In the second of our WISFF alumni interviews we catch up with filmmaker James Lark who won “Best London Filmmaker” at the 2013 Wimbledon International Short Film Festival for “A Cake For Jim Broadbent”.
Can you tell me a little bit about ‘A Cake For Jim Broadbent’ and what made you want to tell this story?
The film was conceived and shot in a single day with a group of like-minded friends, two of whom had spent the previous night making cupcakes because they were of the opinion that this was the best way to ensure inspiration. When we met up early to discuss ideas, cakes were therefore very much at the forefront of our conversation, and we started to riff on the idea of sending cakes to celebrities. The script I wrote came out of that – I think Jim Broadbent was in my mind because he had been promoting a film on the radio a few weeks earlier and, due to his warm personality, was the celebrity I most wanted to send a cake to at the time.
We were keen that the cake sending shouldn’t be in any way stalkerish, but we also wanted the central character to feel real, hence our attempt at the look of early French new wave cinema – we worked very hard to get the right look in a lengthy post-production period, as well as the right sound. One of the crew, Stephen Wilkinson, was about to embark on a linguistics course, so the French subtitles were a useful warm-up for his course.
So what have you been up to since winning ‘Best London Filmmaker’?
A lot of my work has been in theatre: over the 2013 Christmas period I worked on Io Theatre Company’s family show ‘The Snow Spider’ (based on Jenny Nimmo’s award-winning children’s book), which I co-adapted and wrote and directed the music for. Last year we followed it up with two new Christmas productions in Cheltenham of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ and a portmanteau of his ghost stories, which I again adapted and wrote the music for. The process of adaptation is complicated but it’s encouraging that we managed to produce two completely new shows from scratch in about six months, which suggest’s we’re getting better at it. Our other project last year was a new production of a little-known J. M. Barrie play set during the First World War, ‘A Well Remembered Voice’, which launched the University of Hertfordshire’s World War One Engagement Centre ‘Everyday Lives At War’.
Over 2013 and 2014 I directed another short film, rather more complex than ‘A Cake for Jim Broadbent’ in all respects, called ‘Death Sentence’. It received its premiere last November at the 2nd Film Noir festival in Paris, so I found myself running back to Stephen Wilkinson for another set of subtitles. Fortunately he’s nearly finished his course now so he was well up to the task.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Quite a few things, including a possible multimedia opera, and a new theatre piece about Fanny Cradock which incorporates cooking. (There seems to be a bit of a culinary theme running through my work, doesn’t there?) I also have a low budget feature script on the go which is due another rewrite and gradually getting closer to some sort of production. Problem is it looks less low budget with every rewrite.
What made you get into filmmaking and what do you most love about it?
I saved up my pocket money for years when I was a teenager until I could afford a camcorder, one which I made hours of films – James Bond parodies, Star Wars parodies, an especially bizarre variation on Toy Story, a historical epic with my A-level history class, gradually getting more sophisticated and original as I got older. I used to edit in camera where possible, then onto VHS with a phono lead stretching across the living room from my Dad’s hi-fi so I could play my own incidental music from the cassette player into one of the inputs. Not wishing to sound like an old fogey (and I’m only in my 30s!), kids today don’t realise how lucky they are with all this software!
What’s the best bit of advice you could give to a fellow filmmaker?
Keep creating stuff, whether it’s writing, or making 30 second shorts, whether you’re doing it on your phone or hiring a crew and spending a weekend on it – keep experimenting and trying things out, it’s the only way to learn.
Keep up to date with what James is up to at: