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Midlands Spotlight - Interview with Keith Allott

By midlandsmovies, Jun 13 2015 08:23AM

A few weeks ago I caught up with Keith Allott, filmmaker at Badshoes Film and tutor at Leicester’s Pauline Quirke Academy. Midlands Movies featured Keith’s film “Flawless” 18 months ago and he brings us to date on the progress of that film as well as his upcoming projects to come.

Hi Keith. How are you and what are you up to right now?

Hi there. I’m doing quite a lot at the moment both personally and with helping others to get their films together. Firstly, we’re finally coming towards the end of the festival run for “Flawless” which has seen us being showcased at eighteen different festivals. This has been a fantastic response.

Have we hit the peak of the film’s run then?

Well, it’s been a brilliant journey. Originally I spoke to the young actress Jess O’Brien from the Pauline Quirke Academy as we started the film. Just a few weeks before we began she was really keen on being involved and I could see straight away that she had the right attitude and ability. I said I had a script and asked if she I could look at it and the rest has been a complete success. We’re still awaiting a few more festivals and although you can be quite strategic by getting a distributor involved, we decided to look after it ourselves.

And what’s up next after Flawless ends?

Well, one project I’ve got underway is a short called “Walnuts” with comedian Ian Hall. We’ve already completed filming the outdoor bits in the Peak District, which looked great as it was snowy, and now we just have to do the interiors.

Did you write this one?

Local writer Jim Worrad wrote the interior sections which cover a strange tale about a man frightened of his rug (!) and Ian wrote the comedic outdoor scenes as that was his forte.

Wow, you’ve got a lot on then?

As well as those I also hope to submit a film for Leicester’s Short Cinema showcase before the 24th July cut-off point. And...I have been working with Jim and writers Lucy Wade and Alison Dunne on the early stages of a feature to start production next spring. We’ve finalised the timeline for the characters and it does not have a title yet but it’s a bit of a road movie. So we don’t just refer it to ‘our next film’ we’ve given it a production title of “Odyssey” as it’s about a journey but I’m not getting attached to it!

What’s this film about?

The themes are about going from civilisation to wilderness which plays on the benefit of living in Leicester where we are lucky enough to have both great urban and country locations to use. We hope to begin shooting in April and all through the summer next year and would like to cast around autumn 2015. Like all indie films we’ve taken a limited budget into consideration but it’s mainly a character piece.

Sometimes those budget constraints can make people more creative as they think around problems?

I agree. There’s sometimes an obsession with ‘look’ which bleeds into independent films and people forget about the story and the performances. It’s all well and good having nice looking shots and great grading but there needs to be a good story behind that. The necessity of it can make you more creative and being a director myself, it can be difficult as it’s the director who says now let’s move on, yet it is the actors who get grief for it. A bad performance can often be the director’s fault but we’ll make the best film we can on the money available.

As a director, how do you approach your shoots?

I’m technical minded and do a lot of preparation and get the crew together to ensure everyone knows what they are doing so we only have to tweak on set. Communication is key to success as well. When I was shooting a video for fellow Leicester filmmaker Lucy Peel she explained clearly how she worked and that was to go with the flow and ask me on set to go get a shot. She kept communicating and was very clear but it was really enjoyable. There should be no illusions no matter what style you prefer, whether you like a lot of control or go for a more fluid style.

Your other role is at the PQA. How is that going?

Last year the PQA got Urban Legends into the Empire Cinema Festival and they also won the best film in the Under 12s category at the Into Film Awards at the Empire Cinema, so things are going well. They are a hugely talented, creative and dedicated bunch across all the ages.

We spoke to Jordan Handford recently who also had similar views on developing talent...

Yes, assisting young people to achieve their goals is very important to me. At only 12 years old, some have now had the experience of being in London accepting a prestigious award. The PQA recently celebrated its 4th birthday and it's going from strength to strength.

And how do they react to it?

Well, one student Ellesha has a contact at BAFTA now and is working closely with Into Film to develop her as a filmmaker while she studies for her degree in film. Others such as Ryan Price, James Allen and Courtney King are writing their own scripts to make their own films. In fact Jess from Flawless just finished making her first

How did she handle the director duties?

I was definitely directed by her! She was very professional throughout. We next hope to get Jess’ film onto Indiegogo to secure funding for a premiere screening at The Phoenix.

And what skills would you say a good director needs?

Whether it be PQA or Leicester’s Seven-Five film group, I encourage everyone to get a good knowledge of everything – give it a go and find the thing that you’re best at and enjoy, and then focus on a particular part after. A good director should be sympathetic to any position within the making of the film.

What advice would you give to first time directors?

People need to know it’s not all premieres and red carpets so it’s great to see young people getting stuck into the intricacies of it all. It shows the hard work needed to succeed and we try to embed that ethic in those interested in getting into the industry. There are many different ways of becoming a filmmaker and some people choose to be runners but for me it was about making things that I like. I don’t want to be tied to any contracts to make something I am not interested in.

Do you see a lot of those around at the moment?

Oh yes. Lots and lots which is great! If I can return to “Flawless” for a moment we found out that Jess’ mum was also very talented filmmaker herself. She’s a brilliant writer and her and her daughter made a formidable filmmaking team!

It’s a hot topic at the moment with the feminist arguments about Mad Max?

In Emma's film coming up, we shot it with various mirrors in order to cut parts of the body out for the female character in order to steer away from the typical sexualisation of the female body or just being a “pair of legs”. We tried to subvert the traditional ways of shooting someone in order for them to gain a power transition in the film. For Jess’ film there were no traditional boy & girl roles as they all worked as part of a cohesive team together. That was really refreshing to watch and they were professional throughout knowing they were there to make a film but enjoyed themselves at the same time.

Finally, what is left for the busy Keith Allott to tackle?

Funnily enough I am doing a presentation at Seven-Five tonight. We have a section called “The Film I Love” and I’ve chosen Raiders of the Lost Ark. I will be talking about where it came from, what works about it, the story behind it but also relating it back to the first time I had a passion for film.

Thanks for your time Keith and Midlands Movies wishes you all the best for your (many) upcoming film projects.

Follow Keith on Twitter - https://twitter.com/badshoes7

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