My latest film, Grace, is now available to view online. It is a drama about a radio DJ who gets a worrying phone call from his past.
Grace takes place principally in one location. While writing the script I was inspired by films such as Sleuth (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1972) and Tape (Richard Linklater, 2001) as well as Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994). Sleuth and Tape were originally written for the stage before being adapted for the screen, and I began to imagine Grace as a filmed play. Certainly, there is a lack of action and externalisation of emotion that characterises much fiction filmmaking. The challenge when bringing the script to the screen was in maximising the location, and visualising what was a very interior story. There were limited chances to create wide open vistas, and so I began to use the claustrophobia as an advantage. There are lots of close ups. In fact, the centerpiece of the film is a tight close up that lasts approximately twelve uninterrupted minutes. The visual design had to mirror the claustrophobia of both the setting and the story. The construction of the film is a continual process of opening out and closing in. We begin very wide, it ends very close, and in between the viewer is trapped in one place, looking at one man.
I also made the decision to shoot in black and white. The film was shot that way in camera, rather than being a later decision. There was no option to switch back to colour once we had started. Like many (most?) filmmaking decisions, to use black and white was a combination of art and logistics. So, while black and white is perfect for Grace because the film is about memory, it was also motivated as much from the fact that monochrome cures a lot of visual problems. I knew that with black and white I didn’t have to worry about poor costume choices, make up decisions, or even horrible green exit signs and fire extinguishers in the back ground. Black and white kills all the horrible colour that pervade modern rooms. By shooting black and white I was reaching into the bag of no-budget filmmaking tricks.
My directing style would be best be described as intuitive. While I always go in prepared and with a plan, I am also liable to follow my gut feeling and intuition while on set. Again, this is necessary when shooting very quickly and with no budget. Because things don’t go always as planned I have learnt to be responsive to situations, and am quite comfortable with some of the messy results. I don’t always make the correct decisions, but this approach meant that the film could be shot within four days. Schedules, and the (virtually non-existent) budget, would not allow for any more.
Grace is available to view on You Tube or Vimeo below.
“Grace is Newton’s best film to date. As well as revealing the filmmaker’s gifted eye for shot composition, Grace offers a tense narrative which, in combination with the film’s claustrophobic setting, makes for compelling viewing from start to finish.” Chris Pallant, author of ‘Storyboarding: A Critical History’.