I recently got the chance to talk to Rich Swingle about his new film, ‘In This Room’. Here, Rich talks about how the idea originally came about in the first place and his influences as a director…
(Production still from ‘In This Room’).
Hey Rich. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new project, ‘In This Room’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
It’s about two people trying to rediscover their identity. They have both lost their memory, and are captive in a room filled with a multitude of items relevant to their past.
You both wrote and directed the film – how did the idea come about in the first place?
To be honest I really wanted to make a short film again so I went jogging one morning to try to come up with some ideas and by the time I got home I had pretty much got the whole idea in my head. Needless to say it wasn’t really a short film anymore.
How hard was it to put the film into production? Are there any direct influences that people should be able to spot?
I don’t know if there are any influences in this film really. It’s an amalgamation of ideas from wanting to understand characters so it came from quite an uninfluenced place really. I suppose from a shooting point of view you could look to the Danish Dogme movement due to the camera style but that was only pointed out to me by a friend afterwards rather than a direct influence.
In terms of putting the film into production it had the usual hic-ups with locations and casting and schedule but as we shot the whole film in two days it wasn’t too hard to make it work. One of the great things about working in a very improvised way meant we could shoot 20 or 30 minute takes and just riff, it does mean having a mountain of fluff to cut around but we had three cameras going, pretty much to make sure we captured the best bits from multiple angles. The cast didn’t realise any of these things before we filmed but the Production Designer, Jamie Bishop and myself hid photos of the cast that had been manipulated to suit the story along with a whole raft of items that had a relevance but that relevance was never revealed to the cast until shooting.
What has the reception been like to the film so far?
The reception has been great so far, it’s funny really because I’ve never had such positive feedback on a film before. This is based on the fact that people are responding to the story and “journey” of the film so well. By it being such a small film in terms of budget and wide appeal it’s been a nightmare trying to get it seen, this is where you really need a good sales agent on board unless you have the funds to get it out there yourself. Festivals won’t really touch a film that isn’t going to benefit them from a marketing or prestige standpoint so unless we get some hype building up about the film it’s going to struggle its way into the light of day.
The film has a surprisingly little cast – Sarah Louise Tyler and Simon Howells – what was it like working with the pair?
It was really cool working with the two cast members, both were quite trusting of me because they weren’t allowed to know where the story was going until we were filming so I bet they had some reservations about what it might all be about but we made it through and hopefully they found it rewarding in the long run. Simon is a bit of a genius I think actually and I really hope he gets out there more, but both of them were great at questioning what was happening, I guess most of the characters you see on the screen were down to experiences these two performers have had themselves in their lives as there was no dialogue written for them. Apart from prompting during takes they had to work with instinct a lot of the time. The script itself is basically something that I wrote to make sure during shooting I could keep the story on track so every now and again I’d have to tell them to move on from an idea and go pick up that guitar or whatever. Sarah did a great job of giving us lots of dialogue to work with so it was a case of using the best parts of what the actors gave us in the edit to fully round the story.
Let’s talk a bit about you Rich. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I don’t really remember why I fell in love with film, all I can say is it’s been as present in my life. I remember being at school and wanting to apply for a work placement at a fire station as I wanted to be a fireman originally and due to my eyesight and asthma I was basically told to forget it so I picked up a camera when I was fourteen and started shooting.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Be prepared to be poor and work crazy hours, treat everyone well even if they suck because there are enough people in this industry already who make me ashamed to be part of it so we need to balance the scales more. But more seriously, get an idea that you love and go out and film it. Don’t settle for making something you’re not into all the time as it will drive you nuts, obviously some jobs will be done to pay the bills and there are no exceptions to this so don’t try to fight it. Make good choices though and be cool with them as regret doesn’t help anyone.
What films have inspired you as an artist? Any favourites?
So many man it’s hard to pin point and give you a fair indication but let’s go with ‘Once Upon A Time In America’, ‘Almost Famous’ – (extended version preferably), ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Seven Samurai’, any Aronofsky film, ‘Fight Club’, ‘Blade Runner’, all of Malicks films, ‘Biutiful‘, ‘Apu Triology’, ‘Assassination Of Jesse James’… I’ll leave it there I guess, this is not a top ten by the way just random films that came to mind.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - for his immense knowledge and fascinating achievement in subconscious understanding.
- Woody Allen - someone to keep the mood fun and make us all laugh whilst no doubt educating me in history and film in general
- Dalai Lama - for a combination of the two above plus anyone that’s gone through what he has is going to be able to teach you a thing or two about life.
What is your favourite word?
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’ve got three films coming out in Britain and elsewhere in the world this summer – (in my usual role as cinematographer) so hopefully that all goes well and gets me some more gigs but otherwise I’m co-writing a script with a colleague who played a big part in ‘In This Room’ and we’ve nearly got that nailed so we’ll be looking to move forward with the next film soon I hope!
Thanks for the interview!