An Interview with Will Thomas Freeman
Director and Writer of The Mushroom Picker's Daughter What are your film making roots? I’m the only child of two artists. I grew up in an art studio surrounded by creative types - it was a bohemian upbringing to say the least. This rubbed off on me and led to my desire to communicate what I’ve seen to those who’s lives, from the outside, looked so incredibly dull in comparison. To capture my first days my parents bought a VHS camcorder. It remained untouched until I discovered it six years later. I used my model soldiers as my first actors and then started persuading my friends to feature in my films. My early work required obscene amounts of fake blood, flammable liquids and whatever knives I steal from the kitchen - my mother must have been quite terrified. What's the most satisfying crew position for you? Is it the camera, writing or directing? On my previous sets I have taken on every role apart from sound recordist. However I have a great assistant director, Victor Negrea, which makes life a lot easier. I’m a director first and foremost but it is my belief that a director who cannot frame a shot, light it, shoot it and edit it afterwards is a weak excuse for a filmmaker. On The Mushroom Picker’s Daughter - The Prequel I have been working with a Director of Photography (Oskar Kudlacik) for the first time - it’s working well so far, we are on the same page and speak the same visual language. He will be shooting the full feature with me. How and why did you end up in Czech Republic? I won a scholarship to Prague Film School. I woke up in the taxi from the airport just as it was crossing the Vltava and I fell instantly in love with Prague - I’ve been here five years now. Are you familiar with professional Czech-produced films and what's your view on them? Is there anything you think they're lacking or actually doing better than others? I can’t speak with authority on the subject. I watched Jan Švankmajer’s Alice when I was younger - it was very disturbing but the imagery stuck so it obviously did something for me. I think Czech films are to the world what English food is. I think that English cuisine is delicious, varied and one of the best in the world but it would seem the world disagrees and I do not understand why. Do you ever co-operate with Czech film makers, be it crew or actors? If so, do you see any differences from the foreign crew members? As I have said previously about the crew - through lack of funds I have never really had the chance to co-operate. It’s always been me, my sound guy, AD and actors on set. I see this approach changing with my next film due to the sheer logistics of it all but it’s become a habit and also essential due to my lack of budget. I have worked with Czech actors who are often more accommodating and less self-regarding than “ Western Europeans” although I have also worked with some lovely British actors including a fantastic Englishman (Edward Cartwright) on the prequel. What do you think could be improved in the world of independent film making? Or do you feel that the environment's right and it's just all about the people and their determination? Less people doing it would work well for me ! No, there should be more investment but not just as charity or for politically correct cases. Often money is only available if you fit in a “disadvantaged category”. There’s seems to be no money available just for good stories - just simply that. There always has to be an additional hoop to jump through. No one is just funding money for good films to be made - there always has to be a separate agenda. What I would love to see is, instead one of these 200 million dollar films being made, the studios giving say 2-5 million to 40-100 upcoming filmmakers and see what comes up. Who knows - maybe it would be more profitable even if 90 percent of these films “fail”? How, as an independent film maker, do you promote your films and yourself? Do you attend festivals or belong to film making societies? What would you recommend as the best way to be seen in this day and age? I’m very bad at it. Film festivals are just too expensive to enter and the odds are stacked against you unless you have an entry or connections. I don’t believe that they watch every film submitted (if you do the maths there just isn’t time) and I have no idea how they remember everything they’ve seen or the process of judgement. It all seems very suspect to me. I have been featured in a few festivals but I have rarely attended - mainly because international travel is so expensive. I don't belong to any societies. The best way to be seen? When you find out please tell me. I know connections help. And money. Can you reveal some insight into the production of your last film Snow Angel? What actually inspired the creation and the story of this film? I’ve always preferred the company of women over men. The majority of my friends are female, I am just not a guy’s guy. You could even say that I’m a feminist filmmaker - my leads are almost always female and are all empowered and strong characters. I have been interested in the idea of “Beauty as currency” for a while now and Snow Angel was a way of me exploring this idea. I watched the fantastic documentary Girl Model and that really struck a chord with me. Sex trafficking is such a huge problem today but no one really talks about it. The mix of all these things led to Snow Angel. What was the budget, how long did the shooting take and what challenges did you have to overcome? The budget was £2500. We shot for ten days but this included a lot of travelling (Prague to North Sweden). Challenges? It was cold and snowy and there weren’t many daylight hours in Sweden. Juggling so many roles is always a challenge but was necessary to stay on budget and time. It was a stressful shoot, it was isolating. How did you approach the camera, lighting and sound during shooting? Did each aspect have its own crew member or did any positions overlap? There was me, a sound recordist and the actors. For the Prague shoot we had an AD as well. What about The Mushroom Picker’s Daughter, The Prequel? I’ve been writing and doing the pre-production work for The Mushroom Picker’s Daughter over the last three years. I realised though that my only way to have a chance of making it would be to shoot a teaser. I didn’t want to shoot any material from the actual script so I wrote a short film based before the events of the feature. Last year I used the last scraps of my savings and combined it with a generous investment from a supporter I am forever indebted to, to shoot this teaser. This prequel is available to watch free online at www.dantalionfilms.com. There’s not much else to say at this moment in time, but the script is written, I’ve found some talented cast and crew and I’m just hunting for the rest of the money to get it made. What obstacles are you expecting for this project and what would you like to see improved in the Czech indie environment? Money mainly. I can overcome most obstacles placed in the way but finances is always a difficult one. It certainly wouldn't be possible to shoot what I want to shoot in the UK but here I think it is financially viable. An independent film is an independent film - I don’t see CZ putting any obstacles in the way. There are fewer obstacles in every aspect of life here than back home in the UK. I won’t know what improvements the environment needs until I’ve completed the film. Are there any film making websites you would recommend, regardless of language? Stephen Follows is my go to filmmaking blog.