I recently got a chance to sit down and view “This World We Live In”, an LGBTQ film directed by Gage Oxley and starring Jack Parr. I wrote a glowing review of it, which you can check out here (http://occhimagazine.com/review-this-world-we-live-in/). I awarded the film 4.5 stars, citing its realistic depiction and gripping narrative. Today, I’m honored to have a chance to ask Gage Oxley a few questions in regard to this fantastic piece of film. We discussed technology, some light politics, and the amount of work that went into the piece. I hope you enjoy this wonderful interview with this very talented individual, and I urge you to seek out the film and view it.
Before I get into the nitty gritty, I wanted to ask you about the equipment you used during shoots. The film has a sort of clarity to it that I don’t often see in indie pictures. In fact, this super clear visual style aided the entire piece in a way that goes beyond technical quality. As a critic who’s also into video production, I was curious what your setup was?
Thank you, we shot “This World We Live In” on the Sony FS7, a camera I’ve had for the last couple of years – it’s such a great camera to work with, it’s built very well for documentary-style pictures, and as a lot of Oxygen’s films have quite gritty, realistic messages within them – I think the camera really works for us. And, of course, Matthew Tingle (DoP) brought some brilliant ideas to the shoot and captured the film so beautifully.
I’d also like to take some time for you to tell us a bit about yourself, as well as the origins of your production company. How did you come to find yourself in the director’s chair? What do you think are the most rewarding and challenging aspects that come with directing films?
I first became fascinated with film at the age of eight, joining filmmaking groups, clubs and going on as many workshops as I possibly could. Coming from Leeds, where the first film was ever made by Louis Le Prince definitely helped as well! Eleven years on, I am still just as passionate about film and find everything about it so brilliant. Working on the set of this project was so rewarding, to be and work alongside similarly passionate and committed young people to create a story and a film we were proud of is by far the biggest reward. I think in terms of direction the biggest challenge for this film was working with such a challenging topic, which also came up in the screen-writing process. To work with the talented actors involved in the shoot was a blessing, as every single scene brought up a new challenge. I do think the hardest thing was to ensure we were accurately representing the issues seen in the film, especially ChemSex which really is a growing issue and one which can be very damaging. We want to create a platform for discussion with our films, but everyone on set was really switched on and knew how important it was to make this film as accurately as possible.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about ChemSex.
Jack Parr was a stand out for me in terms of performance. He was absolutely wonderful. To that point, the entire cast was also very well comprised. Could you tell me a bit about the casting phase of TWWLI?
Jack is absolutely phenomenal in the film, and was incredible to work with. This is the third film of mine Jack’s been in, but the first he’s taken lead. The entire cast really took on such a huge responsibility and challenge with the film, and I do believe they did it justice. The casting process was completely down to our talented casting director, Sian Carry, who has worked on every single film I’ve ever done. She did a marvelous job of working with the talent in pre-production, they were such difficult roles to fill, but she found cast who genuinely believed in the issues and topics we were tackling, and understood how affecting this film would be.
TWWLI is ripe with social commentary, and while it’s a story that has been (unfortunately) true for many years, do you feel like it has more of an impact now? I try not to be get political, but do you think that films like TWWLI are more needed now than ever in our current global political climate?
I think films like this are insanely necessary. I mentioned it in the introduction at the preview screening some weeks ago now that we are consistently battling bigotry, hatred and attacks to every minority. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK, yet still we find ourselves facing oppression from those seemingly in power. It’s the likes of that which I think makes art stronger on the whole, it really does spark a passion which couldn’t be sparked any other way. We are desperate for change and a supportive discussion, and I do feel that basing creation from destruction and oppression is a way to truly create impactful, meaningful texts. I really do hope and believe that TWWLI has done that.
Without getting into spoilers, I really respected that the film didn’t stray away from the darker aspects of its story. Some of these scenes, including the last few, must have been incredibly rough to film. How did the cast and crew handle these shoots? Did you guys do anything to lighten the tension and mood?
