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Interview with director Dave Fox

Dave Fox is a 25-year-old writer/director from Dublin, Ireland and is a graduate of The National Film School, IADT. He has a keen interest in character-driven plot and dark comedy.

Pernicio (Short Film, 2018)
Lunchtime Blues (Short Film, 2016)
Squawk 7700 (2019, Short Film in production)
Gallery Boys (Short Film, 2019)

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I think getting a mobile phone that had a camera and a start-stop recording feature when I was 14/15 was a turning point for me. I started shooting little videos in my house and with some friends and cousins and it blossomed from there, I guess. I started out writing short stories in primary school, and got really into creative writing in secondary school, but it wasn’t until my late teens that I discovered scriptwriting. I could always visualise my stories vividly, so the transition from short form to scriptwriting was pretty seamless. I got a proper camera when I was 18 and I began making little short films and sketches for Youtube and that really got me into the real filmmaking frame of mind; having to write, shoot, act (unfortunately), and edit.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Absolutely not. I was lucky to attend the National Film School in Dublin and it gave me fantastic opportunities to make films and meet other filmmakers, but almost everything I learnt was from my peers. You learn so much simply by making films and surrounding yourself with people who share a similar passion. The quality of cameras is so high these days that anyone can make a film, even on their phones. So go do it, learn by doing.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Filmmaking is tough, from starting out to keeping going. You need a lot of patience and commitment for the long haul. You don’t learn or succeed overnight, and making films is incredibly time consuming. Self-doubt was a big hurdle for me, but once I got over that and started to believe in myself a little more, things got a little easier. I’m still just starting out really, the professional film industry is a very competitive place and to prove to everyone that I am a serious filmmaker is my next hurdle.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

In the process of making this film I learnt that the most important thing that will stand to you is preparation. It sounds simple but if you allow yourself enough time to prepare and get everything in place, things will go smoother. I rehearsed and explored scenes with my actors in the weeks leading up to shooting. This allowed me to see the scene play out physically and changes to the script could be made accordingly. I did a lot of my directing weeks before we shot, which means I was relaxed on set. Test shooting is key too. Going to location, looking at angles and testing focal lengths etc with my cinematographer, Alfie Hollingsworth, saved us so much time and energy on set, which makes things run smoother. It’s all about being easy-breazey on set. Less stress = more success.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Being students with a very, very small budget, we couldn’t pay our actors huge amounts of money so we had to find actors who were starting out too. That was a huge worry of mine in the lead up to the film. It is a character driven plot so casting the right actors who could support the film was a challenge. We hosted open auditions and we got super, super lucky with our castings. 3 out of our 4 characters walked into the auditions and suited the parts perfectly. That doesn’t happen often. We had a lot of scene changes in a small space of time and we only had access to some of our locations for a very limited amount of time. This forced us to be clinical and clever with scheduling, which put us on edge slightly, but worked in our favour I think; downtime on set can be a real killer. I think having limitations like that sometimes can benefit the film, especially in low budget filmmaking, it demands good performance from everyone on set.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

It’s a struggle as an up and coming director to be working mainly on very small budget or no budget films, whilst trying to give your film an edge that can really display your abilities. I guess for me generally, the hardest thing for me as a writer/director is to try and conceive ideas that I want to produce as stylishly as I can, but within the limitations of a small budget. You’re constantly thinking ‘you can’t have a car chase, you can’t have a jib shot, you can’t build a set’, so you have to improvise and compromise.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I discovered most of my team through the Film School that I attended, which is one of the main takeaways from it. A major part of keeping a team happy is maintaining a mutual respect amongst everyone. You must thoroughly respect and appreciate everyone’s input into the films that you make. Not one single person is of greater or lesser value is on set, and if everyone is in that frame of mind, politics won’t play any divisive roles. I look at directing and managing a set the same way as any other job; a manager can command greater respect, trust and get better performances from a team that get on well with him/her and with each other.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I think filmmakers should tell stories that are true to them, that they want to tell. The best filmmakers are ones who can draw from great life experience, and subsequently portray stories that audiences can relate to or attach to. At the end of the day, us filmmakers are in the audience too. We all started out watching films before we made them, so we know exactly what it’s like to an audience member, so that subconsciously lets us know ‘what audiences want’. In this sense I don’t think filmmakers should worry about it, make the film as true as you can for yourself, and there will be an audience for it.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

They’ve been an amazing way to get eyes on my film. Every audience is different and it is such a buzz to see people, in person, reacting to your film. They offer a great opportunity to meet other filmmakers and create contacts. I really wasn’t much of a fan of the networking side of things, but going to festivals has made me realise its value and importance in getting your name out into the film industry.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

You should always try to do something original, especially when you’re starting out because you have literally nothing to lose. Experimenting and failing is far more beneficial than following the norm, anyone can do that.