To be a director, you have to have a vision. Of how you want to bring whatever text you are directing, to life. What you want to communicate to your audience, and how exactly you plan to do so. Everyone has their own technique, a method, a plan, to achieve that. Of course, that isn’t our only job as directors, but I would say, that is probably our main function. However, in the nearly ten years I’ve worked as one, I have learnt one fundamental thing: it never looks nor ends up like you imagined it would. That’s life, though. Sometimes, your vision, your understanding even your understanding shifts somewhere in the rehearsal process, and you go with it. And most of the time, you end up with something far better, far more exciting and on point than you thought you ever could. It has been very rare for me indeed, (I count probably count the instances on one hand), to arrive at the end of a job, and find it totally matches my vision.
To celebrate an extraordinary year, Tilly and I wanted to create a festive Souliloquy. Something to tie it all in, and transition us into what we hope will be a truly exciting 2017. Something a little bit lighter, and little more fun, and a little different from what we had done before.
Finding a suitable candidate wasn’t a problem – Ariel was our first and only choice as I remember. Once that decision was done, we only had to write it, figure out what to do with it, cast it, and film it. So nothing much. Tilly came up with a brilliant first draft, and we had a quick meeting about what I had already come to think I might like it to look like. I won’t speak to the writing process – that’s all Miss Lunken brilliance – but from the “editor’s” perspective, I would say Ariel’s tone was quite difficult to nail down, and we had quite a few discussions about finding our Ariel’s voice. It was as always a wonderful process, and Tilly is a perfect collaborator because we can always have these great discussions and she is so open to new thoughts and interpretations. Casting Chris was also a brilliant Tilly decision, and after a short to and fro of scheduling and all that jazz, we were ready to film.
To give you some idea, here are a couple images which give you an idea of what my mood boards were going for. Mood boards are one of those things I can’t do without whenever I am directing, or writing, or doing photo-shoots, or acting for that matter. I find them to be such an awesome tool for communication through senses and emotions rather than words which more often than not, fail me in real life.
So, as you see, quite moody mood boards. I loved the fog, and the darkness and solitude of the woods, it really felt like an uninhabited island, though perhaps not a “golden place” at first glance, one that might be so for a spirit of the air. (PS it also looks so darn cool). But hey, I thought, it’s not like I’ll have a smoke machine. So we can do without the fog. And still make it look awesome. To the woods (near my house) then! Chris bravely agreed to be my victim (as Tilly is still away in Australia), and come for an adventure in sunny Kent. And by sunny I mean that it was utterly frozen, and wouldn’t you know it – FOGGY LIKE THE DEVIL. Honestly, I think the gods of art were looking out for me, because we may have frozen, and I may have lost takes due to hand shaking and teeth chattering, but MAN DID IT LOOK PERFECT.
Now, another thing about me as a director, which I may have mentioned before, I’m not really a dictator. More of a gentle molder. I like to see what actors bring to the table, particularly on something like this where we have had basically zero rehearsal time (so yeah, our actors are pretty badass), and go from there. And Chris brought so much on the day.
It was my first time filming outdoors – other than a brief try with our Lady Macduff, in which she was grieving, and wallowing in the empty silence devoid of her children, and the kids in the nearby school were screaming. So not great. I was a bit fearful, mainly because I am not a sound person, and generally wasn’t sure it would all work. But we found an empty bit of the woods, and got down to it. Though we did have minor incidents – the birds, the lost dog and screaming owners, my chattering teeth – it all went superbly well. Chris brought such a delightful mix of quiet power, cheekiness and joy, and we could not have asked for a more perfect Ariel. I think we really wanted to remind the audience, and ourselves, of just how powerful and natural of a being Ariel is. That despite his playfulness in the original material, he is still, or was still, a caged animal.
I think this piece is about returning home, to yourself, and finding yourself in solitude. A lot of people struggle with the notion of loneliness/solitude, but I have always reveled in solitude. In spending time with myself, my thoughts, and I do think it is important to know how to be alone with yourself. One thing I did stress to Chris was the importance of his use of the word “me”. I don’t think it’s a word Ariel has really know the meaning or the power of in quite a long time, and to be able to reclaim that must feel very liberating. It was also vital for us that Ariel, generally, was a bit less dramatic than perhaps a lot of what we’ve done so far; as incredible as all that work has been, we wanted to finish off on a rather positive note. And I think that we have achieved that.
All that to say – the vision I had for Ariel, was completely and utterly realized, (almost) exactly how I had imagined it. (Nothing will ever be exactly as you imagine – but this came pretty close). It was a tremendous experience, working with Tilly & Chris on this, and generally having a partner like Tilly, who trusted me alone to do something we never had before with one of her babies. (Though I did have her voice in my brain a bit). I hope you all enjoy it. Thank you for your support and collaborations so far – here’s to many more in 2017. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The secret to good art is believing in what you are doing, and trusting those you do it with. If you have that, you can do anything your mind can dream or conjure up.