Interview with Producer/Writer Stephen Coltrane (GIVE ME A NAME)

GIVE ME A NAME played to rave reviews at the December 2020 Female Film Festival.

Producer website:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

In 2016, the UK voted in a national referendum to leave the European Union, which it had joined in 1973. The vote to leave was apparently motivated at least partly by racism and hostility to anyone foreign. However, in addition to this there was a strong current of anti-intellectualism and scorn of expert opinion. At a stroke I saw that the country was falling into a nationalist, illiberal and populist mindset, which was all cheered on by members of the government and certain other parties. For the first time in my life, I (a white, straight, highly educated middle-class male) felt threatened. I looked back on changes this and previous governments had made to human rights legislation over the years – detention without trial, removal of the right to trial by jury, allowing the police to arrest people who had done nothing wrong simply on the basis that they ‘might’, agitating against the European Convention on Human Rights – and I realised that it would take very little for people like me to fall foul of a regime which did not fit my view of liberal democracy. Normally people like me (white men) are considered ‘safe’ by the authorities and given very little trouble. I saw how that could change overnight.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

The original intention was to write a feature, examining what might happen if a white, middle-class person came in for the same treatment that has been typical for BAME people at the hands of a state which is either openly racist or, at best, untroubled by the niceties of human rights. I wrote an entire feature script over the course of the years 2016 to 2018. However I lacked the budget to undertake an entire feature, so I called on my regular collaborator Sheena to sit down with me and discuss how we might turn parts of the script into a short. Then we would have a product which we could use as proof of concept to attract interest in the feature script, but which would also stand alone as a viable short for festivals.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

A warning.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

There was a critical casting decision which was still unresolved with a week or two before we started shooting. We could not find anyone suitable for the role, indeed we could hardly find anyone who was interested – just because we wanted something very specific. In the end, we decided to change the gender of the character and suddenly we found someone almost immediately!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Relief! Relief that we had actually made a film that people not only liked, but got the message.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I have no idea! I watch a lot of films and there are many which I watch regularly. However, I’m always on the lookout for new things so I try not to get bogged down with always going back to the same material.

7. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FilmFreeway is a very well-made platform which makes things easy for the filmmaker. The layout is clear, and the elements of putting your submission together are extremely easy to follow. It’s certainly one of the easiest sites to use. If I have any reservations, it’s these: there are still too many festivals listed which seem ‘dodgy’, ie you’re not sure whether you’re just paying a lot of money to get a laurel but never have your film screened. And I think FilmFreeway have too many ‘marketing’ options, seemingly designed to milk more money out of filmmakers without meaningfully contributing to the promotion of their films. Fair enough, it’s a business, but I think inexperienced and naive filmmakers are likely to be caught out easily.

8. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I have a strong relationship with music which is not typical. I come from a musical family and therefore I appreciate music in almost any genre (except perhaps country & western). According to iTunes, the track I have listened to the most is Rued Langgaard’s ‘Music of the Spheres’, a Danish orchestral work dating from 1918. I did say I wasn’t typical…

9. What is next for you? A new film?

Sheena and I are working on two new short film projects: a sci-fi comedy, and a drama involving deaf actors. They’re still in early script stage.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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