We discuss crowdfunding, street-casting and representations of class in film with the talented young film-maker Aaron Dunleavy, writer and director of the highly recommended, gritty and sensitive short film, Throw Me to the Dogs (UK). Check out the short interview below:
A quick introduction to yourself and ‘Throw Me to the Dogs’.
As a northern lad growing up in Blackburn, I’ve always been interested in stories about small people in small towns. I went to London to study film at university, but moving away made me realise just how interesting my hometown really was, or more to the point, how many interesting characters lived there.
I travelled back to make a film inspired by my childhood, street casted, almost entirely improvised and made on a shoestring budget.
So the film is a crowd-funded project, something we are seeing indie filmmakers utilize more and more in raising funds for their films. Can you talk about the process of crowd-funding this film in particular, what kind of response did you have? What was the experience like?
Crowd-funding was definitely a life saver for us. As students, we are quite limited to the amount of funds available to us, so raising a budget was really really important. Most of the money in our case came from nagging friends and family to donate, and in total we raised around £900. It may seem like quite a lot of money, but in filmmaking terms it doesn’t go very far at all. I’d love to say how many elaborate props, special effects and costumes the budget covered, but the reality is that most of it went on feeding and transporting the cast and crew!
It’s definitely a worthwhile process though, and if nothing else it’s a great way to get the word out about your film. We were lucky enough to reach out to BAFTA nominated director Piers Thompson, who came on board with not only a generous amount of funding, but also lots of really useful advice.
How was the local community in Blackburn involved in the making of the film?
The film definitely felt like a really collaborative process with the local community. It was one of the great things about being in a small town – everyone wanted to help us!
I think sometimes it’s easy to become too dependant on budget
but as we had a limited amount of money we had to ask people for favours. Our credits feature quite a few people who helped us in various ways – our friend Pete from the local chip shop who fed us, the pub down the road who let us use their toilets and the old bloke who let us film in his house for a week.
We were all really amazed at just how many people wanted to get involved. The local newspaper and radio station put out a casting call and the response was overwhelming – our poor producer’s phone didn’t stop ringing! We auditioned as many kids as we could, and in the end found a really talented bunch. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to give them an opportunity to be in a film, and I’m sure they’ll remember it for a long time!
Without all of the support from local organisations, schools, councillors, businesses and people, the film wouldn’t have been made possible.
Can you discuss how the film handles representations of class?
It’s an interesting question, I haven’t thought about it too much but I guess it was just right for the film to take place in such social circumstances.
What was really important for us when making the film was to keep everything as genuine as possible; we didn’t want anything to be fabricated.
The locations were all real and as we found them, and we had to cast the right kids who would already have an understanding of the issues and themes explored in the story. As we were shooting without a script, the cast had lots of freedom in relation to how the scenes would unfold, and so it was really important that they could represent their characters in an honest way.
I think the most difficult thing for the characters portrayed in the film, who evidently are living in poverty, is that they’re in a world stripped of not only money, but aspiration. Because the characters all have much more at stake, and much less to lose, the themes of jealousy, neglect, ignorance and revenge are intensified. The film acknowledges how these issues can cause problems, and how dangerous the consequences can be in such environments.
Throw Me to the Dogs (UK) will be screened at No Gloss Film Festival 2015.