Simon Sanderson on 'Lobsters'
Producer Simon Sanderson talks about his experience producing a short comedy film on the Isle of Thanet, his love of anamorphic lenses and the loveliness of laurels.
So what is Lobsters?
Lobsters is a short film that Director Matt Huntley and I put together over a busy two day shoot on the Isle Of Thanet - the curious name given to the seaside resort area of Margate and Botany Bay, lying in the most easterly part of Kent. While Matt wrote and directed the film, my job was to prep the behind-the-scenes work required to get it made, from pre- to post-production.
The film tells the dark comedic story of Mark and his holiday park neighbour / soul-mate Tanya, enveloped in the bizarre bubble that exists in the world of British seaside holiday resorts.
As Matt described, ‘I wanted to set a story in the world of English seaside resorts that I grew up with and to reflect on all the times I had weird crushes on complete strangers as a teenager. I also really wanted to shoot something with an original structure / format.‘
The film stars Steve Oram (Sightseers, Oram & Meeten, Paddington), along with English comedian Terry Mynott (The Mimic, Bad Robots) and Juliet Cowan (Cuckoo, This Life, Skins).
How challenging is a short film to make?
For a producer, it’s certainly a very different process to what I’m used to. In an ideal world, you are working to a budget that has been built for a creative idea, with considerations for the post production costs, cast, crew, equipment etc.
On a short film that all goes out the window as funding will never be equal to the creative proposition. You’re financially limited but you have to make something enticing or it will get lost out there in the strong competition.
Matt went into the film wanting a strong visual presence to support the comedy. This is primarily was what brought me to the film. Due to budgetary restrictions many short films have a strong idea, but fall short on the look and feel. This can work of course for some, but the look was so important to the film. It supported the comedy. Being hyper-real is what made it funnier.
So we worked to getting the best deals we could with the very generous cast and crew (who all worked for nothing and gave up a weekend for filming), the helpful people of Ice Film who supplied lenses and equipment, Panalux for their lights and the people of Thanet for their time and locations. Tenthree edited the film, with UNIT completing all of the post-production. This allowed us to funnel as much resource as possible into the production value side of things.
You mention look and feel. What do you mean here?
Matt and our wonderful DOP Matt Fox had a clear vision for how the film was to look, inspired by the works of Martin Parr & Gregory Crewdson.
Martin Parr photographs these amusing high contrast snatches of swayed life - very bright and punchy, amusing but also veering towards the lurid. Gregory Crewdson takes quite dramatic and obliquely-staged snapshots of Americana and gives them a cinematic tonality often surreal and troubling in its content. Both helped to give the film its disarming ambience. It looks terrific, but it’s set in an achingly mundane world.
We also shot using anamorphic lenses. To my mind, they are the staple for an unsurpassable filmic look. I won’t get too technical here, but they are constructed to give a bold cinematic look - which was something we definitely wanted. They allow you to capture a super wide-angle image with an inherent shallow depth of field and perspective. It’s the real ‘widescreen experience’ that you associate with a meaty movie.
Examples of films that have used them before would be The Revenant and Pulp Fiction. It’s significant that both Iñárritu and Tarantino adore the big perspective you get with Sergio Leone movies.
So, what’s next for the film?
We’ve been lucky enough to enter the film into some festivals where it has done rather well. Garnering wins (and the accompanying laurels) from the East End Film Festival, The London-Worldwide Comedy Short Film Festival and the Discover Film Awards.
We also just screened at the Latitude Music Festival which was a big win for a little independent short movie. To see laurels come-in for something you’ve helped make is a lovely feeling.
Finally — What’s your favourite part of the film?
I’ve talked at length about the look and feel, and of course the performances of the three leads that Matt brought out are terrific - but my favourite part of the film is the sound design and soundtrack.
Steve Oram’s slightly malevolent voiceover is so pervasive that, on first viewing, you might not register just how gentle and morose the music is. But there is a wonderful underlying sound of the sea at the beginning. Muted surf crashing against the shore. I love the subtlety of that and how it has an association for us all of childhood holidays and the personal memories that they bring.
‘Lobsters’ is currently making the short-film circuit rounds.
James Wright @ tenthree
Scott Harris @ UNIT
Rob Ellis @ UNIT
Chris Southwell @ UNIT