Returning favourite Paul Andrew Williams, the director of London to Brighton (EIFF 2006), talks about making the harshly realistic thriller Cherry Tree Lane, which receives a World Premiere at this year's Fest.
Heroes are extraordinary so as far as Williams is concerned, they have no place in an authentic thriller. The same goes for redemption, ‘in real time scenario there’s no character arc, there’s not the nice family that we care about; they’re just normal people.’
The same attitude is extended to the gang members who invade the home of Mike and Christine after their son Sebastian becomes involved in drugs, ‘they are bad kids but they’re not big monsters walking through the door which I think is what a lot of people assume.’
The behaviour of Rian and Asad - which veers between violence to reproving comments towards their affluent victims depending on who is present - is perceptive, showing them not just as thugs but as easily influenced teenagers, ‘even though these guys are doing these horrible things, I think that’s exactly what they’d do, they’d adapt to the scenario. Trying to be friendly, not getting the fact that what they are doing is so horrible and wrong.’
In keeping with the realism of the film, he developed backstories with the actors and made sure the cast socialised together. Aside from being one of his favourite parts of the process, this bonding pays dividends when it comes to dynamics: ‘Relationships are weird. A lot of times in movies they are shown in very black and white ways. Family relationships are different just because you can get away with a lot more in terms of what gets talked about.’
Much of the on- and off-screen violence comes from complex emotional ties, but where is the line between grit and sensationalism? ‘We’re all in the privileged position of not being in that situation. We can make assumptions about what we might do without going through trauma. I don’t like seeing violence. However, it depends on the point you’re trying to get across. If you’re trying to make a point about violence then it’s important what you do with it.’
Cherry Tree Lane has already had an impact, nominated for the Michael Powell Award, how does Williams feel about being considered ‘best of British’? ‘It’s nice to be considered. If you don’t win it doesn’t make you the worst, if you do win it doesn’t make you the best.’
Williams is equally measured when considering future projects, he has two films in mind, one a ‘nice story about old people’ and the other ‘has a bit of killing in it’. The bottom line: ‘it’s about what you can get finance for. Do I want to make another tense, stuck-in, scary movie? Ideally I wouldn’t want to rightaway unless they go, ‘we’re going to pay your mortgage for you.”
There are still a few tickets left for the screening of Cherry Tree Lane on Friday 25 June.
Winners of EIFF 2014’s short film awards and two of its documentary premieres have been nominated for 2015 BAFTAs.