Those final scenes really, really were difficult to film! I don’t think anyone really estimated just how it would go and what actually would happen, but I think that in itself worked as a whole – I saw genuine reactions of shock to the live performance, and Jack saw genuine amazement from those around him which definitely helps! In order to lighten the mood I had printed off some inspirational, calming quotes for us to read if it got a little bit too much – but it turned out the production team had used them to craft the fake cocaine for an earlier scene so sadly they weren’t useable!
The cautionary story of Joey is arguably timeless; it’s a struggle I know many people deal with. TWWLI featured the use of technology and dating apps, which I thought was a smart modern twist. I’m curious what your personal feelings are on an applications like this? Do you think the onset of technology and the anonymity of the web has made it easier or harder to form true connections?
As I mentioned before with the biggest challenge being accurately representing the issue of ChemSex – we reached out to leading sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street, who does fantastic work with those who engage in chems. They saw such an spike in the support they offer from the use of technology and gay dating apps. We did some of our own research and found that within a couple of conversations you’d be introduced to the likes of slamming, tina, chems parties – and that can be so dangerous when you add in a vulnerable, image-conscious person who uses this technology. However, I should also say that is only a part of the community, I’ve also seen people in the LGBT community meet the love of their lives online.
I feel like for its run time, TWWLI has a lot of important lessons contained within it. If there was a couple things you wanted viewers to truly gain from their experience, what would they be?
There are so many threads of issues we tackle within the film, and ones which we know we can never fully explore in its fullest as they are just too complex. More than anything, our main aim with the film was to create an informed discussion. There are so many elements of the film which will shock people, and will create debate – which is exactly our goal. It’s imperative we create a space for people to talk about these taboo topics, and to have a platform to potentially relate their inner concerns to.
As we wrap things up, I wanted to get into some lighter questions. Can you recall a specifically endearing or enjoyable moment on set that you’d like to share?
There were just so many! The entire shoot was just perfect from start to finish, we made so many fantastic memories and friendships on set, and it was such a fun shoot despite the topics we were tackling! One of the highlights for me was the production wrap on the final day of shooting. I was given a scrapbook of memories and letters from the cast and crew on set, and I can remember just breaking down. I think it was the realization that we’d finished this amazing experience of a film we were all so proud of and with a cast and crew I was immensely proud to work alongside.
The overall reception of TWWLI has been very positive. How has this reception affected you and the talented men and women who worked on it?
It’s been such a lovely reception, which is wonderful to share with all of the cast and crew who dedicated themselves solely for a number of days and weeks to the project. To have a positive reaction to the hard work and commitment is really inspiring, at least it is for me, to continue working on the Odyssey knowing we are going in the right direction. We know that the film is quite shocking and it definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but we are vehement in continuing to create film which challenges and inspires our audience.
Where can my lovely readers get a chance to view TWWLI? I think it’s a very important piece of film, and I urge everyone to check it out. Any news on distribution or how you’re going to go about public release that you’d care to share?
We’re currently entering into the festival circuit, with our aims to get it as far and as wide as possible. We will be pursuing screenings in cinemas in certain areas, as well as eventually releasing the film online later in the year. For anyone who’s wanting to see the film, I’d suggest following us on our social media (@TWWLIfilm) as we’ll be keeping people updated on screenings there.
Finally, I’d simply like to thank you and everyone involved on TWWLI for your incredible effort and obvious passion in making the project. You managed to create something powerful and moving, all while remaining relevant and keeping in good taste. Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to answer my questions!
Thank you! And thank you for supporting young, independent filmmakers as well – we really appreciate it!
Connect with Gage Oxley:
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I'm a life long gamer and an overall media junkie. In addition to writing great articles like this, I host a gaming/comedy podcast called "Super Gamecast 64" available on iTunes and Stitcher. I also watch an unhealthy amount of movies, and try to spread as much love into the world as I can. Hope you enjoyed the content!