‘ROOTS’ dir. Geoff Bellhouse

‘ROOTS’ is an intimate portrait of a single day in the lives of unemployed Jaco, his half sister Natalie and her 5-year-old daughter. Restricted to their shared flat and caught in the middle of a summer heat wave, Jaco must take care of the young girl whilst Natalie goes out to work.

Writer-Director: Geoff Bellhouse
Producer: Emily O’Connor
DOP: David Procter
Key Cast: Kyle Hill, Leanne Davis, Brady Kelly-Weekesew

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

GB: I wanted to make a story about a family. And then I watched an old interview with Method Man where he said this line: “Do you know how it feels to be the voice of a million people that can’t be heard.” And this line stuck with me and I realised this family I was writing about had to represent something. For me that was an everyday family, living quite anonymously but who have their own internal problems to deal with and figure out.

And of course it’s about where you come from and about caring for our next generation – to realise the importance of nurturing and taking care of what is the future.

C8: You achieve naturalistic performances in ‘ROOTS’. How did you work with your cast?

GB: With ‘ROOTS’ I didn’t t audition but I approached the two adult actors off the basis of their previous works. Both have a lot of natural realism in their portfolios already so it was really about trying to reassess those qualities in the situation of my story. I didn’t focus heavily on character background, as I wanted to capture the immediacy of the situation. They also didn’t know what was going on in the scenes they didn’t feature in. That way we managed to focus on the physicality of the moment they were in. The rest is down to them.

C8: How did you work with Director of Photography David Procter to achieve your vision?

GB: When you work with someone like Dave who is a great director of photography its really comforting to know and be able trust every aspect of his work. This really helped me, as similar to the approach to the actors I wanted to keep this element of freshness in the scenes. Rather than having a precise storyboard we had concepts of the every shot, and we planned what they would be. And then we worked with the actors using their space and movements to justify the camera work. We also tried to capture as much as possible in single shots.

C8: Are there any influences from film, art, or photography that you had in mind while making the film?

GB: Inarritu and the Dardenne brothers were the main influences really for me when I was making the project.

C8: How does ‘ROOTS’ stand up against what you originally envisioned?

GB: From initial concept to the day we wrapped shooting was only about six weeks. We also had just two shooting days where we had to cut some scenes, so of course the film is slightly different to how I first imagined it. That said I’m super proud of what the team achieved – it was a full on collaboration with everyone really stepping in to help. Then to premiere the film at the BFI London Film Festival was such a great way to celebrate all the hard work achieved by the team.

C8: ‘ROOTS’ was your fourth short film. What had your learned previously that helped you?

GB: I think in some of my earlier works I was still trying to experiment with things and find my own way of telling stories. Since ‘ROOTS’ I’m much more comfortable with how I want to do things and the style and manner in which I approach each project.

C8: You attended the Septima Ars Film School in Madrid, Spain. Do you feel that you have been particularly influenced by Spanish films?

GB: My film education begins with Spanish cinema, particularly the films that were being made during and just after the Franco era. All art forms in this period were regulated by extreme censorship so stories had to be told in subtle but intelligent ways. I was particularly drawn to their politics and sensitivities around the subjects on screen. Going to film school in Madrid and making projects with similar minded students only went to enhance that feeling.

C8: How do you go about scriptwriting. Do you have a specific process or does it change with each project?

GB: Every project is pretty much the same. Once I have the first thought or idea for a beginning scene I just write – no planning or plotting. This allows me to discover the story and the characters as they emerge on paper. I’ll try and write as much as possible on that first day and once that is done I can go back and edit it.

C8: Is there any advice you would give to emerging filmmakers?

GB: I think just to be honest with your own work is a big starting point. And try and surround yourself with good people who you can trust for feedback and contrasting opinions on your work. The beginning really should be the most fun, experimental and creative.

C8: What, do you think, is the essence of a good collaboration?

GB: Film is naturally a collaborative medium. But for me when that works well, it’s because everyone involved is willing to go that extra mile without any self or personal gain. It’s incredible how many people I know working in the UK film industry that are prepared and wanting to do that. It’s a very comforting feeling.

C8: What is next for Geoff Bellhouse? Any exciting projects lined up?

GB: Well, my latest short film ‘ANITA’, which is supported by Film London is currently doing the rounds on the festival circuit so I’ll be interested to see how that progresses. I’ve also spent the last few months developing another short film and a treatment for what I hope to be my first feature.