Midlands Interview - Joe Roguszka
20th Century Tribe is an upcoming short film nostalgically looking at the 90s youth and rave culture in the UK and Midlands Movies Editor Mike Sales catches up with the progress of this exciting new Midlands film by speaking to the film's director Joe Roguszka.
Midlands Movies: Morning Joe. Can you tell our readers how your new film came about?
Joe Roguszka: I have fond memories of the 1990s from the perspective of a child. I feel it’s a time period that was vibrant and exciting atmospherically, stylistically and sociologically. For several years I have had a curious interest in the ‘90s rave scene, which has gradually grown over time until in the last twelve months it has become a fully-fledged obsession.
MM: And what inspired 20th Century Tribe?
JR: Well, I have an immense fascination and love for 90s rave music, the visual aesthetics, and for the feeling of non-judgemental unity that appears to have been significant in the ‘90s rave scene. As someone who loves to get lost in the trance of good techno music, loves to dance to that kind of music, I have a degree of admiration for the nightclub scene at that time, whereas to be brutally honest I feel that today’s nightclub scene is comparatively vapid and quite disappointing.
MM: And are you from the Midlands yourself?
JR: Yes. I was born in Derbyshire in the very early 1990s and have lived here my whole life. Since a very young age I have had a passionate love for cinema, for the amazing power it has to allow the viewer to temporarily escape their present situation, to become immersed in a world and a story completely separate from their own. Today I consider myself an avid lover of cinema, and an aspiring writer/director. I have a particularly keen interest in developing as a screenwriter and having recently graduated from Derby University with a degree in Film Production.
MM: What have the struggles of getting the production to completion so far?
JR: This is a challenging question, as the production has been so ambitious that there have been numerous difficulties. I think finding and securing suitable locations is always very challenging, and working at such a micro-budget level I have often had to make the best of locations with issues such as noise pollution or a likelihood of interference from members of the public. With this project being set in the 1990s as well, even some of the interior locations have been challenging. Usually interior locations allow more control, but we did have to be very eagle eyed for anything in the frame which was too new for the early 1990s period. Recruiting extras for the rave scenes was particularly difficult, especially considering the location was a drive away so we had to arrange transport as well. Securing permission to use licensed 1980s and 1990s rave music has been tremendously difficult. Ultimately however I think all these difficulties are the result of working with such a small budget, so as has always been the case with films I’ve worked on I believe the most difficult aspect has been securing financial backing and being able to work with the budget we have.
MM: So can you tell us a bit about the main characters?
JR: The protagonist is an eighteen-year-old girl named Heather, played by Becki Jones. She has just finished sixth form and is in a position of dilemma between rushing into university despite being unsure what she wants to do, or taking a gap year to learn more about herself and what she wants out of life. She’s quite a socially awkward person, and at the beginning of the film is still quite new to the rave scene, having only recently been befriended by the supporting characters. Katie is played by Charlotte King. She’s protective and sociable, having taken Heather under her wing so to speak and introduced her to the rave scene, simply due to an enthusiasm for meeting new people and making new friends. Dean Morris plays Hud, a boyish, high energy character who similar to Katie is very sociable and loves to make friends. Danny Patrick plays Brett, a morally ambiguous character whose energy is somewhat averse to that of the rave scene, in that he can be quite hostile to new people. Spence, played by Instinct Elkanah, is sort of Brett’s wingman although he’s much more good natured and is perhaps quite naive with regards to some of Brett’s concerning traits. Finally, Justine Moore plays Brett’s girlfriend Amber. She’s in a situation where she’s in a relationship with a guy who doesn’t treat her particularly well, but she stays with him due to low self-esteem and for the principle of being seen with an older guy.
MM: How did you come to cast the actors in these roles? What were you looking for?
JR: To be honest I did have a few actors in mind when I was writing the script, actors that I had worked with before who I felt worked well and that I felt I worked well with. There was one actor who I met by chance while I was writing the script, and I had an amazing experience where it felt like I had met my character, in that the actor was almost exactly as I had imagined the character from the way they spoke, to mannerisms, physical appearance and personality. I cast this actor in the proof of concept short which we shot in February/March, the idea being that this would serve as an audition for the role in the film itself. They were great in that, so I kept them in the role for the film. We held open auditions for all the other roles, and there were definitely cases where actors were not what I had initially envisioned when writing the role, but fit the role surprisingly well in the audition so that I was happy to cast them.
MM: And how much of your own experiences are in 20th Century Tribe?
