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The making of Popping The Question & Copy That
IAC: Episodic stories can easily become tedious, even when funny. Your editing and wit avoided that ... but how carefully was it all planned?
KH: From the beginning the script was written to keep scenes brief, with quick flashes of comedy to keep the pace moving smoothly throughout. During the shoot lot of the action was developed upon and improvised in the moment however, and so much of the shape came out in the edit - it might be painful but we had to learn to kill our babies!
IAC: Much depends on your star and he manages the sincere, sweet yet sometimes dopy style that is perfect for the role. How hard was it to find the right actor? Were there problems? How many takes for the “unribboning” shot?
KH: It actually wasn't hard to find the right actor at all, as soon as I started on the project I had Joe in mind. His fantastically versatile range of expressions makes him the perfect actor for the role as he brings a very real humour to the character. We had a few takes to get the unribboning shot to work as it had to be so rushed; we had originally planned for the ribbon scene to be without underwear but discovered that it didn't cover up as much as we had thought it would!!
Probably the most problematic element to shoot was when Esme flips the scrabble board and the pieces fly into the air - it just wouldn't do what we needed it to!
IAC: What sort of brain-storming was done to come up with ideas? Which ones were rejected? Did any “get away” due to problems in the shoot?
KH: Lots of ideas were rejected to try and find the funniest ones but as ever the logistics of the shoot got in the way...There was a scene scripted where Joe sneaks down in the middle of the night to pull up the floorboards and retrieve the ring that had to be canned for practical reasons. There was also a scene where he leaves a message in the condensation in a bathroom mirror that she misses in the rush to get ready for work, but the mirror just wouldn't steam up properly!
IAC: How big a crew was there?
KH: The crew was more of a micro-crew, with just four of us and our two cast members who were all studying drama at Manchester University together.
IAC: What thought went into the decor and colour palettes of the lovers’ home and the office copy-room? What planning went into costumes? How did you solve the inevitable lighting problems?
KH: There was quite a difference in the budget of the two films so with Popping the Question we mostly used rooms that were available to us and tweaked a few things like furniture and decoration. I wanted there to be lots of warmth in the film to add to the romantic theme and light so we bore that in mind when choosing furniture and props.
In Copy That we had a lot more set decoration to use and more money to play with - I wanted the overall office colour-scheme to be quite simple but with flashes of colour in the background and in Beth's costumes.
In Popping the Question our lighting was very simple, mostly having to cleverly manipulate available lighting. However when shooting Copy That we had access to lots of professional lighting equipment that made it much easier to get the desired look. The 'fight' scene over the copier was probably the most difficult to light as we were seeing all around the room and the scene had lots of movement, but our DOP Ed cleverly handled the situation.
IAC: The conceit of a machine which is conscious and has a personality could easily have gone into the ridiculous ...
KH: Barbara had written a brilliant script that I fell in love with as soon as I read it. There were a couple of things that we did tweak though in order to not push the boundaries of belief too far, such as keeping its methods of communication two-dimensional and purely through the ways that a photocopier really does 'communicate' to some extent. We really wanted to create and maintain the photocopier as an individual and wholly believable character. This was then developed through shooting from the copier's 'point of view' so to speak, and by recreating the traditional shot-reverse shot technique between human and machine.
IAC: Your actors here have real chemistry on screen. Did you cast couples or find them separately? There are some interesting angles – does your camera operator hang from ceilings/walk up walls?
Claudia and Robbie (playing Beth and Jack) weren't a couple - in fact they were two cast members on the BBC's drama adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, a production that I had worked on earlier that year.
No there were no Spiderman camera operating techniques but there was perhaps a bit of contortionist movement by Ed in order to get the extreme low shots and odd angles to create the relationships and add to the humour!
IAC: Few non-commercial film makers attempt gentle romance stories – with not a zombie or werewolf in sight – why did that appeal to you?
That's an interesting question because most of the films I make, even the comedies, have a bit of a darker edge to them. This has been the lightest film I've made but I was really drawn to Barbara's witty writing and the challenge of developing our slightly non-conventional lead character!
IAC: All film makers love stories of the panics and disasters that happen on most shoots. It makes us feel we are not the only ones the gods hate! Were there any such problems on these shoots?
KH: To be honest we were fairly lucky not to encounter any major disasters on either shoot, but we did have lots of issues that simply had to be overcome. Time restrictions probably put the most pressure on us as Copy That was shot in two days - the same amount of time we had to shoot Popping the Question which is 10 minutes shorter!
IAC: What next? You are working in the industry now. Will it still be possible to make your own films?
KH: Yep I'm currently working as a freelance 3rd assistant director in television, which is long hours and doesn't leave me with much time for planning or shooting. I'm determined to keep making my own films though, and so far have managed to continue filmmaking - my most recent ones, made in between shoots or during the Christmas break, are viewable on vimeo.com/khoskins1.
Ideally, film school is next...fingers crossed!!
Watch the films online: