Published on August 7th, 2014 | by Allan Brown2
Interview: Director Guy Pitt Talks Greyhawk
Greyhawk premièred at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June earlier this year, to a (well deserved) rapturous reception. Despite it not walking away with the main prize, ‘The Michael Powell Award for Best British Film‘, actress Zoe Telford did win a ‘Special Commendation award‘ for her outstanding performance in the film as Paula.
The film itself, is a wonderful British kitchen-sink drama, that sits somewhere between the personal immediacy of a Ken Loach film, and the burning intensity of a Shane Meadows thriller. Despite it being director Guy Pitt’s début feature, the focus and skill behind the camera can be felt in every frame. The result; not only one of the most stylish British films of the year, but perhaps one of the most profound and personal character studies I have had the pleasure of viewing, and I urge everyone to seek it out on its eventual released.
Recently director Guy Pitt was kind enough to grant me the opportunity to interview him on his experience a director on Greyhawk, as well as some other bits and bobs. Here is what he had to say;
Your brother Matt wrote the script for Greyhawk. Like the Nolan brothers (or sisters for that matter), is this a partnership that will continue with future projects? Also, how did the collaboration work, was Matt on set each day for revisions and last minute changes, or did his involvement cease when the script was handed over?
G.P – We certainly hope it continues, yes. As with any collaborative team, I’d imagine, it’s not a question of Matt presenting me with the script and saying, “Get directing, bro”. In fact, he and I will both have honed the story, plotting it out, before he goes off actually to write it. The (wonderful) surprise will be the dialogue, at which he’s very, very good and the occasional scene we hadn’t talked about but which adds to it all in a beautifully unexpected way. On set, he may turn up for the odd day here and there, and it’s great, and often very useful, to have him around, but it’s very much my ‘domain’.
Visually, the film has a very distinct look, mixing its stark grey urban setting with exquisite use of lighting and some stunning cinematography. Did you know exactly from the outset how you wanted the finished film to look, or was it more of an organic process during the shoot?
G.P – I knew from the outset how I wanted the film to look – what I didn’t know was quite how brilliant the DP (Director of Photography), Eben Bolter, was. Nor did I know how well he and I would work together. It was quickly clear that we could bounce good ideas off each other in a way which enhanced what I was trying to do.
Despite being a simple story of a blind man looking for his guide dog, there are many subtle visual metaphors in the subtext throughout the film. Is it important to you as a director the audience draws their own interpretation from these visual representations and social commentaries?
G.P – I think it’s great that, so far, the feedback seems to suggest that audiences are thinking deeply about the film. But my main aim, as a new director, is just to tell a strong, and visual, story.
Greyhawk is your first feature length film. How did you find the process and did filming on an active estate throw up any unforeseen challenges?
G.P – Filming on the estate was a delight. In no little part due to Hackney Borough Council film office, who were, are, just superb. Through them we worked with many of the local residents, which allowed us to use their flats as locations and unit rooms.
Mal, the lead character in the film is a blind army veteran. Was there a point in the early stages of production that you considered a blind actor for the role, or was Alec Newman the choice for Mal from the start?
G.P – To be honest, we didn’t rule anything in or anything out. What was most important was that we get the best actor for the role and that was Alec Newman. Just look at his performance. Quite, quite brilliant. What was great about Alec, though, apart from his sensational performance, was that he ‘got’ what we were trying to do, what Matt and I were after, straight away. Greyhawk became his film as much as ours. Which is why we all had such a blast at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Of course, talking of super performances we should also mention Zoe Telford who plays Paula in Greyhawk and whom the jury at Edinburgh awarded a special prize.
The movie industry is awash with huge scale blockbusters films with limitless budgets. Do you think there will always be an audience for smaller projects like Greyhawk, in amongst the popcorn films of today?
G.P – Sadly, I think there are diminishing audiences for truly independent dramas like Greyhawk. I think they’ll probably always be watched, but less and less in cinemas. As the smaller distributors are squeezed, it becomes harder and harder for them to make a business case for a theatrical release for films by unheard of directors like me. Having said that, because it’s precisely the smaller films like Greyhawk which make people think, and therefore want to discuss afterwards, and therefore make for a more interesting evening out, I’m half expecting someone to come up with a cinema business model that would keep the possibility of a theatrical outlet really open for truly independent, low-budget films.
The film had its UK premier at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, how were the reactions to the film and did any surprise you?
G.P – The reactions were terrific. Mal’s story seemed to resonate with all sorts of people. Given that making the film was, for everyone involved, a real labour of love, it was very, very pleasing to see all that hard work vindicated, and praised.
Do you have any future projects you could tell us about and when can we expect to see Greyhawk in theatres?
G.P – Ha ha! Matt and I are always talking about future projects. As for Greyhawk in theatres, see my answer to your earlier question. At the moment it’s looking unlikely but you never know! Let’s hope.
Interview by Allan Brown