Interview with Lincoln Filmmaker Lewis Coates
Midlands Movies meets Lewis Coates, a filmmaker currently based in Lincoln who has just completed his most recent short film 'When Voices Unite' for Channel 4's 'Random Acts'.
Being filmed and edited in the Midlands, the short film has just been shortlisted for Danny Boyle's Shuffle Film Festival in London and editor Mike Sales chats to this rising filmmaking star.
Midlands Movies Mike: Hi Lewis. Hope you are well. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Lewis Coates: Well, I’m a 24 year old filmmaker and graduate of The University of Lincoln and I moved to the Midlands from down South a few years ago for University. I’ve been based here throughout my degree and for 3 more years working as a videographer and editor. I’ve written and directed a number of short films and creative projects whilst being here, but When Voices Unite is my first professionally funded and distributed film for this year’s season of Channel 4’s 'Random Acts’.
MMM: Great stuff. Did you get into filmmaking at all before University?
LC: I remember picking up my mum’s digital camera when I was very young and just started making videos with my friends. Stupid stuff - horror movies with fake blood, Jackass-stunts - the normal stuff kids do, I’d just want to film it all. By the time I’d finished education and got into Uni, I’d watched hundreds of great independent & foreign cinema, and really found my love for making it too!
MMM: And how did you get involved in Random Acts?
LC: I sent a script to Channel 4 back in January and they got back to me pretty quickly, asking if I’d like to direct it. The only problem, they wanted it complete by April ready for the next season of ‘Random Acts’ - so we actually went from first draft script to screen in less than a month! We filmed and edited in one weekend. The production team were very helpful getting most of the leg-work done, which allowed me to concentrate on perfecting the final script and assembling everything else for the shoot!
MMM: Wow! That timescale is very tight. Were there any more issues with the filmmaking process given that issue?
LC: There's quite a funny story actually - we found a great location, these big underground tunnels that used to be a disused nuclear bunker. We paid the owner to use them for the evening, but we’d been double-booked with a Ghost Tour. So at about 8pm we were interrupted by 50 ghost-hunters with torches and hiking gear, walking round doing seances. There were times where we were filming and we’d hear footsteps and “Hello…. Is anyone there…?” and we’d all freeze and wait for them to pass by. They probably all claimed they'd seen an undead film crew on multiple occasions! But this pushed our filmming back through the night and we ended up finishing around 4am!
MMM: The film covers a whole host of topical issues. How did this subject matter come to be of interest to you?
LC: The film includes social media, government surveillance, fake news - and with the current social climate being very volatile, there’s a lot of fear and emotion to play on; and technology & fears of the future are a good starting point that gives a lot of creative scope. Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’ does a similar thing where technology and social unrest plays a large factor in the narrative. I think if the audience can relate to the character or understand the emotions conveyed in the piece, they usually enjoy it more.
MMM: And have you made many films before this one?
LC: I’ve made a few self-funded student short films before, but When Voices Unite was my first professional short. My first was called ‘Pin’ about a crime scene cleaner that gets caught up in the criminal world, the second was ‘Synoptica’, a slight-futuristic drama about a couple that get interactive contact lenses, starring Nathalie Cox (Jumper, Kingdom of Heaven), which first ignited my interests in the ‘negative technology’ theme. Both films were for University, so had to be between 20-30mins, where I found that shorts for consumption online usually have more chance of success the shorter they are.
MMM: Coming back to your latest film, what are your plans for this project?
LC: ‘When Voices Unite’ is currently being distributed online via ‘Random Acts’ channels - there’s a chance it will be broadcast on Channel 4, but nothing confirmed just yet. It’s also doing a festival run from now until March; currently shortlisted at Danny Boyle’s ‘Shuffle Film Festival’ in London and hopefully more to be announced soon.
MMM: You mentioned Charlie Brooker earlier. Are there any other films or filmmakers whose work interests you?
LC: I watch a lot of foreign and independent cinema to really get a variety of filmmaking and storytelling techniques. I enjoy the work of Park Chan-Wook, Michael Haneke, Denis Villeneuve - but it’s hard to say which filmmakers directly influence my work, as it’s probably an organic culmination of many. I’m proud to represent the UK film industry, I love the work of Ben Wheatley, Charlie Brooker, Edgar Wright, but my favourite films of the last few years would be Victoria (Sebastian Schipper’s tense one-shot masterpiece), Moonlight (Barry Jenkins beautiful LGBT Oscar-winner) and Whiplash (Damian Chazelle’s enigmatic musical drama).
MMM: Thanks Lewis. And finally, do you have any films/filmmakers from the Midlands region our readers should check out?
LC: There's definitely not enough Midlands filmmakers out there! A few Ben Wheatley & Shane Meadows films are set here, but we really need to encourage the film industry to utilise this region of the UK more.
We couldn't agree more! Thanks to Lewis for his time and check out the film via YouTube below.