Meeting Paul King and Revisiting Kate Leys - Lizzie Oxby (October 2015)
When someone generously gives you their time and love on a project and describes your films as having beautiful ideas, I’m flattered - but when that someone happens to be a director, whose work I truly admire, I’m more so. Paul King is that visionary director. Director of wonderful mixed media films; ‘Paddington’, ‘Bunny and the Bull’ and ‘The Mighty Bush’.
As soon as I met Paul to talk about his work, I knew I was talking with someone who shared a love of imaginative, playful films. A director who crafts films that audiences endear to; who speaks a similar visual language, and has a mutual passion for the prep work that goes into mixed media filmmaking. With such similar sensibilities, we had heaps to talk about, however, as I began to ask my zillion questions about his filmmaking process, I suddenly found the tables turned, as Paul started asking about me. ‘How far back do you want to go? … The beginning, beginning?’ I asked. ‘Yes’ Paul said.
So I started talking about how my passion for creating heightened worlds began with my mother; a photo colourist - and how from a very young age, we’d watch Powell Pressburger matiness together. I’d be engrossed in the world of Black Narcissus and she’d whisper ‘look at how the lipstick changes on the derange nun’s lips’, and point out Jack Cardiff’s wonderful photography. That’s where my love of cinematic storytelling began. My father, a marine engineer and also a passionate photographer, would spend long stretches of time working abroad - and send me photographic story books of his travels. Effectively storyboards - but I didn’t realise that at the time - and started illustrating my own worlds instead. Mostly based on things that happened around me - or poignant tales, read to me.
So I pulled out the visual document I’d created to help write my feature film project, ‘Tiny Dots’. The visuals I showed Paul have a creative line from my previous work. And as I began telling him the story I was developing - an imaginative thriller, with an emotional poignancy at its heart, and how I wanted it to be in keeping with my style of work (and to be wary of not scaling it back too far, as Andrea Cornwell wisely advised), I was caught by surprise, when Paul suddenly offered to read the script and help with the project. His kind generosity would mean I’d be receiving script notes from a wonderful director who shares an understanding of creating inventive, visual worlds. His input will be gold dust - and I’m really looking forward to hearing Paul’s thought on the next draft.
Before then, I had the current draft of ‘Tiny Dots’ to attend to, and the pleasure of revisiting story editor Kate Leys. Kate had read three passes of the current script (on story, structure and character development) and had some constructive notes to offer for the next draft. Her insightful questions posed at the meeting, will lead me to heighten the tension between the characters, and build more emotional pressure on the central character - as events unfold, and the rules of the world continue to test him, and those closest to him.
Plotting out the entire story on A3 sheets across my studio wall, in giant marker pen is the key, Kate suggested. It will prevent me from getting into the minutia (the blessing / curse of being a mixed media filmmaker, where everything is figured out in meticulous and precise detail upfront, prior to production to save costs and labour), and focus on the bigger picture unfolding. Armed with Kate’s tip, I can visually see how this helpful giant chart will aid writing the next draft. The clues planted, the unlocking of realisations, and pay offs, need to be carefully plotted and paced - and require some mental gymnastics to do. But with all the ingredients, and Kate’s pertinent questions and encouragement in place, I feel fully charged to take on the next draft. And raring to add those deeper shades of colour, and heartbreak into the story, before I send the next draft off to Paul.