‘Wintering’ dir. Iain Finlay

Wandering from a house party out through the wilderness, a young woman meets a man and decides to intervene in his life.

Country: UK
Directors: Iain Finlay
Writers: Iain Finlay and Richard House
Producer: Rachel Dargavel
DOP: Chris Ross
Key Cast: Elisa Lasowski, Lee Ingleby

C8: Where did the idea for ‘Wintering’ come from?

IF: The film came from an image I had in my head;  A man stood at a cliff top throwing burning objects out into the night. These burning objects would then fall to the shore below where a woman sat. Two characters at a loss, a chance meeting between strangers- these were the beginnings of the idea that lead to Wintering.

C8: Your other short ‘Number 54’ also deals with the darker side of human nature. What interests you about these types of characters?

IF: I like films about characters in transitional periods in their lives. A loss of identity. I like seeing the effect of hidden truths surfacing, how distorted memories vent themselves. I am interested in how we avoid ourselves to get along, and the consequences of the self neglect.

C8: In your experience, how did co-writing this project differ from when you have written alone? 

IF: I had written something with Richard House (the co-writer) before so we had discovered a way of working together then. However it is always hard at points, you have an infinite number of options and often want to go different ways. I suppose it can be less spontaneous, sometimes you would not even question going a certain way, it would just feel right and you would go with it writing alone. But when working with someone else there are some days when you’re just not in tune and impulsive decisions need discussing before you move on them.

C8: The film features some stunning locations – did you write with these specific places in mind, or did they come into it later on?

IF: All the locations were found after the script was written. When writing we  had a really strong sense of what we wanted the locations to be like and worked with alot of reference material to help get that across on the page. After scouting across the country, Al Mackay, the location manager, found the main location hidden 20 minutes down the road from where I was living at the time, in Nottingham. We were extremely lucky with the owners who were really accommodating and happy to have their home as a part of the film. Once we got it I went there and adapted elements of the script around the geography of the location. It was as much of a character as anyone else. 

C8: ‘Wintering’ uses very little dialogue. Was there more in any earlier iterations of the script, and how did the script and story develop over time?

IF: The script took a while to get right. The producer Rachel Dargavel, executive producer Paul Welsh, myself and Richard would meet weekly, I think. We did about 20 drafts of the script to get it right. The script never really had any dialogue. The film always had the two characters at a distance and it never worked when we tried to work dialogue in. However, descriptions of sound were an important part of the script in helping to understand the wherabouts of the characters, and to build tension. 

C8: How did you go about choosing the actors and what were your primary interests when casting this film?

IF: The night before I was meeting Elisa (who played Lizzy) for the audition, it suddenly dawned on me that all I had given her was a script that had no dialogue in it. That night I wrote a scene with some dialogue, and a scene that I thought would evoke some physical reaction, to give a stronger sense of how the character I had in mind would verbally (but more importantly physically) deal with this particular scenario. This was an important process that I also used when working with Lee Ingleby.

C8: You worked with several screen bodies and production companies to make this film – getting films financed is obviously a daunting task for new filmmakers. Can you tell us a bit about how you managed to get ‘Wintering’ funded and how long did this take?

IF: The film was commissioned by the UK film Council’s DV shorts scheme that was a nationwide scheme run by each region’s screen agency. For me, that was EM media in Nottingham. You applied with a treatment or outline, six ideas were selected and then over a period of four months these were developed into scripts. Four films were then commissioned. From my initial application to completing the film probably took over a year. Sadly this scheme no longer exists and funding for shorts is very scarce at the moment. 

C8: Did you always have a specific vision in mind for the film, and how did you collaborate with Cinematographer Chris Ross?

IF: I met up with Chris in London with a load of photographic reference- Gregory Crewdson, Jeff Wall, Philip Lorca Di Corcia- and also alot of photographs of the location. I really wanted to shoot the whole thing at night and avoid doing any day for night, and just use practical lighting. I was unsure if this was feasible with the budget and the locations that we had, so Chris drove up to Nottingham after a shoot in London and did a recce. He left confident that it could be done. I remember the first night of shooting, we were late getting to the location of the bridge from which Lee throws the burning clothes. We were running late and the light was going. We were waiting on the bridge top and it was getting darker, and I had no idea how this was going to be lit. I was getting a little nervous. When Chris and his crew arrived they quickly turned it around and lit the bridge with fake lampposts they had brought with them. Chris was completely equipped for everything that came up on the shoot, and it was great to work with him. 

C8: What were the hardest things about making this film? What obstacles did you come across before, during and after production?

IF: Generally, the whole thing was hard. Shooting through the night and trying to sleep in the hot summer days proved to be a hard thing to do. Also, the first night, having run out of time, I had to drop a really important shot which  proved to be quite a big problem in the edit later. 

C8: If you could give young filmmakers any piece of advice what would it be?

IF: Keep up a memento, try and write something every day. Also to just go out and shoot your projects. It can become a full time job but try and submit to film festivals- it is such a good experience watching your film in that environment, you can really sense if it’s coming across right- what’s working and what’s not working- from sitting amongst an audience.   

C8: What in your opinion makes for a good collaboration?

IF: Everyone is going to bring something different to a project and have a new perspective on things. A film is ever changing so it’s important to let it breathe- even though you have spent so much time perfecting the script yourself. So I suppose letting go a little, and not just working to construct something from a blueprint. Reworking the script with your crew.   

C8: What is next for you? Any upcoming projects? Plans for the future?

IF: I am have just written another short and am working on two other feature length scripts.