28 August 2018 (released)
28 August 2018
Film News speak to Tom Brumpton & Adam Luff about their new short film The Guiding Light.
Film News – Good day, gentlemen. How’re things?
Tom Brumpton (Director/Producer) – Busy, but good thanks.
Adam Luff (Writer/Producer) – Couldn't put it better myself.
Tell us a little bit about The Guiding Light.
TB – The Guiding Light is a surreal short film about a world champion dance called Barbara Alkin. She suffers with auto immune disease and after years of competing is forced to retire due to ill health.
AL – Barbara is then struck down by an aggressive case of pneumonia which leaves her on the verge of death. She’s visited upon by the mysterious Angela and they embark on a journey through Barbara’s memories, which leads to Barbara having to confront her own fate.
Which three films influenced this film and why?
TB – For me it was the following in no particular order:
1. La La Land
I heard the soundtrack to this before I saw the film and fell in love pretty much instantly. It’s a great movie, Emma Stone is brilliant, and the dance numbers are awesome.
2. The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn’s use of colour, lighting and music has had a profound effect on me as a film maker and is something I’ve tried to utilise as much as possible in The Guiding Light.
3. Under The Skin
This film is a creepy, surreal exploration of what it means to be human and its tone is something that helped for parts of The Guiding Light’s vibe.
AL – My choices are:
1. The Prisoner
That's right, my biggest influence wasn't even a film, but a cult TV classic! I'm a big fan of British TV from the 20th century and Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner from the late 60s was the one thing I kept mentioning to Tom in my approach on how to write surrealism into the storyline.
2. David Cronenberg
First a TV show, now a director (I'm really pushing it with this question!). While discussing surrealism, Tom and I also discussed body horror and so I suggested Cronenberg movies like Scanners, Videodrome and Naked Lunch; which conjure up all sorts of horrific imagery that was needed for the climax of The Guiding Light.
3. Blade Runner
Specifically, its ambiguous ending of whether Deckard is human or a replicant. Tom and I have opposing opinions on the fate of Barbara: Tom believe she dies, I believed she survives. What I did in the writing was to have visual cues and subtext to support both sides of the argument, rather than just focus on my own theory and giving the film a definitive answer. So, the option's there for the audience to choose what they think happens to her.
Tom, you used to perform in a band and you’ve referenced films like La La Land. Were you particular about the choice of music in The Guiding Light?
TB – Very much so, yes. When Adam and I were discussing the film, the music and the lighting were things we were firm on from the beginning. The film spans several decades, so I wanted music that was specific to those time periods. This includes elements of beach pop, soul and stadium ballads. I also wanted to utilise Cliff Martinez’s use of soft ambient music to show the warmer moments.
However, later on, during the body horror sequences in the film, we’ve gone for drone music. Drone music is pretty horrible *laughs*! Our music supervisor, Hannah, was researching for the film and after two hours of listening to drone I got an angry phone call! *laughs* She hasn’t been the same since and our friendship hasn’t quite recovered.
Adam, the film seems to be juggling a few different styles at once. Was it a struggle to keep things on an even footing while creating such an intricate film?
AL – To be honest, it wasn't a struggle at all. The structure is to take Barbara into different rooms and corridors. The latter will serve as a bridge between the different genres contained within separate rooms, so Tom's idea for an elaborate dance sequence (a staple of musicals) is all in one room and the body horror climax is deep within another room.
Of course, we don't want to make the film completely jarring, and so we made sure that both musicals and surrealism are present throughout the film in order to keep it consistent by using little threads for the audience to look for.
The lead character, Barbara, suffers with auto-immune disease. Tell us why it was important to include this.
TB – Barbara is based on my aunt Pat, who passed away in April 2016. She herself was a champion dancer and Adam and I agreed that we should find a way to keep that as part of the character. One of the most important elements of this film for me was making Barbara a three-dimensional character.
I wanted to avoid stereotypes of people with illnesses being bitter or paint her as some kind of cold, distant person. Also, representation is important. We’re becoming more open as a society about our personal struggles, and I felt it important that despite suffering with this illness she was successful, and she was happy.
You’ve called the film a “celebration of life”; can you expand on that?
TB – Sure, a big factor in the film was relationships. My aunt was very close to her sisters and her elder sister, Kath, was her dance partner for years. They were both champions. In the film I wanted to show the importance of sharing those really important moments in life and those defining journeys with the people closest to us. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent doing something I never dreamed possible with my best friends, and those are moments I cherish.
When I spoke to my mum after Pat’s death, she would talk about the moments they shared when they were younger, and I heard some new stories about Pat. My mum spoke so fondly and warmly of her sister, that it became obvious very quickly how important this was and needed to be part of the film. As such, I consider the film a celebration of life, love and the relationships with those closest to us.
AL – Life can also be associated with legacy and what is passed down to future generations; so I wanted to add themes of legacy, showing the impact Barbara's life and career has had on herself and the world around her; whether she is to continue building on her legacy in the real world, or to pass on and leave her legacy behind.
You’re currently running an Indiegogo campaign. How’s it going?
TB – So far so good. We’ve just started doing press for the film this week, so we’re running around like crazy people right now!
AL – The word “scramble” comes to mind; from updating things, creating/designing social media content, not to mention continuing the pre-production on the movie itself.
Where can people go if they want to donate?
AL – Head over to our Indiegogo page at https://igg.me/at/theguidinglightfilm
Is there a teaser available?
AL – Yes there is. We actually made a series of mini-teasers in the week leading up to the launching of the campaign, but you can view the full teaser trailer at https://youtu.be/mDmA4WFmWuA
Last question, do you plan on making a feature version of The Guiding Light in the future?
TB – Never say “never”, but I will say “not right now”. We’ve talked about it, but we honestly feel that the story is pretty contained and works better as a 15-minute piece opposed to a two-hour film.
AL – I don't think so, I would rather work on something brand new and something that's planned as a feature from the very start, rather than take a short, and try to pad it out. So instead, we'll just work our hardest to blow you away with a new idea.