Focus24 are proud to have supported “God’s Kingdom”. We took the opportunity to speak to director Guy Soulsby about his experience of assembling a short film of real distinction. Watch it now, right here. Quality headphones recommended to pickup the fantastic sound!
So what is God’s Kingdom all about?
When you break it down the film is a tale of good versus evil, wrapped up in a chase movie with a western vibe. You could say the Yorkshire Dales are my wild west.
The film is tackling complex themes. What were the origins of the story?
I was researching another project and became consumed by stories in the book of Revelation, especially the Whore of Babylon. There was an enormous amount of imagery, ideas and thoughts that got conjured up, so I wanted to translate a part of it into the present with a story that the audience could relate to more easily.
Did you have a clear vision for the look of the film?
Yes. I knew I wanted to the film to have the constant presence of dread or pending doom. This was something I set out to create in each area, the dialogue needed to be heavy and brooding, locations imposing, the music that Echoic Audio designed had to be emotive and eerie, and the final grade by Yoomin Lee at Jogger Studios dark and bleak.
How did you brief cinematographer, Nicholas Bennett?
We didn’t have time for big lighting setups or intricate camera moves so we embraced these parameters and agreed to shoot off sticks or handheld with predominately natural light. These restrictions actually played into my ambition, which was to let the scenes and performances breath and to allow the audience time to engage with the narrative.
There were lots of lighting challenges, the biggest was the amount of daylight as we shot across some of the shortest days of the year. It would be dark by 4pm in the afternoon and in remote parts of the Yorkshire Dales that is basically pitch black. We had to be nimble due to the amount we had to shoot across the days and various locations, so we embraced the natural light look and feel and only supplemented it with a very small lighting package of LED panels where needed and we used practicals at night.
At times you don’t feel this is taking place in England. How did you find so many interesting locations?
This was a long and challenging task as I scouted the film myself traveling up to Yorkshire from London across a number of weekends. I grew up in and around a lot of the places we filmed, it’s one thing driving past an amazing maize field, but it’s something totally different to find the person who owns it. I reached out to The National Trust who were great, they gave us access to film in the cellarium at Fountains Abbey that dates back to 1132 (this location recently featured in Gunpowder on the BBC starring Kit Harrington) along with How Hill Tower that dates back to 1346. The phone box on the roadside in the open scene is real, we didn’t art direct it and it’s not a prop. That phone box has been there for over 25 year and I wrote that scene especially for it. Other places were found via friends or friends friends and people’s parents and by simply driving around and stopping to chat with people. The barn where Mark Wingett gives Anthony Flanagan the shotgun was at a farm near Weeton, it hadn’t been cleared out in over 40 years, and I was over the moon when I found it.
This was clearly an ambitious project. Can you describe some of the challenges you faced?
There are too many to list. The film took over 2.5 years to complete. Getting the film off the ground, securing the cast, crew and locations was one thing but when we were filming in very remote areas anything no matter how small became a big issue. We wrapped one night in a woodland and once all the kit was moved back to our base (this was an easy up and long wheel base transit van) we found that the van was stuck in a ditch. It was near dark, we had no work lights, no phone signal so the cast and crew mucked to dig the van out, thankfully we did otherwise it might have been game over. I remember earlier on in prep having to call Joe Binks who produced the film with me to say I am traveling up to Bradford to convince Leah Rhodes head teacher that she should be granted leave from her studies to act in the film. This came out of the blue and was about ten days before we were to shoot. Sitting outside her office was somewhat surreal. I have to say we couldn’t have made the film without the support of such an amazing amount of people both in production and post production, yes the challenges were pretty massive but people got behind the film, they got stuck in and gave real commitment to it and I can’t thank everyone enough.
What was your casting process and what you were looking for from your actors?
The truth is I just began reaching out to agents for actors that I wanted to work with and who I thought would be great as the characters in the film. I also had help from Andrew Mann at Fruitcake Casting who I work with for commercials. I still had to do my homework and so I prepared a substantial film brochure, firstly to convince the actors that the film was something they should be part of and to also show them that we as a team were credible. We got incredibly lucky and secured a fantastic cast who gave their time and talent for free.
Now you can enjoy the fruits of a lot of hard work, what are your hopes and dreams for the festival circuit?
The film has begun it’s festival circuit, sadly we missed some of the main genre festivals, so next year will have a bigger push. The film has had some great exposure online with brilliant articles from Modern Horrors and Directors Notes.
It has also been featured on Vimeo’s Narrative category and is now showing on Omeleto’s YouTube channel, in the first couple weeks the film has pulled in over 10,000 views. There are more online articles, press and posts to come.
With such rich themes and complex characters can we expect a push for a feature?
A feature would be brilliant and there is script for GOD’S KINGDOM but I have two more shorts planned for next year and that is the focus right now. I’m very keen to build a strong narrative reel and if this then opens doors to a feature, fantastic.