‘The Rain Horse’ dir. Sebastian Godwin

A father takes his two young children on holiday to Wales, where they are attacked by a wild horse in the torrential rain. Adapted from Ted Hughes’ short story, The Rain Horse.

Year: 2008
Country: UK
Director: Sebastian Godwin
Writer: Ted Hughes (story), Sebastian Godwin
Producer: Hugo Godwin
Key Cast: Jason Isaacs, Aaran Thomas and Jodie Tomlinson

C8: When did you first decide you wanted to adapt this Ted Hughes short story into a short film?

I had read this story at school as a teenager and it always fascinated me. It was a story that intrigued, confused and moved me and I had always thought it would make for a great short film if, as indeed proved the case, a challenging one too.

C8: What were the main challenges during development?

The script was always going to be a challenge. It was a question of how to adapt such a visual and metaphorical story into a narrative short film. I was drawn to the ambiguity of the story but also struck by how difficult this would be to transfer to a short film. The challenge lay in trying to create a story where the horse would represent both a physical as well as a psychological threat.

C8: At what stage did you have to start talking to a horse wrangler, and how important were those conversations in determining how to prep the shoot?

Once the script had been written we immediately contacted an experienced horse wrangler and the conversations we had were crucial to how we approached the filming. We spent a huge amount of time trying to work out the logistics and in trying to solve seemingly impossible questions. How to move the horses? How many would be needed? How would the actors feel being so close? How much can a horse actually do? At a certain point, we had to plunge into quite a few unknowns as even the horse wranglers weren’t entirely sure just how far we could go. It was not, as I’m sure anyone can imagine, very easy.

C8:  The locations are stunning and so pivotal for setting the brooding atmosphere - where was the film shot?

The film was mainly shot in a forest in Surreycalled Bourne Wood. It is used a lot in films: Gladiator, Harry Potter…in fact almost all films with a forest seem to have been filmed there. It’s such a magical, otherworldly place and only five minutes from a mainline railway station. The house in the film was in Bedfordshire and we also shot a few establishing opening shots inNorth Wales. So the film is actually composed of quite a few different locations which is pretty unusual for a short film.

C8: Jason Isaacs gives a superb performance, as you might expect. How much previous experience had you had working with high profile cast?

Jason Isaacs was an absolute legend and such a delight to work with. He was so down to earth, approachable and keen to dive into the mud and rain, so it was quite easy to forget just how big a star he is. I hadn’t had a huge amount of experience working with such a high-profile actor but he made it feel extremely easy and incredibly rewarding.

C8: The old adage is ‘never work with children or animals’ – would you agree with that having made a film that is dependent on both, or does it all work out ok if you handle it right?

I think this is a great question and I’m still not sure I have the answer. The horses were particularly difficult. To give one example, one time we were hoping the horse, once released, would run in a particular direction. The horse wrangler let go and the horse bolted in completely the opposite direction and it took half a day for them to retrieve it. So I think, in hindsight, it definitely depends on what your expectations are!

C8: What’s next on the horizon for Sebastian Godwin?

I am working on my debut feature film which we are planning to shoot this summer. It’s an adaptation of an American novel and I’m really excited about it. It should be a lot more straightforward than The Rain Horse. Here’s hoping.