Interview with director James Peaty (APPRAISAL)

James Peaty’s short film “APPRAISAL” was the winner of “Best Performances” at the Action/Thriller Festival in February 2017.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

James Peaty: My main motivation for making the film was to test myself in relation to how I work with actors. In the main, I hadn’t worked with the cast before, which was exciting, but quite scary. I also threw away a lot of what I’d relied on in other shorts I’d made – rehearsal, over planning etc – and just let the performances emerge as we did them. I was also keen on directing the long dialogue scene which is the centrepiece of the film, to try and give it shape and momentum. It was longer on the page and we moved some bits around in the edit, but I think we managed to achieve what we set out to do.

MT: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Well, the idea is one i’ve had for a few years and I’ve been working on a feature version for a few years on and off, so the script was in place v quickly. But going from when we committed to making the film to finishing it in post was 5 months. We shot it in two days. All the dialogue/sound stuff done in one, all the inserts/cutaways done on the other.

MT: How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Slow burn.

MT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Nothing really. I sort of planned post as we prepped the film and everyone committed up front to doing what we needed to do, so it was a pain free process and pretty smooth all the way through.

MT: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I laughed! But that’s mainly ‘cos it’s funny to me to have a group of people talking about something I made. When I look at the film I’m thinking about what we did on the day, who was grumpy, who wanted sugar in their tea etc etc. But that isn’t what the audience is thinking. They’re reacting completely subjectively and spontaneously to the story and to see it working with a group of people who owe you nothing is both gratifying and instructive. And yet it’s something as filmmakers – especially with shorts – that we really get the chance to do. So, after laughing, my other major reaction was relief. The films works. Thank God for that!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I’m not sure really. As I said, a lot of it was driven by working with actors, but the other idea was: how to build a world with no money. And so the notion of a conversation between two people working for a global company meant that what they’d be talking about had a sort of wider scale and scope to it, which is what it needed. Then, how do you then make that conversation interesting and gives the actors something to play with? Well, what they’re talking about has to have some stakes, so that immediately leads you into thriller territory. So I guess it’s the whole: one idea leads to another. But it starts with two people in a room and then working out why they’re in the room, what the room is and why they’re doing what they’re doing. The sort of pseudo-political/corporate angle is just me making use of the fact I taught Politics and International Relations for ten years. I guess they always say ‘write what you know’ and I suppose this is a good example of that.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably Jaws or the original Star Wars, but mostly that’s because I watched them on a loop as a kid in the early years of VHS. I’d imagine it must be Jaws. Beyond that, I must have seen Annie Hall 25 times. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, the same. Ditto for Superman 1 and 2, Back To The Future. Probably the same for Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Blue Velvet, Vertigo, Psycho, Apocalypse Now, Reservoir Dogs…the list goes on!

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

Well, the plan is to make the feature version of Appraisal and that’s starting to gain some traction now because of the short. So, fingers crossed we’ll get to do that later this year.



Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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