‘The Division of Gravity’ dir. Rob Chiu

A young man and woman feel the strain on a once loving relationship, with neither coming to realise what they have lost until it is too late.

Director: Rob Chiu
Writer: Ben Fogg
Producer: Dan Turner
DOP: Paul O’Callaghan
Editor: Rob Chiu
Key Cast: Rebecca Calder, Max Wrottesley

C8: You receive ‘story by’ credit on the film. Where did the idea come from? 

RC: I had the idea for the film after finding an image of a girl with her head out of a car window. I took a photo of it with my phone as I loved it so much because of what it said to me – care free, freedom and a kind of live once attitude. Months later I found an image of a guy on the subway in New York the day after the WTC came down. He had his head in his hands and was underground so it felt like the opposite to the image of the girl who was free as effectively she was free to go wherever and he was locked in this endless cycle of an underground train system going nowhere really. The idea that these two people could have once been connected really resonated with me and so this became the starting point for the films story.

C8: How did you work with writer Ben Fogg to create the final script? 

RC: Ben was introduced to me via (my at the time production company) Stink who funded the film and wanted me to work with a screenwriter to develop the idea. I already had a solid idea of how the film was going to play out and the scenarios I wanted to include but Ben helped me to take the idea to another level, as I am by no means a screenwriter. He wrote a script, which we used to help cast the film and get potential investors on board. For example, the entire wardrobe was given to us by Preen and John Varvatos, which would not have been possible by just sharing my rough notes and visual ideas. When shooting I didn’t really stick to the script and had all the dialog improvised as I really wanted it to feel real in every single word spoken but the script was invaluable in terms of production and planning and even down to the shot list as we didn’t even have a storyboard for the film.

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

RC: We worked with Rose Wicksteed who is an awesome casting director from London. I gave her a brief for the type of people I was looking for, their appearance, their personality, etc. and then I let her do her thing. I really wanted the chemistry between the two of them to be perfect so that you believed they were or could be a real couple. There was a moment during filming when they begin kissing at the top of the stairs, which was pretty much spontaneous. You could really feel the energy between them at that point and I can remember looking at the DP Paul O’Callaghan at the time and smiling. Everyone felt it. It was a great moment and was exactly what I was looking and hoping for. The same can be said about the argument scenes, which were really intense.

C8: Did you set aside any time to rehearse before filming started? 

RC: Yeah, I invited both Rebecca and Max over to my flat a couple of times before we began shooting to talk with them about the idea and also so that they could interact with each other, share their ideas about the characters and generally just hang out and get to know each other. Its great when you can get time to do that which unfortunately with a lot of projects you don’t get a chance to do especially if you are shooting overseas or are on a tight budget. We also did a mini photo shoot with both of them so that we had images for the photo wall.

C8: What did you shoot on and what was the reasoning behind this choice? 

RC: We shot on the Red One MX. This was at the time a great camera to use so we were super happy to get it for next to nothing from a supplier (this is back in 2010). We used Zeiss Super speed lenses as they give the Red a look that takes the edge off of the digital side of things. I had already been shooting with these lenses on a number of projects so felt super comfortable with the image they gave.

C8: You also edited the film. Were there any scenes that you found difficult to cut or anything you didn’t include? 

RC: There were a couple of scenes that I cut out which I couldn’t make work in the film. We had a scene on the rooftop of the building where Rebecca loses her job which helped to explain why she was always at home. I regret leaving this out now but I really couldn’t make it work because of a number of reasons. The other scene that I left out was one where Max has won some award for his work and again they are on the rooftop supposedly to celebrate his success. I didn’t end up needing this scene as it was basically just repeating the themes that I had already established.

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

RC: I would spend more time considering the location. We had a very limited budget, and the options were reflected by this. Looking at it now I feel that the apartment feels like a typical music video location and it doesn’t have any character to it. This is the first thing I would change. I think the second would be to shoot it all on anamorphic lenses to give it a real look and on 35mm film. Of course this would be budget dependent but it’s something I would be willing to put my hand into my own pocket for.

C8: You’ve worked in commercials directing for clients such as Nike and EDF. What is the biggest difference, for you, between narrative and commercial filmmaking? 

RC: The biggest difference is clearly the budget for me but my approach to both formats is always the same. My commercial work nearly always begins from a narrative point of view. What are these people doing, why are they here, where are they going, how do they feel. Even if it isn’t as clear on screen as it is with a narrative film the background to all of the characters is something that I like to set in place for my commercial projects.

C8: You’ve also dabbled in music promos. What medium do you most prefer working in? 

RC: I just began in music promos since the beginning of this year and have found it to be really liberating. You can basically propose whatever idea you want and then if you are lucky to win it then you get a small budget to see out your idea. I love working in this medium purely for this reason. I get to try out new ideas and to try and push things a little bit further than what I would be able to do with a commercial where you have a lot of responsibility to the client and the agency. That’s not to say that you have no responsibility to the artist or record label but you are given a lot more freedom to experiment. They are nearly always open to this and is something they actively look for in a director.

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

RC: A good understanding of what you want to achieve and also what role you play. There is nothing worse than working with people where roles are not clearly defined.

C8: What is on the horizon for Rob Chiu? Any exciting projects lined up? 

RC: I’ve been working with Standard Films/Iconoclast in Paris a lot recently and am doing some exciting work for them. I just finished a commercial for Center Parcs which turned out really nice and I’ve just been confirmed on a great project for HSI who reps me in London. On a personal side I have a feature film project in the very early stages of development and I hope to be able to get that off the ground in the New Year!