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ÉCU-The European Independent Film Festival


ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival is dedicated to the discovery and advancement of the very best independent films from around the world. We are a festival who believes in our independent filmmakers and their artistic talents. ÉCU proudly provides a unique platform that brings together diverse audiences who are hungry for something other than major studio productions and original and innovative filmmakers. 

 
The 16th edition of ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival will take place on 9th-11th April 2021. Now open for submissions!

 

 

 

For more details regarding the festival, please visit our website at www.ecufilmfestival.com

 

 


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Meet Indie Filmmaker: MILK MAN

 

Photograph by Patrick Moore

Director James Rumsey recently submitted his film, Milk Man to the ÉCU 2010 Fiction Short category.
Having recently won the “Audience Choice Award” at the Filmstock
International Film Festival 2009 in the UK, Rumsey talks to us about
milk, re-birth and the beauty of working on a tight budget. By Anna
Takayama

 Q: What is your film about?

Milk Man is about the consequences of getting stuck in one
view of yourself and of life and aims to suggest that another view,
with other possibilities, can be taken if we choose it. The story is of
a fearful and neurotic voyeur called Brian whose life is dominated by
routine…The drink that forms an essential part of that routine is
milk…He runs out of milk late [one] night and is compelled to return to
the convenience store. His routine is in bits and worsens as a woman
takes what Brian believes to be the last carton of milk…

Q: What was the source of inspiration for your story?

Brian’s story was born out of my own. My story is utterly
unremarkable and much like countless others where dreams fade as the
daily grind kicks in. It wasn’t a bad life and I didn’t mind the work,
but I still lived life feeling it wasn’t all it could be… So I left my
job, left London and went to film school in Vancouver. I came up with
the first draft of Milk Man while I was in Vancouver as I reflected on
my choice to leave my job, the great time I’d had in Canada, and what
awaited me back in the UK… no job, no money, but also no doubt that I
was excited by the new challenge ahead….That’s what is at the heart of
the initial idea: a realisation that life is often limited only by how
you see it and the choices you make as a consequence.

Q: There is a definite shock value in the way your story unfolds but was this intended from the beginning?

Yes, the story evolved from those “shock” elements, as you call
them. It was an integral part of what I was attempting with the
structure of the narrative… [it] is designed to reflect the existential
theme and encourage the audience to think about assumptions that they
might be making about the outcome of the film and perhaps about the way
they view things generally.

Q: How would you define the genre of your film?

For me it’s film noir. Some scenes, such as the lighting
and design…fit the noir cliché more than others, but the noir genre is
more than a few visual clichés. In terms of a questionable hero at odds
with his surroundings it is definitely a noir film with noir
themes for me but one that has more in common with the reinvented noir
of the 70s, movies like “The Conversation”, “Taxi Driver”, “Junior
Bonner” and “Five Easy Pieces”. The protagonists in those movies either
had a journey of self-rediscovery or perished in some way, unable to
cope…

Q: The quirks of your main character are very particular–how did you come up with this characterization?

Much of that was on the page but the translation of that into a
living breathing reality owes much to Henry Everett. Henry is a very
close friend that was always in my mind to play Brian. Somewhat
poetically, he had quit his job to become an actor at the same time I
quit mine to become a filmmaker. So Henry was on board very early. It
gave us the luxury of time to discuss ideas for Brian as they occurred
to us and it made a real difference. I also researched Obsessive
Compulsive Disorders. Ultimately my research led me to realise that
people with OCD have a more complex set of issues to overcome and deal
with than Brian or I could hope to deal with within a 15 minute film.
Hopefully, what we are left with is a neurotic and painfully
ritualistic man, but not necessarily someone who is OCD.

Q: Why did you choose milk as one of your main character’s obsession?

As the script developed and different elements came together, the
milk came to symbolise a bunch of things. I found it evoked a sense of
childlike innocence in Brian that I liked and that was sympathetic to
the way in which Marina watches over him like a lost little boy. ..Milk
also helps evoke a sense of a rebirth and the nurturing of a new life,
reinforced by the encounter with the pregnant woman… But none of these
are the reason why I initially chose milk. The reason was simply that I
needed Brian to leave his flat for narrative reasons. I figured
something as mundane as getting milk was as good as any other idea. The
other connotations emerged and evolved after that. The fact that it is
mundane sits perfectly with the themes of the film. Brian’s
life-altering event occurs doing something where he’s been hundreds of
times before, only this time, it’s different.

Q: What was the casting process like?

I loved it. Every actor that auditioned contributed to the evolution
of “Milk Man” because they showed me stuff that I didn’t write,
couldn’t write…. I know that only once I’ve seen it in the hands of an
actor will things really start to take shape. Brian was already cast of
course but it was great to see Henry spar with the other actors and put
to bed any doubts I may have had about his ability to bring Brian to
life. For Marina I was pretty sure I’d found someone who gave me just
what I needed, and it was Delia Remy who thankfully I had the sense to
cast in the end…

Q: Tell us a little about the soundtrack–how did you choose your music?  

It was obvious from the edit process that Milk Man was a more subtle
film than I had appreciated when I wrote it and finding the right
timbre and balance in the music proved that again. Gerald Clark (my
composer) and I decided from an early stage that we wanted to use
saxophone. It suited the genre and setting, the loneliness of Brian and
the element of intrigue we wanted to evoke. Pretty good going for just
one instrument!

