Inspiration and references (Part 1: Visuals)
This week we have been continuing to meet various composers, musicians and heads of departments. For me it’s incredibly exciting to hear different people’s takes on the film and what they can bring to the project. They are all so talented, I’m going to have some tough decisions to make.
One thing that naturally comes up a lot when talking about the film is references. ‘How do you see the shooting style?’, ‘Like the work of ________?’, ‘So the film is a cross between Delicatessen and Fawlty Towers?’.
There seems to be two schools of thought on referencing other bodies of work. During an online q&a, I once asked Nicolas Winding Refn if he watched films for inspiration/reference before shooting Drive, and, if so, which ones. He said he used to do this when he was younger, but not anymore as he wants his films to have their own unique feel. Then there are people like Martin Scorsese, who screens dozens of movies to his cast and crew before shooting starts.
For me, I very much fall into the second category and I am heavily influenced by other films, tv shows, books, plays… pretty much anything. Some people might say I’m too influenced!
So I thought it would be interesting to share some of the references for The Fitzroy. I don’t want The Fitzroy to be a copy of any of these, but cherry pick certain elements, ideas or even just a feel and mood.
NB: I got half-way though this blog and realised I was already up to 3 pages! I did say I was influenced by everything. So I am going to spread this out over three blogs, covering what I see as the three corners stones to the film; the visuals, the comedy and the music/sound scape.
So lets start with the visuals.
The Fitzroy is set in an alternative post-apocalyptic 1950’s. So obviously some of the key references visually are the period setting. The style of the clothes, graphic design and interior decorating are all incredibly important.
Austerity post-war Britain is fascinating. With food rationing continuing until 1954, the government information posters, pamphlets and films from this period are a wealth of ideas. Interestingly, many of the films employ humour to get their message across.
If you follow us on twitter you will have noticed we have been posting many COI films (Central Office of Information) as they are fun but also a rich mine inspiration for us.
Beyond the 1950’s references there have also been many, many films that have influenced the writing of The Fitzroy and no doubt will have an impact on it’s visual look.
The biggest of these has to be the work of Richard Lester.
Unknowingly, I grew up on Richard Lester’s films, especially the Musketeers and Superman films (he produced the first, uncredited, and directed two and three). But it is only recently that I discovered his earlier work like The Knack and How to Get It, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and How I Won the War.
His films have such a pace and energy about them that even today, almost 50 years on, they still leap off the screen, grab you and pleasantly shake you up.
A huge influence for The Fitzroy is the wonderful The Bed Sitting Room, written by Spike Milligan. It is a strange film to say the least, but the cast and visuals are absolutely stunning. Some of the sight gags are brilliant – the BBC news reporter has to be one of my favourite jokes of all time.
The other big reference are the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, (Amélie, City of Lost Children, Delicatessen). I think you can see the influence of Richard Lester in his work, especially in his use of camera and cutting style.
As for shooting style, at the moment I really want to shoot on wide lenses – as most comedy should be. They just make everything funnier. You need look no further than Raising Arizona to see this. I adore this Coen Brothers film, it is great fun and a brilliant performance by Nicholas Cage. One of the aspects I really enjoy about it is the cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld. The use of the wide-angle lens heightens the comedy and creates an off-kilter feeling. It also allows for clever reframing with little movements from the actors or camera. This in turn gives the film a real frenetic energy and pace. The other great thing from a budget standpoint – it helps to keep the number of camera setups down.
So those are just a few of the visual references for The Fitzroy. As the film develops, the list will grow and grow. I kind of see it as a soup – we chuck in everything that we like and out of that will come the film’s own (delicious) identity. Well that’s the plan.
Blimey that was a long blog. Congratulations if you made it all the way through it! In part two we’ll have a look at some comedy influences. So hopefully that will be fun.