‘Human Beings’ dir. Jonathan Entwistle

Friends, Girls, Fights, Parties & Unicorns in the middle of Nowhere.

Writer-Director: Jonathan Entwistle
Producer: Charlie Kemball
DOP: Justin Brown
Key Cast: Ben-Ryan Davies, Vahid Gold

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

JE: I wanted to see if I could make the British countryside look a little bit like America. It was a definite intention to shy away from making something ‘gritty’ or harsh. I happened to see two Zebra costumes hanging mournfully in a charity shop window and it just sparked ideas in my head about these weird black & white suits. Who would buy them and what for….?

At the time of developing the story, I got obsessed with the Beach House album ‘Teen Dream’. The opening track is called ‘Zebra’. So everything was kind of falling into place nicely for some stripy costume madness!

C8: You shot on 35mm with ARRI cameras. When you shot ‘Human Beings’ how much experience did you have working with film?

JE: At the point of shooting ‘Human Beings’ I had worked mostly on film. 35mm at film school and then I had shot my graduation film on Super16. I had made one short on 7D too.

I wanted to access all of the emotions and feelings that 35mm gives you. It was absolutely part of my aesthetic remit for the film. It’s a short-hand that audiences understand after having watched years of movies shot on film. I think that’s changing now though. I also thought it might be the last time I would ever get to use 35mm.

C8: What advice would you give to beginners about working with film?

JE: As a director you absolutely have to be aware of what different mediums can do for your story and the way audiences read it. The days are gone where shooting digital meant that your film looks ‘digital’. It should be more about “Does it suit my story to shoot on Hi8..?”

Just make sure you are telling a story that people are going to care about.

If you want to get into detail I think it’s a tough one because working with cameras like ARRI Alexa is very, very close to using 35mm now. Especially if you are sensitive to what film can give you when you go into the grade. You can cleverly emulate some of its qualities if you want to.

One of the main problems that I have found working with film is that there are simply too many processes for low-budget work.

I find the digital workflow is quicker, more flexible and easier. However, I have to stress that learning on film for me was incredibly valuable. Not being able to continuously do take after take hones your mind to looking at the script and getting what you need in the right way to suit the scene.

I would shoot 35mm at every opportunity I could, but I’m very happy to be working with Alexa.

C8: How did you go about gathering your crew? Do you have several crew members that you often work with?

JE: I’ve worked with Cinematographer Justin Brown on nearly all of my stuff. We’ve done commercials, shorts, pilots and we have a good relationship on set. I trust his judgement 100% because he lives and breathes moving image and he knows the aesthetic that’s going to suit my stories.

I often work with the same people across different projects and I always meet someone new and equally amazing on each shoot. Different roles harbour different challenges. I like to work with specific people in certain roles, but other than that, I just love working with people who are excited and interested in telling stories.

C8: ‘Human Beings’ was part of the official selection for the 2013 London Short Film Festival. How important was the festival circuit for the film?

JE: We had a lot of problems getting festival acceptance because the film had premiered online. There is still a very archaic strand that runs through festivals (although it is better now) where they don’t accept shorts that have premiered online.

We also felt that premiering with Vimeo suited the film more than premiering with a festival. It allowed us to get 45,000 views in the first two weeks. Far more eyes and ears than any film festival would have been able to give us.

C8: Do you think the festival circuit still has something to offer emerging filmmakers or has online distribution taken its place?

JE: For shorts, putting your film online is absolutely essential. Film is an audience-based medium, you should want as many people to watch it as possible. It’s definitely been worth it for me and my career.

Personally, I can’t see what the festival circuit can do for your short that putting it online can’t.

However, one thing that exciting and well managed festivals can offer is a social angle that cannot be beaten. Getting together with other filmmakers is essential for a thriving and creative community.

I see no reason why shorts that are successful online couldn’t wow audiences at festivals and vice-versa.

For feature films, the rules are different.

C8: If you had the chance do to the whole thing again would you do anything differently?

JE: I would keep my eye on the amount of film stock I was shooting!!

C8: Do you have any advice for emerging filmmakers?

JE: Spend time to understand how movies work. Read books. Embrace technology. Watch American TV. Read comics. Never, ever forget about story.

C8: What do you think makes for a good collaboration?

JE: Trust. As a director you have to trust that the people you are working with are able to bring their best to achieve what you want. Part of directing is bringing your key collaborators into your headspace so that, together, you can bring the story to life. Because you cant make it without them.

C8: What is on the horizon for Jonathan Entwistle? Any exciting projects?

JE: I have just finished shooting a pilot for a new project with Film4 called ‘The End Of The F**king World’. It’s based on an American comic book of the same name and features Craig Roberts (‘Submarine’) and Jessica Barden (‘Hanna’) as two 17 year olds desperate to leave their boring town. When they finally do they realise the world might be a lot weirder than they imagined. It’s a kind of weird suburban tale. Think Dawson’s Creek meets Tarantino…

I am also working on a feature film project. We’ve been developing it for a couple years now. Produced by Robert Herman and Dominic Buchanan at Stink and written by Claire Wilson. It’s a road movie in the ‘Blue Valentine’ vein.