‘Good Grief’ dir. Jim Owen

When Molly’s mother passes away, she returns home and uncovers a dark family secret.

Director: Jim Own
Writer: Rachel Stubbings
Producer: Matthew Mulot
DOP: Paul Bamford
Key Cast: Rachel Stubbings, Alex Kirk

C8: How did you come across Rachel Stubbings’ script and why did you want to direct it?

JO: Rachel (Stubbings – Writer) sent me a treatment she was developing for a TV company for me to read and write notes on. After I read it I said, when they turn you down because it’s too dark, write the screenplay and I’ll direct it. I told her it’ll take us about a month. Took us a year. She was livid

C8: Take us inside your directorial process. How do you prepare for a shoot?

JO: Three week bikram yoga retreat. Doesn’t matter where, preferably Spain though. I always expense it.

RS: Jim can barely touch his toes, I’d pay money to see him do yoga.

JO: Aside from yoga, I do all of the usual business. Rachel and I worked hard to get the script as tight as possible. We had two rehearsal sessions. We recce’d all the locations with producer Matthew far in advance of the shoot and that led me to specific ideas about how we would shoot.

We planned the shoot so that the big, emotional scenes had the most time allocated because the film was always going to be driven by the two central performances The more you plan, the more freedom you have when you shoot.

C8: How did you cast the film? What were you looking for in your actors?

JO: No, Rachel wrote it for herself, which is understandable.

RS: I wrote it with Alex in mind to play my Dad. He’d played my Dad in something prior and was a total joy. I cast myself because someone’s bloody got to.

C8: Did you set aside time to rehearse with the actors?

JO: We did, we read it through a few times, and then discussed our own families. It felt like the right thing to do, but once or twice I did think we haven’t really rehearsed this.

RS: We really mucked about and had a laugh which was important, especially as the content of the piece was kinda sad. We didn’t go full throttle until the cameras were rolling, held it back for that. It was fun and lovely.

C8: How did you work with DOP Paul Bamford to achieve your vision?

JO: I’ve worked with Paul a lot and he knows what to do before we even talk a scene through. He’s a grumpy bugger, but we all love him. Actually to be fair to him, we shot ‘Good Grief’ as his wife was ready to have their second child, so the man had other, more pressing things on his mind. And considering that, he did a remarkable job. He ended up delivering the baby himself, too, in his car on the way to hospital. Hero.

C8: You co-edited the film with Simon McMahon. What was the most challenging aspect of editing with another person?

JO: I cut it myself, then asked Simon to give up loads of his time for nothing for me. Si’s edited a lot of TV and really knows his stuff. He came in, made the film better, and then left. He’s like a whirlwind.

C8: What was the biggest obstacle for you during the shoot?

JO: Ambition always outweighs your resources, so it doesn’t matter how much money or time you have.

We knew what we could do with the money so actually we didn’t leave ourselves with any huge hurdles. We had one night out in London shooting on buses and in pubs and on the streets, and it was OK, and looked good, but it was a bit of a scramble because we were lightweight as a crew.

We actually cut that sequence from the film in the end, but it was nothing to do with what we shot, we just felt we didn’t need it.

C8: If you could do the whole process again what would you do differently?

JO: Maybe do some actual rehearsing.

Well it’s easy in hindsight isn’t it? To get specific I’d shoot more of the tent in the garden. It’s a significant image in the film, and the film would have benefitted from having more of that. In the edit I decided I wanted a shot of Rachel at the window in the kitchen looking out at the tent in the garden, so maybe I’d have shot that too.

But in terms of overall process I wouldn’t change a lot. We did everything we could with the budget and the time we had.

C8: What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers looking to make a comedy short?

JO: Go and make your film. Sounds ridiculous and painfully obvious, but it is important to actually make the film you’ve written.

Get the basics right. Doesn’t really matter what you shoot on, but record good audio. Pay for a sound man so your audience can actually hear your actors say the funny things that are in your script.

Be pragmatic. Don’t be a navel gazer. Find a good mate who knows your tone of voice and understands what you’re writing about, but who can be sharply critical.

It’s a misconception that you shouldn’t show your friends your work. Personally I think you should. Knowing your tone of voice is a head start. And if they’re a good mate, they’ll also be able to tell you what they think honestly and help you improve your work.

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

JO: Decent people. People who can dance. Rhythm is essential.

RS: Only work with people you really like, who you trust, who make you laugh.

C8: What is on the horizon for Jim Owen? Any exciting projects?

JO: Oh God loads. I’m off to LA, actually. I’m not really, I live in Finsbury Park.

You can follow director Jim Owen on Twitter here and writer-performer Rachel Stubbings here.