WINTERLONG is in selected UK Cinemas from 29th March 2019.
Britflcks talks with writer/director David Jackson (DJ) about his British drama WINTERLONG.
WINTERLONG celebrated its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018, where it was nominated for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film. It was also an official selection at the Dinard Film Festival 2018.
David Jackson tell us about WINTERLONG?
DJ) WINTERLONG is a coming-of-age story about a poacher living on the margins who’s forced to live with his estranged teenage son in a caravan through one long winter. In this case, it’s the father who has to grow up.
Q) Where did the idea for WINTERLONG come from?
DJ) WINTERLONG comes from a patchwork of influences, situations, events, encounters that all got woven slowly together during the long making process. Hastings and the surrounding semi-rural hinterlands played a part, as did my friendship with main actor Francis Magee. But what influenced me most was the simple fact of being a father and having a young family and all the day-to-day demands, frustrations, responsibilities that go with that. On the front page of the shooting script I put a quote from the American novelist David Vann: ‘A father, after all, is a lot for a thing tobe.’ I didn’t include it in the film because it’s too literary, but it seems to sum up in all its strangeness as a sentence the weight of what it means to be a father in the world. And I suppose I wanted to try and test that idea out in the script and the film.
Q) Do you have any personal experience of poaching?
DJ) No, not directly. But Francis Magee does, and he taught me how to skin and prepare a rabbit. I’m a dab hand with a knife (reviewers beware!) and I cook a great rabbit stew.
Q) How did you raise the budget?
DJ) This is the first question all filmmakers ask each other at the bar in film festivals. With difficulty, is the short answer. Making any kind of film isn’t cheap, but one way or another, mostly through sheer persistence, we made it happen. The finance, in the main, was stitched together in partnership with University of Bedfordshire where I was teaching at the time. We offered filmmaking students work placements on the film to enhance their professional experience and came up with a credible plan the university approved. It was great for them and great for us. The rest of the money came from private equity and crowdfunding.
Q) How did you cast WINTERLONG?
DJ) To begin with I had certain actors in mind when I wrote the script and that made the writing process much easier for me. I wrote it knowing that Francis, Carole and Doon would all be in the film.
Francis formed the character just by being himself in front of me. I just observed him being who he is and wrote it down. Obviously, I had to pull all those details together and weave them into the pattern of fiction, but what you see onscreen is true of the man himself. Carole Weyers, on the other
hand, has never sung in a band and doesn’t play an instrument. But that didn’t stop me enshrining her best qualities as a person and as an actor onscreen. The same goes for Doon, who I knew sang opera. And what was really rewarding creatively was to watch the relationships emerge between the actors during the shoot and for those relationships to become concrete through the editing. And I
had it in mind that my own son, Harper, would play the boy. So I wrote it for him too.
Q) From writing WINTERLONG to completion, was it a long process?
DJ) Yes. The script was written to second draft during a 6 month writers’ workshop with story editor Kate Leys and then was put in a drawer for a long period. During that time, I made a couple of shorts and finally found myself on the iFeatures scheme in 2014 with a project that got all the way through to the final stages of selection but didn’t make it into production. I was so despondent after that. But then I took another look at the WINTERLONG script and thought: you know what, this is really good. I’m making this one way or another. And here we are 6 years later.
Q) What were biggest obstacles you had to cross?
DJ) The obstacles are too many to list. And it all comes down to money – or the lack of it. If you have the money, you can have what you want. If you don’t, then your options are limited. That just becomes a reality you have to deal with at every stage. But I had a strong script I believed in, and because of that, I was able to persuade just enough people to come on board and work with me for the right creative reasons. I’m immensely grateful to everybody who said ‘Yes’; without them I’d still be lying on my bed dreaming this film.
Q) What are you most proud of about the film?
DJ) It’s been a rough road (when isn’t it?) but I can say I truly gave it my best at every turn in the journey. The finished film is a collaboration between a lot of talented people but the closing credits say written and directed by me, so I take full responsibility for what’s up there. It’s my baby and, like any parent, I love WINTERLONG unconditionally, flaws and all.
Q) WINTERLONG is your debut feature, what would you say is your biggest lesson learnt?
DJ) You do not have to wait for permission from the gatekeepers.
Q) Where can we see the film?
DJ) WINTERLONG opens on March 29th in London and selected cinemas around the country.
Q) Plans for a next film?
DJ) I keep thinking you could build a house for what it costs to make a low-budget feature film. A house is a lot more useful than a film. At least I could live in it.