Woodfalls is a drama about a family of travelers (Gypsies) who move into a new town and have to deal with being harassed by some of the inhabitants there.
Earlier this year I reviewed Woodfalls; you can find that review here: Woodfalls Review. Now I finally had a chance to chat to Director David Campion about the film, some of his other projects, and his best advice for independent filmmakers.
David, how did Woodfalls come about and why did you want to tell this particular story?
I feel we have a particularly unhealthy relationship with the ‘gypsy’ stereotype. Most people I know wouldn’t ever make racist or homophobic remarks, but they’d still refer to a gypsy as a ‘pikey’ without thinking anything of it. Why? Because, we’re unenlightened when it comes to traveller culture.
I’m from ‘Romany stock’ (as my family like to put it). I haven’t actually lived as a traveller, but it’s in my blood. Supposedly, I’m a distant relation of Tyson Fury! Although, I’ve never lived in a caravan myself, I feel I have a reasonable understanding of the culture. I definitely thought it was time to see a different side of the culture. I wanted to portray a traveller family in the most stripped down sense.
Then the Dale Farm evictions happened and I knew I had to write Woodfalls.
How would you describe the production of Woodfalls? Was it easy going or challenging, and what were some of the obstacles?
Where do I begin? We only had about 12 days, which is tight, even by ‘no budget’ standards. We spent 5 days shooting all of the caravan stuff. Myself and Louis (Corallo, DOP) lived in this caravan together during the hottest summer I can remember. It was sweaty. It stank. And there was no escape.
“I left the set, sat in the middle of a field at 1AM and cried my eyes out.”
Then there was the character raid- we had this elaborate sequence planned, even storyboarded, which is very unusual for me. It involved buckets of shit/urine and fireworks- all the great stuff. We shot for about 12-14 hours during the day. Two crew members got sun stroke and went home. We then had dinner, reduced the crew even more and attempted this complex night shoot. Half an hour later, after arguing with Louis about lights (we either argue about lights, shadows caused by lights or the time it’s taking to set up the lights) I walked off. I left the set, sat in the middle of a field at 1AM and cried my eyes out. This episode pretty much defines the shoot for me.
Making a film, especially at this level, is all about overcoming obstacles whilst trying to retain as much artistic integrity as possible. I try not to be too precious. If we’re out of time at a location or a sound recorder breaks, you have to roll with it. No sound recorder? Cool. We can shoot safety wides and a few obscure mids and ADR it later. We’re getting thrown off a location because we’ve pissed off the landowners? Cool. We can shoot another trusty wide and then everything else in my garden. I’m sure it’ll cut together…
Sometimes it cuts together. Sometimes it doesn’t….
Your other two feature films are horrors. What sets Woodfalls apart?
I guess Woodfalls is a drama. It’s definitely rooted in social realism, however, I don’t think it’s a million miles away from horror. It started life as this insanely nasty revenge film. Lots of violent set pieces, gore…etc.That’s back when I was going to make the film with Ben (Simpson, former co director). This was going to be our follow up to Patrol Men (debut feature). However, things change. Ben and I went our separate ways, so I approached Woodfalls more like a drama.
I like to think there’s an exploitation element to the film. When I was around 15 or 16, I watched Last House on the Left, Baise Moi, Irreversible and Straw Dogs all in a short period of time. I was deeply affected/scarred by these films. I’m sure it had a lot to do with the sexual violence, but also the primal reaction to it. These acts brought out such strong, animalistic urges in the victims families/spouses. I’ll never forget the sight of the father from Last House on the Left, chainsaw in hand, extracting his revenge is such a slow, civilised fashion. There’s nothing heroic or awesome about it. It’s fucking horrible.
Ironically, the other two horrors are much lighter, especially when it comes to violence, than Woodfalls.
Woodfalls has a few shocking, violent scenes. What was your reason for including these, and were they challenging to shoot?
Without a doubt, I enjoy provocative material. I didn’t grow up aspiring to make comedies. That said, there had to be context for the violence and I think there’s a lot of truth to the violence in Woodfalls.
During the writing process, Channel 4 aired a documentary about the EDL. It was my introduction to them and I found the whole thing pretty shocking. It’s been a few years, but I remember it ending with a group of far right Muslims arguing with these far right skinheads (at this stage, even Tommy Robinson would refer to them as skinheads). Such vitriol. Such violence. Such political/social unrest. Things didn’t/don’t feel stable. I knew Woodfalls would have to reflect this.
