British film makers Luke Seomore and Joseph Bull, known for their documentary film Isolation, have their feature length debut, Blood Cells, coming to Nottingham this weekend. We caught up with Luke to discuss the film and its themes.
So, you and Joseph Bull work together on all your productions, until recently naming yourselves ‘Institute for Eyes’, and the new film is your first full length feature film, why don’t you set us up with what’s going on and what we can expect to unfold?
So, Blood Cells is a British road movie, and it follows the journey of Adam, who explores legacy, energy and love, and it’s about adversity, and it’s exploring the strange and cultural parts of the UK that may not have been explored in British cinema before, and our lead character is played by Barry Norman, who recently starred in Ken Loach’s film Jimmy’s Hall.
The film seems to be, on the one hand, a complex character study of Adam going on his own journey, he suffers this family trauma and then sets off on his own path around the UK. How did you work to retain the level of character study whilst exploring aspects of UK culture new to British cinema?
That’s a good question. The character has been developed…well the film was made through the Biennale College in Venice, a scheme which requires it to be produced fairly quickly to premiere at the Venice Film Festival, and Barry Norman is a friend of ours – we’ve been wanting to make an experimental film with him for some time. We started talking about the character and the movements involved, talking about starting points for a character going into crisis. And then we said, wouldn’t it be interesting to revisit some of the more strange places we toured around looking for ideas and exploring them cinematically through Adam’s POV. But Barry’s character is always centre stage, it’s always about exploring his internal processes, emotions and memories, to go into real situations, like the scene set in Wales, the two girls involved in that scene weren’t professional actors, we street cast them from a local school. And Barry was great at leading those scenes, we researched a lot about street casting and taking the right approach to getting the best out of them, and having a professional actor on set all the time to try and encourage them.
You mention the themes and locations of this film have been influenced by your history of documentary films. How much of what you’ve learnt and seen from those films has made it into this film?
It didn’t feel like anything that we wanted to achieve we didn’t, it never felt pressured. It was trying to maintain a balance of exploring places, in our feature documentary before it was one ex-soldier travelling around and talking to other ex-soldiers on how they dealt with life after coming out of the army and the general culture shock of change. We did see a lot of places, but we didn’t want it to be contrived where it’s just like he’s going to random places – it had to make geographical sense as well. It is a ramshackle journey he goes on, but he’s always heading down from the north towards Essex throughout the film. As the film carries on you realise why he’s not just going straight home, the interesting thing about doing a road movie in the UK is that it’s not like the US states where some places are quite dark meaning they can’t get through – in England it’s a lot smaller, and anywhere can be reached in just over a day, so it’s not the distance that stops the character from going home, it’s often a more maternal reason.
With the lead actor, Barry Ward, what was that journey like for him? It appears to be a complex role.
It was really inspiring, it was a beautiful experience. He put in as much as we did – he lost a lot of weight at the start of the film, as he’s haunted by his experiences and doesn’t eat a lot (mostly drinking), and his disapline for that was fantastic. For an actor it’s a difficult role as Adam doesn’t omit a lot of emotions, it’s generally internal what he’s going through. To see him perform was pretty amazing, we did a test film about a year ago, doing the same scene with two Welsh girls, and he was so great at leading those scenes, getting emotions out of those people. We tried to infuse some of our own experiences with ones that Barry had as well, to weave out a really complex and interesting character.
Could you say that all these internal emotions going on are reflected in the title of the film, ‘Blood Cells’?
Yeah, exactly. The idea of movement, inheritance, disease, time passing and so on. We are connected to our family blood, literally, and that was the general idea we wanted. Someone suggested that it would be called ‘Blood Sells’ with an ‘s’ – but I don’t think that would have worked out quite so well.
Interviewer – Ellis Whitehouse
Blood Cells is showing at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema on Saturday 1st August, followed by a live Q&A session with both of the directors. Tickets available at: http://www.broadway.org.uk/events/film-blood-cells-plus-qanda