What inspired this story?
The story is taken from a poem a school friend of mine following the death by suicide of a mutual friend of ours back in 2013. It was a really shocking and difficult time for me and Charlie’s words helped me make sense of what was happening, and I wanted to make a film so that people who were going through similar experiences, could have the same kind of clarity given to them, I guess.
What does the crown symbolize?
The crown is representative of The Actor’s sense of self – it is that one thing he has that makes him feel like himself. I think that when people are depressed or struggling with their mental health, it often can feel like they don’t know who they are, that they’ve lost that feeling that makes up their identity, even if nothing has really changed from an external view, and that was what I wanted to show with the loss of his crown.
What was it like staging this short, original quasi-ballet?
It was great! I worked with a choreographer for the first time (the wonderful Anders Hayward) and we spoke a lot about the emotional journey of the big dance pieces, what they represented and how they should contrast and he came up with some amazing work in response to that, and then on set, I was lucky enough to be working with dancers who I have known on a personal level for a long while and so we had the rapport and flexibility to be able to make little changes in response to the location and lighting, which I think is super important because it keeps things fresh!
I was also really excited to use so much dance within the film as I think a lot of the emotions we have explored – such as anxiety and grief – are actually very physical feelings and so to me it makes sense to express this with the whole of the performer’s bodies.
You’d think that the director and the other actors would be more indulgent of the star; why didn’t they help him find his crown?
I think a lot of the time people are incredibly wrapped up in their own world’s and so, whilst they care deeply about their loved ones, sometimes the preoccupation with what they themselves are doing can get in the way of them being able to see the people around them struggling.
I also think that on the flip side of this, we as a society, haven’t given people, particularly men, the tools to ask for help in a way that people can hear and understand, and that was a really big thing for me with this film; although The Actor does approach the other performers, there is never effective communication between both sides and therein lies the cultural problem that is so toxic with regard to mental health. We need to find a way to create a space where people are both ready to ask and to listen.
Tell us about your future projects.
The next thing for me is my first feature! It’s currently in development and hopefully will be shooting next year. I don’t want to say too much, but I will say it is a healthy mixture of fantasy and feminism.
Finally, what message would you like to send concerning suicide awareness? What message do you want your viewers to get from this film?
If anything, I would like people just to be reminded to be kind to one another, or to check in on a friend that they know might be feeling low. I promise you, it will be appreciated.