Interview with directors Toby Martin Hughes and James Shannon

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

There was no distinct moment when we decided to become filmmakers. It was rather a feeling of being inspired by striking or memorable characters growing up, and then that morphing into wanting to actively participate in that creative pursuit.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

We hear that there are advantages to being in that environment, such as being surrounded by like-minded people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds. It wasn’t the path we chose, because we believe in learning while making, failing fast and growing from those experiences.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Keeping going for sure! Both of us have had to stay focused on our goals and push ourselves to make our story as strong as possible and not settle.  

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

We write and direct together, so learning to be truly collaborative – without egos or individual feelings getting in the way of what is right for the story – was really important.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

On the afternoon of the day before shooting, our original DOP called to say he was ill. This meant we had to find another talented DOP and make sure they were the right fit for the project. Thankfully Natalja Safronova turned out to be our secret weapon and a wonderful addition to the team!

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of this film, at any stage in production?

There were a number of scenes which were beautifully shot, but unfortunately didn’t feed enough into the story. As it is a short film, we therefore needed to leave a lot on the cutting room floor – which was very difficult.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

We met through work and have been able to build out a great team quite organically. We support each other and have similar motivations behind our approach to storytelling. We do not live in the same city so we make sure we chat a lot, and try and meet at least once a month in person.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

There is no magic formula to creating something that audiences are guaranteed to love. However, we try and invite in as many voices as possible early on in our process, by getting those whose opinion we trust to give their feedback. 

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Festivals have really helped us reach a larger audience. We tend to see participating in festivals as not only a great opportunity to gauge reactions of our work, but also as a way of keeping up with what our peers in the film industry are working on.

  • 10. Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Learn the rules, then try and create your own.