JR: I had a sort of realisation at the beginning of this year, that certain characters I have written tend to be manifestations of different parts of myself. This is particularly true of the short film Collision that I wrote and directed last year and is too for 20th Century Tribe. In particular, I feel like the protagonist Heather is a manifestation of my shy, introvert self, and that Hud is a manifestation of my high energy, extrovert self which doesn’t come out very often. I think the place that Heather is in is a reflection of how I have felt for perhaps a few years now; unsure of what I’m really doing with my life, what I’m working towards, where I belong and with whom I belong, essentially looking for a sense of belonging. Meanwhile Hud is myself on the rare occasions that I’m carefree and comfortable in my surroundings. There are certain other characters where I’ve drawn influence from real people I have known, perhaps a little cheekily in some cases. Sometimes I make a point of remembering amazing dialogue, or incidents, that I witness or am a part of in real life, with the clear intention to use it in something I write. So there are moments in the film, whether dialogue or something else, which I have witnessed in real life.
MM: What are your favourite films?
JR: My favourite genres are actually dystopia and western, each of which I have a huge interest in and a huge appreciation for. Dystopia in particular I am kind of obsessed with so much that most of my written assessed work at university was on dystopian cinema. I like dystopias that explore the sociological consequences of disaster, or social or economic failure, The Warriors, A Clockwork Orange, Mad Max being my favourites, although I recently discovered and immensely loved the Aussie film Dead End Drive-In. I keep telling people about it hoping someone will watch it and love it as much as me
MM: Any music films?
JR: With regards to films about youth, music and partying, this is definitely another kind of film which I very much enjoy. I like ‘slice of life’ films that tell a relatively simple story, I find them very relatable and endearing. In particular I’m a big admirer of the works of Shane Meadows, particularly Dead Man’s Shoes and This Is England (film and tv). I think Rumble Fish, Dazed and Confused and American Honey are great films about youth culture, and I love the lesser known The Way Way Back. I also have a high opinion of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is my personal favourite of that particular breed of 1980s youth fiim. I do enjoy many films where a particular dance or music scene plays a significant part. One of my all time favourites is Boogie Nights, which I think is great fun, highly entertaining but also at times brutally real, ultimately evocative and endearing. Meanwhile I think British films like Spike Island, Northern Soul and of course Human Traffic are enjoyable explorations of their respective music scenes.
MM: What filmmakers inspire you and did that influence any creative decisions?
JR: I certainly think I’ve drawn influence from the works of Shane Meadows and from Andrea Arnold’s American Honey. I’m a big advocate of allowing actors a great deal of creative freedom. I encourage them to play around with dialogue and body language, as I want them to be able to feel very natural and very comfortable in their role. It’s very rare that I ask an actor to say something exactly as written in the script, as I feel allowing the actor such freedom encourages a more natural performance. I like the way Terrence Malick allows the audience a brief glimpse into characters’ thoughts using voice-over dialogue, which may have influenced some ideas I am playing around with regarding the rave scenes. One filmmaker whose work I find particularly inspires me to want to write and direct films is Stanley Kubrick. I find his films to be very immersive, psychologically fascinating, atmospherically enthralling and often visually stunning both in use of camera as well as costume and sets. I would love to create something as completely enthralling and unnerving as The Shining, a huge ambition I hope to work towards.
MM: So where and when can people see the finished film 20th Century Tribe?
JR: Well the film is currently in the first phase of editing. We have a small team of editors currently working on the rough cut, however they will be working on their degree alongside this so we don’t expect the edit to be finished until spring/summer 2019. We also have a few little scenes to film in September, so I’m currently working on preparing for that. The intention will be to enter the film into festivals, so where it will be shown is yet to be seen. From there it depends how the film does in the festival circuit really.
MM: And what’s next on the horizon for you?
JR: I will begin a masters in writing for the screen in September, so at the moment I do intend to work on my ability as a writer. I would like to write screenplays ideally for television and feature films, I currently have numerous ideas I’m working on so I’m really waiting to see which will emerge as my next project.
MM: And finally, do you have any advice for any local filmmakers looking to start their own project - either in front of or behind the camera?
JR: People who have their own equipment, particularly camera, sound and lighting, are essential. If you are a student in film or media and have access to equipment from the equipment centre, utilise it. Be prepared to spend your own money on your film, as you probably will have to, and if the budget is looking tight then only spend money where you absolutely need to. Many locations can be used for free or a very low price if you are honest, polite and friendly with location owners. Make a project that people want to be involved in, be sociable, friendly, enthusiastic and be confident about what you want to make. You have to have love and excitement for your project, otherwise no one else will.
Thank you Joe.
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