‘At First Sight’ dir. David Allain

Charts the turbulent relationship that brings a passionate couple to crossroads as they are forced to question their future together.

Writer-Director: David Allain
Producer: Tim Francis
DOP: Alex Reid
Key Cast: Hannah Arterton, Ashley ‘Bashy’ Thomas

C8: Talk us through the inspiration for ‘At First Sight’.

DA: The initial story came from an idea that I wrote for a music video, but that got pulled as they didn’t have the budget so I’m really happy to have been able to flesh it out now with dialogue and more scenes. It’s changed a bit, the characters for example, but the general idea of flashing forward through a relationship was always there.

When writing this script I wanted to write something that evokes a sense for how you sometimes meet someone and it’s amazing but it doesn’t always work out. And the fact that it doesn’t work out isn’t all bad. Maybe you can just enjoy the moments for what they are because not everyone will be ‘the one’. I wanted it to give the feeling that sometimes you get something great out of it anyway, like becoming the person you will be when you do meet the right person.

C8: What was the brief from Panasonic for the film?

DA: This was one of three films they commissioned Rankin Film Productions to make to try out their GH3 camera. They initially wanted the films to be 3-minutes long, but were happy for it to be longer to tell the story well. Apart from doing something that could be done on the small budgets and not having any swearing, drugs or sex, the brief was pretty open.

C8: How did you cast the film? Were you looking for something specific for Ezra and Avy?

I was looking for two young, creative people who looked as though they’d get on initially but eventually realise they were too different to make it work. Hannah [Arterton] and Ashley [Thomas] were both really cool – it was a real pleasure working with them. We were all on a level and they seemed to grasp what I was after very quickly.

C8: Do you have any specific rehearsal methods? How do you work with actors before a shoot?

DA: We didn’t have much time to rehearse at all. As many of the scenes are very short I asked the actors to improvise a lot and for them to try conveying emotions with their look or expressions, rather than relying on dialogue.

C8: How did you find shooting on the Panasonic Lumix GH3? How did you work with Director of Photography Alex Reid to achieve your vision?

DA: One of the best things about it that really helped us was the camera’s mobility; we were able to move around so much, which was really important. It was great for traveling to various locations and running around. My Director of Photography Alex Reid did an incredible job at capturing all we needed whilst attributing the feeling I was after of being in the moment, done subtly with a lot of handheld camerawork and use of natural light.

C8: If you did the whole process again is there anything you would change the second time around?

DA: Not really. I had wanted to do a longer Director’s Cut and shot some additional scenes for it. My editor and I didn’t have time to do that version when we cut this one and have never had a chance to return to it. I would have been interested to see what that version looked like but having heard people’s reaction to this version, I think it being so short is a big part of what makes it effective.

C8: What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers looking to make their first short?

DA: Do it. Make films. A lot of people talking about how they want to do this and that, I admire anyone who gets on and does it. Whether you are a writer, a producer, a director, or in any other department, you have opportunities to learn from every project you make if you continue to push yourself. If you keep learning you should keep getting better, and people will recognise this in time.

C8: Does your background in directing music videos inform your choices when it comes to narrative filmmaking?

DA: Definitely. I used my time in music videos to experiment with a lot of different styles and techniques. I tried shooting cinematic narratives intercut with band performances. I tried animation and VFX. I tried in-camera tricks. Having the chance to try those things means I’m more discerning now about what I want to do going forward in narrative filmmaking.

C8: What are you favourite shorts?

DA: Ones that stick with me for some reason, that make me want to revisit them at a later date, or that make me want to share them with other people.

C8: What do you think makes a good short film?

DA: Determination. Tenacity. Self-belief. Patience. Collaboration. All fused together with strong ideas and the aim of realising a good story that makes some emotional connection with its audience.