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Midlands Spotlight - Interview with Tom Lee Rutter

By midlandsmovies, Feb 11 2015 02:00PM

After a piece about his upcoming acid-western-horror Stranger here, we follow up with a Q & A from the director/writer Tom Lee Rutter about how he goes about his projects as wellas his cinematic influences...

MM: Hi Tom, Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself...

TLR: I am an independent film-maker. I have shot and completed dozens of films both short and feature length along with countless music videos. I tend to always work with next to no budget if no budget at all. If it seems to take a lifetime to pull funds together to make a film, I just go ahead and start making it anyway!

MM: Are you a native of the Midlands?

TLR: Yes. Born in Wordsley, raised in Rowley Regis and Colley Gate (Black country all the way!) and moved to Kidderminster about 8 years ago.

MM: Great. How long have you worked in the industry?

TLR: From as early as I can remember my brother and I were picking up camcorders and making films. Back then they starred stuffed toys or action men. The stuffed toys were soon replaced with our friends and the film-making bug just stuck with us. As we grew so did our passions and techniques. Before we knew it I'd finished my first feature film; a shot on hi8 abomination called Full Moon Massacre. Horror is always the best place for a film-maker to begin. Its the only genre that can feature every other genre and gives the film-maker chance to explore all technical aspects of film in horror (SFX, lighting, camera trickery, etc). Plus it was always fun covering friends in fake blood. My talents would gradually mature. Over the years my ideals and philosophies on film would change and as a result so would my ideas and stories.

MM: So how did you get into your current position?

TLR: Through persisting in getting things done! Film is one of the most difficult outlets of creativity as it means involvement of so many other people. I probably wouldn't have pulled out so many hairs if I was a painter. It also takes a healthy dose of self belief, but not so much as to become deluded or ''blinded by own genius'' I am highly critical of my work, (my own worst critic in fact.) but you must believe in what you are doing. Then others will believe in it too.

MM: Do you (or the projects you choose) specialise in any genres?

TLR: I've ventured into pretty much all genres, but I do tend to lean towards the fantastical. I love merging genres too, to have traits of all kinds under one film. Horror is what I was brought up on, but have been focusing these days on applying a trance like fixation in my work to keep audience captivated in a hypnotic sense. (Kenneth Anger is a favourite) A lot of recent works have tended to be very psychedelic. With STRANGER there is a lot of that, but embedded in a narrative that people can (hopefully) follow.

MM: Given that, what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome on your films or productions?

TLR: Always finishing films! Due to my ever ambitious vision I always tend to bite into the apple and end up having to eat it all! STRANGER was supposed to be very minimal in story and execution. But as the project grew, it became necessary to expand it, thus obviously pushing the finishing line much further away. This has been a mixture of weather, conditions, acting availability and an onslaught of post-production we are gearing up to do battle with. Some of my earlier films have taken years to finish. No money may mean freedom, but also means a much longer road until you find yourself sitting with an audience and watching the finished thing.

MM: Can you explain to our readers about a typical day on one of your sets?

TLR: Get up, coffee if required, load cars with all the gear (prepared the night before) and if it is a long day then we will have beers during takes as nobody should be overworked even if we are working a long day. I'm rushing around with numerous things bouncing around in my head like a blue-arsed fly, and whoever is with us for that day of shooting all laugh and buzz from the thrill and unison of creating something. They will throw ideas at me for better angles or shots, or any other ideas that would work and we would try it though sometimes I'm so dead set on what is being played out in my head. I'm not one for storyboarding because sometimes we don't even know what the location is going to look like before filming (ha ha!) and compositions sort themselves out once actors are in place. Depending on the time the actors have had to learn lines or rehearse (which is hardly ever) we will shoot chunks in one take or go for smaller bits by bit accordingly. It's usually easier to point and shoot in fragments. We end the day with congratulatory drinks whilst watching the day’s rushes.

MM: Do you have any heroes in the industry?

TLR: Most of the film-makers I admire most are a thing of the past, I am a big fan of the old techniques employed into making films, and as I'm not a really one for being a techy-head don't embrace the HD revolution (or invasion) as much as other film-makers. I'd happily go back to shooting on VHS once I've established a couple of HD films, and am in the planning stages of shooting on super8. The compositions and directorial choices you see which can be highly exaggerated and overwrought from the likes of Ken Russell and others are also things you don't see in cinema today. I like films to be very eccentric and clearly from the minds of madmen!

I think closest to a mentor figure or ''hero'' would be Lloyd Kaufman of Troma films, a man who has never sold out and built an empire on unique low/no-budget works of gross-out art and stressed the DIY ethic which inspired me to no end. There are good directors working today on small budgets though. Ben Wheatley is an obvious one that springs to mind, he also loves the old skool.

MM: What has been your greatest achievement to date then?

TLR: Finishing all the films I have. Some looked like they'd never see completion but being a stubborn-sort, make sure they are finished in some way or other. Also holding the premieres where the cast and crew and other friends can gather and enjoy the film. I'm also proud of some of the exposure my films have had via the internet. One short has been used a couple of times over with added new scores or used for music videos from people in varying parts of the world. That’s pretty cool!

MM: And what would be your favourite (British films)?

TLR: Too many to mention! How about almost anything by Jodorowsky, Jan Svankmajer, Ken Russell, Peter Greenaway, Kenneth Anger, John Waters, Lloyd Kaufman, David Lynch, Emir Kusturica among so many great singular classics. UK-wise I like The Wicker man, The Devils, Performance, Drowning by numbers, The Cook, The Thief, his Wife and Her Lover, nearly all the Amicus portmanteaus, Bedazzled, The Holy Grail, Naked, Horror Hospital...I’m probably missing off some essentials but you get the idea!

MM: Finally, what’s up next for you and what advice would you give others thinking of following in your foot-steps?

TLR: I'm developing a documentary/mood piece exploring the ''Who put Bella in the wych elm - Hagley wood'' mystery. It is growing in popular interest and there have been many books and radio shows exploring it but never a filmic mood piece. It will be very eerie and folky. Advice? Probably that you shouldn't wait for the opportunities or fabled 'big break' but to get out there and just start doing it. With a homegrown talent you will just keep on learning and building on it and at some point somebody is going to want to join in on the fun with you. There are so many like-minded people out there and you'll know when you find the ideal collaborators!

MM: Thank you Tom, it’s been a pleasure.

Find out more about Tom’s new film STRANGER at the below links:

Official Website: http://strangermovie.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Strangerthefilm

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