‘Inanimate’ dir. Gorge Messa

Franklin, a lonely old puppeteer, isolated in his workshop, starts to lose his sense of reality as his imagination, and new creation begin to turn on him.

Director: George Messa
Writers: Katie McBride & George Messa
Producer: Jessica Lowe
DOP: Alex Finlayson
Key Cast: Alister Cameron

C8: You co-wrote the script with Katie McBride. How did this collaboration come about and how did you share the workload?

GM: We were very fortunate in that we had a good amount of time to write this script. It was made as our graduation film from the Arts University at Bournemouth, Katie (who was the Production Designer on the film too) and I had worked on a shoot previously, and she told me about this concept she had about a puppeteer who’s in a battle with his mind. I loved it and she asked if I wanted to collaborate to write it. The film progressed a lot from the original concept, we both had ideas about what we wanted the film to be, and fortunately those were quite well aligned. Katie did a lot of research into puppeteering and this fueled our ideas. I suppose I tried to utilise all of this research and keep it to a short story, which was harder than it sounds. In the end we got the script to a point that we were both happy it was the story we wanted to tell, and had ticked all the boxes we set out to do in the first stages.

C8: What was the biggest obstacle you faced during production and how did you overcome it?

GM: Building an enchanted forest in a small studio, but Katie wrote it so she knew what she was getting herself into! It was something we knew we were going to battle, but if it’s easy what’s the point in making it? I’m really happy with how it turned out; the whole crew on set and in post-production were incredible in creating that atmosphere on such a budget.

C8: What had you done up in your career until this point and what have you done since?

GM: This was still early days, I was in my final year of university and had directed a few student shorts, but I was also working as a spark on shorts, music videos and low budget features which was great for meeting people, seeing how other directors work, and getting on set experience. Plus it was fun playing with big lights.

C8: What advice would you give to those looking for their start in the industry?

GM: Have a relative in the industry! But if like me you don’t, I would say try to ensure that the job you take is going to put you on the right career path. I see so many people who took the first job to ‘get their foot in the door’, but they’re now stuck in a department they never wanted to work in, and really struggle to move towards the role they actually want. That often means being a runner for longer, but overall it’s worth it. That’s why I quit lighting. I was never going to do what I truly wanted to, despite the paid work I could get, so I started again as a runner. Also if you’re at university, try to get onto as many jobs as possible at weekends before you graduate, get those contacts, do the favours while your student loan is still keeping you fed.

C8: You also direct commercials, does it take time to mentally readjust when approaching a narrative short?

GM: I always like to find a story in what I’m going to make, be it commercials, music videos or digital content. This is what I’ve always loved so I try to get to the core of what we’re making, pull the story from it and tell it in the most filmic way possible. You certainly do learn things when directing commercials that you wouldn’t encounter when doing drama, but I think its fascinating to see all the different avenues in this industry, you’ll always be learning something.

C8: What do you think is the biggest misconception about narrative shorts?

GM: That they are a feature length film condensed into 15 minutes. It’s something I really struggled with, having grown up on feature films to then delve into shorts. It’s a shock. You almost have to forget everything you know. Lengthy character establishment, multiple locations, big cast, no chance. This is where the best shorts really stand out, a perfectly paced short film is such an art, and so inspiring when you see one. Its tough, especially as everyone making shorts presumably wants to get into features, but first you have to master a style of film that you likely haven’t encountered before. I find looking at plays is good for this, as they’re normally restricted to a handful of locations and cast.

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

GM: It’s tough, there’s a lot you’re going to disagree on, so you really need to be with someone you can trust. I think it’s also important to ensure that you’re both striving for the same goals with the film and story. It’s funny how the simplest question can divide you on something and catch you by surprise. It’s best to iron this out in pre-production rather than on set.

C8: What’s next for George Messa?

GM: Hopefully more of these as the dream is a feature length film. I’m currently writing another short film and I’m about to go and document the recording of a band’s second album which I’m really excited for, I’m also in the early stages of developing a short documentary, so it’s nice and busy!