New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival 2015: Interview with film-maker of Arthur Sleep

Arthur Sleep filmThis week sees the second half of this year’s New Cross & Deptford Film Festival, which runs until 3 May 2015. Returning to South East London for its fourth year, the festival aims to give locals access to classic films and rising talent through free screenings across the two areas.

One piece showing this week is Arthur Sleep, a modern Gothic romance by local film-maker Sam Harris. Having debuted at the festival last year, this year sees a screening of the film accompanied by a full live score. Described as ‘a broken romance in three parts’, Arthur Sleep re-tells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice as Arthur Sleep {somnambulist} journeys into The Underworld to bargain for the return of his lost love, Rose Walker {a ghost} from Sam Hell {proprietor}.

Ahead of Thursday’s screening, I had a chat with Sam to see what inspires him and the story behind the film.

Q) Where did the idea for Arthur Sleep come from?

A) The film actually started with an album of songs I had written and recorded. Having played in bands for many years, I was keen to present them in a less-traditional way that didn’t necessarily conform to the standard ‘guys with guitars’ format, instead being more three-dimensional and immersive. Many people had commented on the songs’ strong cinematic feel, “like music to a film that was never made” which in turn led me to wonder what this ‘film’ might actually look like… It’s accepted practice for music to be written for film but rarely the other way around, and it seemed an intriguing challenge for a musician to be making a film inspired by their songs.

The name ‘Arthur Sleep’ floated into my head, suggesting a character that I might base script ideas around. Referring to the well-worn lyrical themes in the songs (boy meets girl, girl leaves boy etc), it was clear that a strong narrative would be vital so I began researching ‘universal myths’ (the idea that there are really only a handful of stories in existence, continually retold), remembering the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld. This seemed like it might be a close fit for a heart-broken protagonist, and gave the script its narrative framework.

Q) Which films or film-makers inspire you?

A) My biggest influences on Arthur Sleep undoubtedly come from the German Expressionist era of the 1920s and ’30s — films such as Vampyr, Das Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The Phantom Carriage, as well as the numerous films of F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang. These films still have incredible resonance and power, being as fresh and relevant almost a century after they were conceived – and from a more practical perspective, I reasoned that if my film was ‘silent’ (i.e. dialogue-free), it would make the combination of songs and film far easier. I was also inspired by more modern directors such as David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Roman Polanski and Werner Herzog, film-makers in no rush to explain their films.

Q) What was the biggest challenge of making the movie?

A) My ambition for the look and feel of Arthur Sleep – having shot the majority of the film over four days on a shoe-string budget necessitated a vast amount of post-production, a process which took almost two years: editing, colour grading, rotoscoping backgrounds from behind actors (a job I wouldn’t wish on my enemies!), replacing skies, adding details, etc. This has given me a renewed and enormous respect for the amount of labour and expertise that goes into making any film.

Q) Watching a film with a live score is quite an unusual cinematic experience, what do you hope it will bring to the film?

A) My aim has always been to present an immersive audience experience with the combination of film and live music, an alternative to the slightly more passive viewing of a ‘finished’ film. In performing the score live, I hope that we bring an energy and spontaneity to the audience experience, the sound being made by the people in front of you and each show being slightly different – it’s an attempt to combine as I see it the best elements of film and live music. For the performance on Thursday we are going to be introducing the film with the songs for the first time, so it’ll be interesting to see what this combination brings to the audience.

Arthur Sleep – trailer from Arthur Sleep on Vimeo.

  • Arthur Sleep will be screened for the first time with a live score on Thursday 30 April 2015. Door open at 7pm, DJ Dom Tuck 7.30pm, Arthur Sleep 8.15pm at St James Hatcham Church (Goldsmiths), St JamesNew Cross, SE14 6AD. Nearest station: New Cross or New Cross Gate. To register for a free ticket, visit the Eventbrite link, although some tickets may be available on the door on the night.
  • For more information on the New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival, visit their official website here.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

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About LondonMetroGirl

Media professional who was born, brought up and now works in London. My blog is a guide to London - what's on, festivals, history, restaurant reviews and attractions, as well as the odd travel piece. All images on my blog are © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl, unless otherwise specified. Do not use without seeking permission first.

Posted on 29 April 2015, in Entertainment, Festivals, film, London and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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