“Without a doubt, I enjoy provocative material”
In terms of shooting these scenes, I’m sure you’re thinking of one in particular. We anticipated how uncomfortable this could be, especially for the actors, so we planned accordingly. Luckily, Michelle (Crane, lead actress) and Joe (Law, actor) were fantastic. Very professional, but more importantly, fun. We collaborated heavily before hand, making sure we were all on the same page. As long as the actors were comfortable, I was happy.
There’s also a certain sex scene where both participants break down in tears. Now that was awkward. Marlene (Abuah, actress, catering, all round hero) was our clapper at the time and she had to leave the room. We let the takes run on long because the performances were so committed and I remember sitting next to the camera, watching it play out, thinking “I can’t believe we’ve inflicted such misery on these poor actors, all for my stupid script. I fucking love filmmaking”.
Woodfalls has a very contemporary soundtrack. How involved with the music were you?
I was listening to a lot of electronic music whilst writing the script, especially dubstep. I wouldn’t even consider myself a massive dubstep fan, but it just made sense in this world. I wanted the score to reflect the music these characters would be listening to.
A friend of mine, Planky, provided a lot of tracks. Like Rebecca’s experience in the night club, that’s all him. We stitched together three different tracks and they complimented the changing mood of the scene perfectly. No score necessary. I love the dark track when things get a little trippy. The whole sequence feels disjointed and sensory and the music plays such a big part of that.
“I can’t believe we’ve inflicted such misery on these poor actors, all for my stupid script. I fucking love filmmaking”
I approached Gav (Robert, Lyrical Monsoon) for a few tracks because I knew of Lyrical Monsoon. However, Gav was interested in composing music, so it went from there…
Gav created so many cool sounds for the film. Really punchy, electronic compositions. I have loads sitting on my hard drive that we just couldn’t feature in the film, which is a shame. Once you’ve added music, you realise some scenes require a quieter touch. This was Gav’ first ever attempt at scoring visuals and he did a great job. He’s obsessive and collaborative- two perfect qualities for any artist.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming film, “Shadow of the Missing”?
So, Woodfalls was screening at the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival in Llanelli, Wales. I met some other cool filmmakers, as you do at such events. Also, at these events, it’s customary to have drinks, just to loosen things up. So, we’re all pretty merry and want to go on an adventure. There was an abandoned church in the town, which is supposedly quite common around Wales, as there seems to be churches everywhere. So, we hopped the fence, innocently, just to get a closer look at this fine structure. We get to the door…and there’s music playing. Classical music! We all shit ourselves and somebody films it on their phone.
“We need a new generation to fall in love with cinema again.”
Two months later, Jamie (Lee Smith, producer/co director of Shadow of the Missing) flies back from Miami and we shoot a feature, based on this drunken night. In two days! A fucking feature in two days! Now that was fun. Since then, they’ve done pick ups and I believe they’ve shot a scene or two in the US. I’m not really involved with the edit, so I’m eager to see what we captured. Jamie sent me 30 seconds over WhatsApp recently and it looked bloody brilliant. I act in it as well, which may not be such a good thing. We’ll see…
The film also stars three comedians from Cardiff and one of them is also a famous film critic in Wales! Really strange production. Fair play to Jamie for holding it all together- she’s the true heart behind it.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I’m currently writing another horror film called The Juices. It’s the most bonkers thing I’ve worked on. I’m going to shoot it in Spring, with many of the same actors from Woodfalls and even Patrol Men.
It’ll be like getting a family back together to work on the most disgusting shit ever. But, it also has a point. The Juices feels like my most poignant script, so far. We’ll see. It’s easy to hype things when you haven’t filmed them yet.
What’s your best advice for independent filmmakers or those aspiring to be?
Look at the world. Be internal. Be opinionated. Be idiosyncratic. Be optimistic, but don’t shy away from pessimism. Embrace every emotion you can. And be passionate. Be passionate about everything, to the point of obsession. Don’t be afraid of obsession. Try not to be afraid, but if you are, write about it. And watch films.
We need a new generation to fall in love with cinema again. Champion a new wave of films that older critics may have overlooked. Share them. Excite people with these films, so you understand the feeling of cinema when it finds an audience. It’s an amazing thing.
“Be passionate about everything, to the point of obsession.”
And make shit. Filmmaking has become somewhat democratised, so take advantage of it. Don’t worry if you think your stuff looks rubbish compared to bigger budget films. Film is still a developing art form, so develop your own aesthetic and rub people’s faces in it. Be fearless and create from the heart.
Woodfalls will air on London Live on December 30th: Click here for more details.
Check out the trailer for Woodfalls below:
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