‘The Hive’ dir. Ed Lilly

Lewis needs to get himself and weaker younger brother Jake out of the back of their van before another winter bites. He plans a dawn raid to steal a stack of beehives, so they can finally get their dream caravan. However, the bee-keeper, already hit twice, has other ideas.

Country: UK
Director: Ed Lilly
Writer: Andy Walker
Producer: Lauren Tomlinson
DOP: Adrian Peckitt

C8: How did you come across Andy Walker’s script, and at what made you to decide to direct ‘The Hive’?

EL: For me, it was less of a decision and more of a privilege to work on such a cool script. The great thing about THE HIVE was that I was able to develop the script with Andy right from the initial concept. Andy was actually one of my tutors at University so we already knew each other a bit and I was already working with Vision+Media on a shorter film when they announced their Digital Shorts scheme. I emailed Andy to see if he had any good ideas and luckily he came back saying he’d seen an article about beehive thefts and thought it would make a great short. It grabbed me immediately; I don’t think we even talked about any other ideas. Thankfully Will Massa commissioned it too, though a few months later he told me it was a close call!

C8: The look of the film adds to the bleak tone of ‘The Hive’. How did you work with cinematographer Adrian Peckitt to find the right look for the film?

EL: We knew we were shooting in July, so our initial thoughts for the look of the film were a bit different. We were imagining golden crops, sun and a fair bit of flare – something a bit more uplifting. But as the script developed and we started to realise that we weren’t going to get any decent weather, we started thinking about other options. We did a test shoot once we secured the location, which was good. We shot the film on Red (which was all the rave back then) and Aidy did the grade too, which helped keep a consistent tone and style. Lots of people comment on the look, Aidy’s done a great job and I definitely think it adds to the story.

C8: The film features some great performances. How did you go about casting the film?

EL: We did a big casting process because we knew that the film rested on the performances and relationship between the two brothers. I made the decision early on that I wanted to see actors and ‘non-actors’ for the role, then myself and Producer extraordinaire Lauren Tomlinson went into a number of schools and drama classes and invited the lads to our own workshops. I think we must have seen around 300 young actors in total. Our workshops were based around improvisation and were designed to look at the actors dynamic with one another, rather than just searching for the best actors. Thankfully we found John and Calam who were just great to work with. There’s a short casting video here actually http://vimeo.com/31211288

C8: The dynamic between the brothers is very believable. How did you rehearse and work with John Weaver and Calam Williamson to get the performances you wanted?

EL: We never rehearsed scenes from the film. I often feel scene rehearsal is counter-productive because actors can get trapped in playing scenes the same way – good actors need the freedom and confidence to just go with it and rely on their instincts. Some of the best performances come from the moments you weren’t anticipating. All the improvisation through the casting process was geared around similar themes in the film – crime and brotherly relationships etc. By the time we’d decided on John and Calam, they’d already worked with each other a fair bit so the three of us just went for lunch and we talked about the script and the characters and did exercises like answering questions based on what the characters would say. I just wanted to start getting them thinking like Lewis and Jake. John had some acting experience but Calam was a complete newbie. I think his innocence and naturally relaxed attitude definitely made creating a believable brother dynamic easier for everyone.

C8: They say never work with animals. What was it like shooting bees? Did the crew have to suit up as well?

EL: Ha. Yep, the crew suited up for some scenes. We worked closely with Manchester Beekeepers Association who were really helpful with their time and resources. Ian Molyneux is one of the countries top beekeepers and he was always on hand to advise us on what we could do and what was realistic etc. And actually, the bees in well-kept hives are actually very passive, to the point where Ian actually allowed us to drop a ‘live’ hive. I think all of us became pretty fond of the bees.

C8: There are many subtle elements to ‘The Hive’ such as the fact that Lewis cannot read. Were you worried that these might be lost on the viewer?

EL: Different watchers will always pick up on different parts of the film. As a Director, it’s always about finding the balance on how much information to give an audience. You don’t want to force feed them because part of the fun and intrigue comes from filling in the gaps. But also, you don’t want to hold too much back because then an audience will become bored or confused. In previous drafts of the script, Lewis’ illiteracy and the brothers’ back-story was a bigger part of the film but as you develop the script, shoot and edit you start to streamline. So no, I was never worried about things being lost on an audience – that’s all part of the fun for them.

C8: What were the biggest challenges during production?

EL: Probably the fact it rained constantly for four days! We were all camping in a nearby field and on the first night our actor’s tent flooded. We fell very behind on the schedule pretty early on but everyone did a great job in keeping morale up in pretty difficult conditions.

C8: Are there any filmmakers that have inspired your work?

EL: I’ve followed short filmmakers like Tom Harper and Duane Hopkins. I remember watching CUBS for the first time before it won the BAFTA and just being desperate to make a film like that. That film was also made on Digital Shorts, so luckily I was given the chance to have a crack myself. I also have a number of friends like Dave Schofield and Lewis Metcalfe who have made some great shorts – I remember watching both their graduate films (FIGHT and RYAN) and being amazed at the quality they were achieving as students. I often feel most inspired by filmmakers that are relevant and close to what I’d like to achieve.

C8: What was it like working with Brian Percival who mentored you during production of ‘The Hive’?

EL: Yep – really good, Brian was a great help. I was already a fan of his since watching his short ABOUT A GIRL, so I was really excited about meeting him. When we got together to chat, he’d just finished shooting A BOY CALLED DAD, so he understood what we were trying to achieve with the male family relationship aspect of the THE HIVE. Once we sent him the finished film he was very positive too. And then he landed DOWNTON ABBEY and things have skyrocketed for him I think!

C8: If you did the whole thing again is there anything you would change?

EL: The whole process was a really positive one! So no, I don’t think so. Perhaps I would have liked the film to have had a better festival run. But I like to move on quickly from projects, whether it be a short or a music video. I’m not one of these directors who will do their own cuts or faff about too much with different grades etc. THE HIVE is what it is and luckily it went down well with the people it needed to.

C8: What is the essence of a good collaboration?

EL: Trust. Friendship. Hard work. And everyone working towards the same thing.

C8: What’s next for Ed Lilly? Any plans for the future?

EL: My first theatre show INSIDE is heading to Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. I’ve just shot a music video for Frank Turner, which is being released very soon. And I have a TV project (with Andy, the writer of THE HIVE and a friend called Nirpal Bhogal) which is moving in the right direction.

Watch the Making Of ‘The Hive’ here: http://vimeo.com/31203458