Exclusive Interview with Director Ed Lilly

9 05 2011

Director Ed Lilly is a young, up-and-coming British Director who’s style and artistic talent has already garnered him tremendous praise across the pond.  PSD would like to introduce you to the Directing talent that should be causing a stir over on this side of the ol’ pond, sooner rather then later.  Get to know Director Ed Lilly after the break.

Here is our Exclusive Interview with Director Ed Lilly.

1.  What was it like growing up in Essex and how would you compare/contrast Manchester and the Northern Cities to London?

I grew up in Essex – south-east of England, around 40 miles outside of London. Small commuter town. It was great – lived by the sea and had a pretty good childhood. Then when I was 19 I had got kinda bored and decided to do a course at University in the North-West of England in Manchester. It was a course in video production which I had absolutely no idea about. I think I was just looking for anything to get my teeth into at that stage and luckily I chose that! I’ve actually recently moved to London and now live here.

2.  I noticed in your films and music videos that though the material obviously has a more dark and hip-hop vibe to it the brilliant shots of color show up frequently.  I’m curious if you have any background in photography, because its quiet obvious that you understand lightening and coloring more in-depthly then most folks who just pick up a camera and shoot?  I might be wrong but it does feel like some love of photography in your past?

I don’t actually have a background in photography but the same point has been made by other people before. The only real explanation is that my Dad was a fairly keen amatuer photographer. He used to take photo’s and then we’d watch a slide show of his stills, there were always photography books around which I remember reading together so I guess that kinda had a bigger influence on me than I expected! I’m also pretty obsessed with layout and order. I like things to be symmetrical and neat. My desk. My emails. My knife and fork. And especially my video frames. It’s taken me a while actually to experiment a little with my frames because I am so caught up in the way things should be, so perhaps it’s more to do with a consistency. But it is important to me anyway. I always just explain making video as putting a number of still images in an order, so hopefully that comes across.

3.  The subjects in your work all share an urban and young feel to them, is this the North England you want to highlight and showcase?  If so, what is it about your Essex brethren that pushed you to film that world?  How much of yourself is in these early stories and characters?

Well being 25 myself kinda determines that naturally I want to tell stories that are sort of ‘coming of age’ in theme – I’ve had a short life so far and want to be able to work with themes and characters that I hopefully understand a bit. As for the music promos it’s the genre I fell into through the people I met once I moved to Manchester. I appreciate british hip-hop and rap as well as other genres such as dubstep and grime but it’s the satisfaction of putting an image to a sound that makes me do it. As a music video director you’re sole purpose is to compliment the sound, whatever that sound is.

4.  I really enjoyed THREE LITTLE WORDS.   You wrote the screenplay to this one, is the idea from a break-up you had or just fictional?  Talent wise where did you find them?  Not to harp back on colors in your films but you really do have some vibrant things going on in your shorts, is this something that is intended or am I just reading into shit to much?

Three Little Words was fun. We shot it in a day, on £100. And yeh the story is from my own experiences – like most men I kinda had (or have!) trouble expressing my feelings and just wanted a way of telling that story, hopefully in an original way. The stories actually pretty true to the facts, just obviously over-exageraated and dramatised. The comedy I think comes from the characters – Ben Hood and Rosie MacPherson were great. I had known them both before. I remember saying to them to go and have a rehearsal together whilst we were setting up and two minutes later all we could hear was Rosie hysterically crying from inside the pub. Kinda set the tone for the day. And the colours – well it would be a different short if the sun hadn’t been out, not necessarily fully planned – and actually it was a cloudy day with the sun going in and out a lot. So we made the decision to shoot with the sun out, so had long periods of waiting whilst it hid behind the clouds! The make-up was pretty planned and looked great on Rosie but yeh, just all fitted into place nicely on that one.

5.  Greasy Spoon has a great sense of humor to it you don’t really see in British Dark Comedy. Is your humor an important piece to your voice?  I especially love the twist at the end and how it comes back on the old vs young joke beautifully.  Did you find it tough to gage whether you’d made it to dark or to funny and how close to the initial idea does the short come to?

You know what, I think the Exec on that was pretty surprised by the tone we went with, in fact I think Dean and Ray were too! Humour is definitely important to me but not something I necessarily saw myself doing early on. Myself and Ben were living together at this point and so had a fair amount of time to discuss it and the characters, and when you have as good an actor as Ben you just let them get on with it. It could have been done differently, it was probably intended different but thats what we did. It was pretty critical to find someone strong to play opposite Ben and in the auditions he read with them and everyone just kinda got on board with the ridiculousness of his character whereas Matt came in and made Ben feel like an idiot. Which was exactly what we wanted.

6.  Ray and Dean have written on your films – tell me about your relationships and what all have you tried to accomplish story wise?  What makes you work well together?

Dean and Ray have written on Three Little Words and ManHunt as well as fully penning After Eight and Greasy Spoon so we’ve effectively done four shorts together which seems strange cos we haven’t know each other that long! We just met online and started talking through ideas and just went from there. They’re great writers, they work really hard and are really willing to collaborate – they’re not precious, they’re enthusiastic but always focussed on the end result and to get there whichever way best.

7.  Ben Hood as one of your leads has done really well in his two different main roles for Three Little Words and Greasy Spoon.  How did you two meet and what stands out to you about Ben that makes you like him for your film leads?  What is your working relationship style like and do you think you’ll work on future projects together?

You can see Ben’s personality in his characters in Three Little Words and Greasy Spoon, however ridiculous that sounds. We just have a laugh, we’re pritty different actually. We’ve got one story in early stages of development – another short I think – something we both want to do eventually! He’s just a great actor, he has character and no inhibition, something interesting – a person that you don’t necesarily meet everyday and audiences are intrigued by what they don’t know.

8.  I’m curious where the Hive’s story came from?  Stylistically it seems a departure to Greasy Spoon, was it important to seperate these two projects?

The writer of The Hive is a close friend called Andy Walker. The story came from the agricultural crisis of all the bee’s disappearing and reports of people stealing beehives – because a healthy hive had suddenly become more valuable. There was a chance to apply to the UKFC for funding (and I had already worked with them on Greasy Spoon) so we did. We did a lot of script development on The Hive, perhaps 20 drafts or so. We shot it in July 2010 and finished post around October and now it’s just been going to festivals etc. To be honest I just wana get it online! It’s probably the short I am most pleased with up to now. Was a great experience working with Andy and Lauren (the Producer). And a great story.

9.  How would you define your directing style?  What films and/or film-makers inspire you?

Tricky. I’m not a film buff. Every year my resolution is to watch more films. And every January, I do. And then I don’t again. I watch a lot of British low-budget films. Some of my favourite films include Boy A (with Andrew Garfield), Fish Tank, An Education. But then I love Clint Eastwood, Mystic River in particular. So I don’t really know!

10.  What is up next for Blind Aura and yourself?  Do you have anything you want to say to a curious American Audience?

We have just shot another 2 minute short film titled “For Keeps” which will be part of this years Virgin Media Shorts competition which is a great showcase for short films in the UK. So anyone interested should check that out – it will be online by early July. I’m just going to continue to shoot music videos, we have a couple of feature ideas and scripts in early development but that’s a long old road, we have The Hive feature idea we’re trying to get off the ground. So yeh, more films!

Keep track of Ed’s work via his production company, Blind Aura Pictures.

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