… I had a clear source of inspiration in Bernard Hermann’s theme
from “Taxi Driver” and Gerald drew inspiration from Vangelis’ “Love
Theme” from “Bladerunner”. The rest of the music was arrived at a lot
more organically…On the other three projects the music fell into place
with very little trouble, but that wasn’t the case on Milk Man. I have
to credit Gerald for hanging in there while I struggled to either be
satisfied or to articulate what I wanted… The recorded music tracks
were equally tricky to arrive at. To a large extent the tracks chosen
were chosen because we didn’t have the money to pay for any music….
Although the music chosen was chosen because of financial constraint I
love it and I’m glad we had those constraints. The vintage sounds add
strangeness and character to the film. It was damn hard work to find
the music that was out of copyright, but well worth the effort!

Q: Were there any difficulties that you encountered?

Sure. I’d been an Assistant Director until Milk Man and so although
I was very familiar with life on set, it was still a massive learning
curve for me, especially post… Probably the hardest thing for me was
working on my own as writer, producer and director. I’m actively
seeking above-the-line collaborators now so if there’s any writer’s or
producer’s out there looking for a director to collaborate with, give
me a shout at james@rumjamfilms.com.

In general, the difficulties that were encountered end up being stories of triumph over adversity.

It wasn’t straightforward to find a convenience store that would let
us loose in their business over night. When we found one, like all
convenience stores, it was located in a residential area. We had a
generator to power some of the lights and could only afford a noisy
one. So the challenge was how to avoid waking the neighbourhood and
risk being shut down. Luckily, I found solace in a kind-hearted local
businessman who had a forecourt and workshop by a busy roundabout about
150 yards from the shop. His generosity staggered me. Not only did he
let us park our generator there, he also allowed us to stage make-up
and wardrobe at his workshop and even bought us all curry as it was his
50th birthday on the night of the shoot…

Q: Where was the location of your film?

Milk Man was shot in North London. My flat in East Finchley
was Brian’s flat. Marina’s flat was my neighbour’s. The convenience
store location is about a mile down the road from my flat on the border
between Highgate and East Finchley. In a film that is about a man that
does all he can NOT to connect with his neighbours, going out into my
local community and finding such generosity and warmth was one of the
most rewarding parts of filming… The local paper even did a report from
the set, and it’s the edition that Marina is holding in the final scene.

Q: Tell us about your next project.

Festivals! I’m a one-man-band and that’s taken a lot of time since
finishing [post-production] in May 2009. I completed a two-minute short
in June 2009 for the Virgin Media Shorts competition called “The
Proposal”. Delia and Henry turn up again as very different characters
in a very different film to “Milk Man”. It’s a cheeky comedy invented
so that the “Milk Man” team could collaborate for another project,
quickly and inexpensively… I’m currently developing several projects
side-by-side with different collaborators in the hope that at least one
of them will find backing…There’s a short form opera set round a craps
table; a supernatural black comedy featuring a goat and a gangster; a
mock-reality TV show… a psycho-thriller about a questionable paparazzi
photographer, and a comedy based on the mythology of the “jin” or
“genie” as popularised by “Aladdin”. The recurring theme of all the
ideas is the existential question of “responsibility” in relationship
to the debate around freewill versus determinism. In other words,
“choice.”

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About ÉCU-The European Independent Film Festival

Hillier Scott
(ECU)

 

 

Scott Hillier, Founder and President of ÉCU - The European Independent Film Festival
 
Scott Hillier is a director, cinematographer, and screenwriter, based in Paris, France. In the last 20 years, Hillier has gained international recognition from his strong and incredible cinematography, editing, writing, producing and directing portfolio in both the television and film industries.  
 
Scott began his career in the television industry in Australia. In 1988, he moved to London getting a job with the BBC who then set him to Baghdad. This opportunity led him to 10 years of traveling around world for the BBC, mainly in war zones like Somalia, Bosnia, Tchetcheynia, Kashmir, and Lebanon. After a near fatal encounter with a Russian bomber in Tchechnyia, Hillier gave up his war coverage and began in a new direction. 
 

He moved to New York City in 1998.  He directed and photographed eight one-hour documentaries for National Geographic and The Discovery Channel. Based on his war knowledge and experience, Hillier wrote and directed a short film titled, “Behind the Eyes of War!" The film was awarded “Best Short Dramatic Film” at the New York Independent Film and TV Festival in 1999. From that he served as Supervising Producer and Director for the critically acclaimed CBS 42 part reality series, "The Bravest” in 2002 and wrote and directed a stage play called, "Deadman’s Mai l," which ran at Le Théâtre du Moulin de la Galette in Paris during the summer of 2004. He then became the Director of Photography on a documentary titled, “Twin Towers." This was yet another life changing experience for Hillier. The riveting documentary won an Academy Award for "Best Documentary Short Subject" in 2003. In 2004, Hillier changed continents again, spending three months in Ethiopia. He produced “Worlds Apart,” a pilot for ABC America / True Entertainment / Endemol. As you can see, Hillier was and is always in constant movement and enjoys working in a number of diverse creative areas including documentaries, music videos, commercials, feature and short films.

 
Scott studied film at New York University and The London Film and Television School. He also studied literary non-fiction writing at Columbia University. Hillier's regular clients include the BBC, Microsoft, ABC, PBS and National Geographic. Between filming assignments, he used to teach film, a Masters Degree course in Screenwriting at the Eicar International Film School in Paris, France and journalism at the Formation des Journalistes Français in Paris, France. 
 

 


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