‘Carriages’ dir. Adam Palmer

An unlucky-in-love young man tries to win the heart of the girl of his dreams during his daily train commute, only to find himself in awkward and embarrassing situations in his attempts.

Writer-Director-Producer: Adam Palmer
DOP: Adam Palmer
Key Cast: Jonathan David Dudley, Alisha Southall, Michael Cotton, Georgie Javins, Lawrence Walker

C8: Where did the idea for ‘Carriages’ come from? What inspired you?

AP: Only a select few people know this, so I guess you’re getting the ‘inside scoop’, but I had the idea for the project after I saw a girl on a ridiculously packed train journey after an Arctic Monkeys gig in Birmingham. We shared a smile and that was that. I’m not the most confident when it comes to girls, so I never spoke to her, which got me thinking of the idea and how I could over-exaggerate certain aspects our ‘encounter’. Not only that but I’m a big fan of Richard Ayoade’s ‘Submarine’, which definitely played a big part in creating the characters, as I feel James echoes Oliver’s awkwardness at times.

C8: Take us inside your writing process. How long did the script take to develop?

AP: ‘Carriages’ goes way back to 2009, when I originally wrote the treatment and a really basic script for the film for an old college project. I ended up shelving the idea in favor for another and completely forgot about it until my final year at university back in 2011. I knew I was going to shoot 16mm film before I even thought of an idea to produce, but by chance I found the script again and just felt it was perfect for celluloid. A few re-writes over a couple of months and what you see on screen isn’t too far from the original script.

C8: What were the challenges on shooting on 16mm film?

AP: After only ever shooting digitally, I was adamant that I wanted to shoot on film. 16mm was chosen early on for both aesthetic and budgetary reasons. What I liked though were that the challenges were more welcoming than I expected and they helped production rather than hindered it. I didn’t work with the actors before the shoot, so rehearsals were done on set before each take. Hearing your 400ft reel of film ticking through the camera is a frightening sound, especially when you’re not used to it, but at the same time it meant that we only rolled the camera when both the actors and myself were happy with the rehearsal beforehand. Most shots were done in one take, apart from the odd shot here and there. In the end we shot 4 reels and I guarded them with my life until they’d been developed.

C8: What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers preparing to shoot using film stock?

AP: Do it. Don’t be afraid to get your hands on film and just shoot something. Growing up in the digital age, it’s far too easy to rely on what you know rather than taking the plunge and working with different mediums. The beauty is that you might find, like I did, that your work ethic during production completely changes for the better. One thing that is a must however is a light meter. Keep the bloody thing with you at all times because it really will be your best mate on set.

C8: Some directors find that their DOP plays an important role in the filmmaking process but you were the DOP on ‘Carriages’. What effect do you think this had on the final film?

AP: Although I’m happy with the look of the finished film, from a cinematography point of view it’s a very simple in its design. I lit everything naturally, using only available light, so in a sense it was shot like a guerilla documentary. Camera movement was limited too, with the exception of the walking tracking shot on the train platform. Trying to work with the actors and then go back to positioning the next shot and making sure exposure is correct was a bit of a nightmare. I got a little distracted at times. I don’t think I’ll be doing both roles on set any time soon anyway.

C8: You wrote, directed and produced the film. Did you find it difficult wearing different hats on set?

AP: The good thing about doing all three, was the fact I had total control over every part of the film. It wasn’t easy because there’s a lot of work that goes into each role, so at times I really felt the weight on my shoulders. Thankfully the writing process was completed months before the film entered production so I only had to juggle a couple of roles on set. After we wrapped I had a couple of weeks break before the footage was developed, but then I had to get my editing cap on and work on the sound edit too. That process took the longest and was probably the most stressful.

C8: You financed the film through a crowd-funding campaign. What were the difficulties and benefits of seeking this type of finance?

AP: It was a nail biting few weeks, because you can go for days without receiving a penny, but you keep checking the page every hour hoping someone likes your idea enough to part with his or her hard earned cash. For me I think the main issues were getting the project noticed, although thanks to Facebook and Twitter it seemed to reach a (all be it an extremely small) global audience. Then when you start seeing friends and family rallying behind your project it’s great to know you’ve a lot of people supporting you on your endeavor. That did make it slightly daunting too though at the same time, having the pressures of so many watchful eyes. Without the backers though, the film wouldn’t have been made, so for that I can’t thank them enough.

C8: If you had to crowd-fund again what would you do differently?

AP: That’s actually quite a tough question to answer, because I guess it would change naturally with each project. Other than the obvious of creating interesting perks for backers to receive for their donations, I’d probably say trying to reach a wider audience earlier on. With ‘Carriages’ the crowd-funding plea was completed just a few weeks before we began shooting, so in that sense it was kind of rushed. Taking more time with it is what I’m trying to say I guess!

C8: The film won Best Comedy at the 2014 Screentest festival. What has audience reaction to the film been like?

AP: I was really critical of the film before it was ‘released’, so much so that I didn’t submit it to festivals until 2013, a good year or so after the project had been completed. I think for me I needed space from it after having spent so much time tinkering away in the edit suite. This mindset made me think people wouldn’t enjoy it, but so far it’s been really well received by the people who have seen it. I’m grateful to Screentest for showing the film, both at their festival and their Portobello Pop-up festival late last year. I snook into the screening well before it started, and thankfully the cinema was full when the opening credits rolled. I didn’t actually watch the film though, I was too busy staring around the room to see people’s reactions. What I loved was that they really seemed to connect with James’ struggles, as I think we all share certain traits with him when it comes to plucking up the courage to speak to someone you like. Well, I know I do…

C8: What, in your opinion, is the essence of a good collaboration?

AP: For me, a good collaboration comes down to your relationship with the people you work with and your ability as a director to listen. I enjoy a set that doesn’t take itself too seriously, where you can enjoy yourself and have a laugh between takes with the people around you. Everyone needs to be on the same page too. If you do have different ideas, talk them out with other people in your team and listen to their ideas. Forget the hierarchy. What’s to stop a runner from having a better idea during a scene than the director?

C8: What is next for Adam Palmer? Any exciting projects lined up

AP: I’ve actually two projects in pre-production at the moment, both of which are short films. I’m moving away from being a one-man-band to work with some extremely talented people. The first is a short called ‘Fading Light’, based on an original piece of writing by a friend of mine by the name of Tom England. He’s recently been documenting his time working at a nursing home when he was younger. I read this particular piece and fell in love with it, so set about adapting it into a short. We’re currently pursuing funding to get it shot within the coming months, which as many indie filmmakers know isn’t easy, as well as reaching out to a number of established actors to star. It’s a far more ambitious project and I’m glad to have someone else on board with me with who I can bounce creative ideas around. The second is a big leap in terms of genre; a sci-fi drama written by Joshua Douglas-Walton. I’m a huge sci-fi fan, especially films like ‘Inception’ and ‘Source Code’, so when Josh sent me the script and I felt both of those films seeping through in terms of tone, I practically snatched his arm off. We’re in the early pre-production stage for it currently but that will start moving forward soon.