Slightly different from our usual reviews of superhero movies and mega blockbusters, we’ve been giving the opportunity to review a small-budget indie comedy. Just before, however, we got a chance to chat with the writer and director of A Dozen Summers, Kenton Hall. A Dozen Summers follows the trials and tribulations of two 12-year-old twin sisters as they hijack a film and continue their lives. Kenton was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the making of A Dozen Summers.
What originally inspired you to come up with the idea for A Dozen Summers?
Making a movie, any movie, requires an enormous commitment of time and energy and to poverty and somewhat elastic sanity, so it needs to be an idea about which you’re passionate. As the film bears out, I have two daughters. They were nearly twelve when I started work on the film, and thirteen now. And in doing my best to navigate the often choppy waters of parenthood, I saw – and remembered – something. Twelve is a weird age. You’re not a kid anymore, you’re not a teenager yet. You take yourself seriously, but no one else seems to. It’s hard. And, also as a parent, I’ve been dragged to endless, horrible children’s films – that treat kids like idiots and don’t think about the adults in the audience at all. Even the good ones tend towards either pure escapism for the kids, or, for the adults, films warning you that all pre-teens are on drugs and as likely to steal your wallet as anything. I felt I needed to attempt to make something funny that spoke to just being 12, being in the moment of it. That’s where it started, certainly. The style of it came out the awareness that, in a media-drenched world, kids do, at least in the first instance, tend to experience the wider world – and how they relate to it – through film and television.
Of course, it’s a comedy, so all of that had to be played lightly, for the most part.
The film features a large cast of young actors. Does this present itself more challenges to the process of making a film?
It does. Of course, it does. But I think it focusses you as a director, there’s no room to be complacent. Because you’re responsible not only for getting the film in the can, but guiding young and, in some cases, first-time film actors to performances of which they can be proud. And making sure it’s a fun, creative environment. Most importantly, ensuring they are all safe, happy and well. So, it’s a huge responsibility, but the rewards of seeing young performers take the script and run with it, without side or attitude, more than compensates for any extra stress.
You wrote, directed and appeared in the film, as well as writing some of the music. Which is your favourite part of the filmmaking process?
Finishing it? Seriously, I think this, now, is my favourite part. Neil Hannon once sang, “A song is not a song until it’s listened to” and I feel the same way about film. I’m enjoying engaging, first with writers and, soon (I hope), with audiences about they thought, what they experienced, where they laughed. Post-production is an anti-social process. I still find direct sunlight confusing. In terms of production, I think of myself as a writer first and I enjoy the point at which everything seems possible, you don’t have to think about the budget and, in your head, it’s all perfect. But then, watching actors bring it to life is an incredible experience. Am I allowed to say that I loved and was exhausted by almost every part simultaneously? Because that’s closest to the truth.
The film is made up of various fantasy sequences. What was the most fun to shoot, and which was the most challenging?
I think the most fun we had was the heist scene with the kids and Ewen MacIntosh. They were all so excited and full of ideas. There’s at least one physical gag in that scene that the kids wrote on set. And they loved Ewen, who was a joy to work with.
The most challenging were the scenes in which the girls jump into their own past. Two long and important scenes, set outdoors in a large field. We had very little time in which to shoot them and, for some reason, we were unable to convince the entire world to stop revolving while we filmed. So, we, genuinely, broke down the set and moved it down the field between set-ups, to keep the sun in the same relative place for longer. That was definitely a day when you knew you were making an indie film.
How did Colin Baker come to be involved in the project?
First of all, I am a huge fan of Colin’s, not just as The Doctor, but across his stage and screen work. He has a rare capacity to bring gravitas and humour to his performances that I knew we needed for The Narrator. He had to be able to turn the whole thing on a dime and, as a fan, he was top of my wishlist. And, quite by accident, I was helping out on the set of a short film called Finding Richard by Rhys Davies, in which Colin was starring. We struck up a conversation, I sent the script to his agent and on, what I will always remember as a very good day, he agreed to do the film.
He is, as the saying goes, a gentleman and a scholar. And it’s been particularly gratifying to see how well his performance has been received. Because, frankly, he should be in everything.
A Dozen Summers is expected for limited release in the UK on 21st August 2015.
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