London filmmaker Daniel Wilson has a killer sense of humour. His two most successful short films, Daddy’s Little Helper and Section 44 are both highly stylised narratives that begin as drama’s then catch you off guard with a sharp twist that leaves you chuckling and wincing simultaneously.
This week the British Film Council fly Wilson out to New York to watch his film Section 44 show at the Tribeca Film Festival. Now considered to be the Sundance of the East Coast, Section 44 is one of two UK short's chosen for this year’s Tribeca.
“I think comedic short films have a harder time getting into film festivals in Europe than in the USA. While Daddy’s Little Helper was in over 40 film festivals’ internationally it’s a sympathetic film- you feel for the characters. Whereas Section 44, depending on your personality type, you might feel a little awkward about laughing at it!”
Section 44: the inspiration
“I have worked on documentaries and programmes filming people who have been interrogated, tortured, raped, and mutilated, from Rwanda to Burma, they have been subject to the most intense suffering. It made me ask the question- how would I deal with a situation like that. I had to admit I probably wouldn’t do very well, if they took away my mobile phone I ‘d probably tell all. I’m very lucky because my own deficiency’s amuse me!”
“I like proper looking films, its slick, dare I say it, “Hollywood.” The opening shot which pans out from the street, if that was a commercial would have cost £28000 but cost me £650, that’s called being resourceful, i.e. being very good at begging and eliciting sympathy from people! I almost called it a blag, beg and borrow production.”
Wilson studied media production at Bournemouth University, specialising in video, but admits at the time he was more interested in having fun and playing in bands.
When did you get serious about filmmaking? Or are you still not serious?
“It’s debatable! I do love filmmaking but there’s a conflict because to make a good looking film just costs so much money. It is the most financially intensive medium.”
“The difference between low budget and big budget filmmaking is like the difference between an astronaut and a cosmonaut- an American astronaut has the gravity defying upside down pen- a Russian cosmonaut has a pencil!”
Ten commandments of short film making according to Daniel Wilson
1. Never cast your friends as actors.
2. Not even if it’s one line of dialogue
2. Once you think you’ve written your script- rewrite it.
3. Every story needs a beginning a middle and end- not necessarily in that order
4. It’s got to have a twist or a punch line.
5. Set a shoot date and live with it
6. Never leave the set till you’ve got the scene.
7. If in doubt do it again.
8. If your sound is rubbish so are your pictures
9. Films are made in pre production so plan your shoot properly
10. When editing, indulge the audience, not yourself