is done, all that is needed now is to perform the trick. I like to work fast then, don’t do too many takes, try different things, give myself options for the edit.
Your film has toured many festivals, what are your thoughts around posting it online now? Would are your thoughts around digital distribution? Can it work?
We didn’t post The Un-Gone online until recently basically because we wanted to explore all other distribution options first. We were lucky and it touched a nerve with audiences and festival programmers and it played in almost 70 festivals, literally all over the world. On the way it garnered eight awards and I don’t know what that says about me or the film but it has to say something. We also had DVD distribution in the States (via Dark Matter). That wouldn’t have happened if it was free to view on the internet from the outset.
But I think digital distribution is going to become more and more important. I’m not sure anyone knows what the future model is right now. The Un-Gone was shot on HD. I’d stake my life on a bet that the overwhelming proportion of film is now shot that way, a total digital work flow. There are digital formats that replicate, if not surpass, the image quality of film. It’s cheaper, faster and easier to produce. I’m sure it’s cheaper and easier to send a film as a computer file to a cinema than it is an unwieldy film print.
I think digital exhibition is done now in China and South America and let’s face it schools, film societies and some art house cinemas in the UK are showing digitally now. It just makes sense for the major distributors to follow suit. Logistics will be cheaper and in the long run enable a greater number of films, with perhaps a smaller audience potential, to gain distribution as the costs of getting them to market will be in keeping with their anticipated revenue. It seems we’re at the cusp of a change similar to one the music industry has already gone through. And I for one welcome it with open arms. The Un-Gone is after all about the ultimate digital distribution.
What’s next for you?
The Un-Gone was a while ago now so I have already moved on. Finished another short last year, Studs, which despite its title isn’t about anything sexual. It’s a thriller set during a Rugby Union match—that’s football without helmets for the Americans in the audience. And I’m also developing two feature films with independent producers in the UK, one a science fiction thriller and the other a horror. And of course I’m developing the feature version of The Un-Gone. Reactions, feedback and encouragement are very very positive. Can’t say more but it’s going well.
Do you have any favorite films that our readers should immediately go see online?
Ah that’s a question. Films online, ah. Well I always watch the ones you guys publicise and I browse Vimeo. There are some incredible short films, mood pieces and experiments on there.
I think everyone is attracted to their own thing and I’d hate to suggest something that someone checks out then doesn’t enjoy. But alright there are a couple that stick in my mind which are on YouTube I think. 10 minutes by Ahmed Imamovic which when it starts you think is a light hearted tourist comedy but that soon changes to something much darker and visceral. Ten minutes in one person’s life means nothing, but for someone else those same minutes can be life changing. Itís brave, bold and a stunning example of a director handling shot logistics.
Similarly White Red Panic, written, directed, and edited by Ayz Waraich pithily and succinctly explores the fatal consequences of a moral choice in a neat little thriller. Starts with a bang, ends with….well check it out.
The Un-Gone played in a festival with a film called Tarot by John Condon, it’s only 17 seconds but I thought it was hilarious. I’m sure that must be online. Oh and yeah I saw a New Zealand short called The French Doors ages ago, chilled me to the bone, still remember it. Wonder if that’s online?
Thanks go out to Simon for taking the time to chat. You can check out his website for further news and updates on his projects.
Scene from the film White Red Panic