Most of my work begins from character. I’m fascinated by people and my interest is in stories about ordinary people whose lives feel like they reveal universal truths that speak to all of us.
It is by accident that a lot of my films have multiple characters, but I am often drawn to the frameworks in which we meet people – a place, an action, a time – and how this shapes a filmic conception of the world. I seem to be obsessed with moving and reflective spaces: trains and cars (more on those later) feature heavily in ideas I’m drawn to, alongside mirrors and windows. These spaces carry a certain property for me, both symbolic and provocative. Often we catch a revealing slice of our psyches here.
The first film I made in this way was originally called “Seven Windows”, but made its way into the world under the title “The Divide”. In the film, seven unconnected people striving for a better life across the US and UK discover the odds may be stacked against them. Even though the film is quite “big” it still feels intimate. I always feel the real meaning is found in the cracks, the spaces in-between of life, where “nothing is happening”. But everything is happening in these “smaller” moments: stuck in a traffic jam, waiting on the porch, looking in the mirror. It is by observing and uncovering elements of ordinary lives that we draw parallels between them.
The Divide (2016)
Dearborn, Michigan (2021)
In Dearborn Michigan, the idea was to take one place, people that lived in the same few streets, yet whose lives were worlds apart. In this film, fear is echoed in the landscape and the places we meet our characters -primarily in and around the car. In The Divide I had deliberately excluded myself from the process but in making Dearborn I realised how important it was to include myself as the lens through which we experience the film - an outsider, somewhat unwelcome, in a place of “outsiders”. Whilst filming the other, I wanted to be aware that I was revealing the self.
A Tale of Two Lands