We had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Director and Writer Paul Knight about “A Landscape of Lies.” The movie definitely had an interesting path to production, so its release makes it even more intriguing. Check out the interview below.
Paul, you have an amazing film releasing soon, to add to your impressive resume, and we can’t wait to speak to you about it! Tell us about the director’s cut of “A Landscape of Lies.”
Firstly, let me thank you all at Occhi for the interest you have shown towards this project of ours and for the support you give Indie films. We appreciate magazines like yours that allow creative’s to share their projects with your audience.
‘A Landscape of Lies’ is a psychological thriller in the same vein as ‘Basic Instinct’ and ‘Fatal Attraction’. It centres around 4 separate lives that come crashing together by the murder of Jacob’s superior officer Hilt (Played by Marc Bannerman) at the hands of a serial killer and is left on a wasteland that is at the centre of a land dispute between workaholic Property Developer Marcus (played by Philip Brodie), whose marriage is in trouble and the hardnosed entrepreneur Brannigan (Superbly played by Danny Midwinter) who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Hilt’s best friend Jacob (Played by newcomer Andre Nightingale), suffering from the nightmarish effects from being stationed out in Iraq, feels it is his duty to avenge his friend and is drawn in to a web of deceit and betrayal where every thread seems to lead to the troubled, Dr. Audrey Grey (played by TV presenter Andrea McLean in her debut acting role) who is torn between her patients and her family.
It is a real twisty rollercoaster of a film, everyone in the film is lying to serve their own agenda, and it’s up to the police investigation to uncover the truth and find the killer.
The film originally released in 2011 and had a limited run on the film festival circuit. Now, you’re releasing a director’s cut. Do you feel the movie was ahead of its time?
I do have to point out that the 2011 version was never released to the general public, it did the festival circuit, where it earned some kudos but issues with the producers behind the film meant the film was pulled whilst legal matters were addressed both publically and not-so-publically until the ownership of the rights fell to me at the end of 2015. It is a misconception that the film ever saw the light of day, despite being reported by the media that it had gone to DVD. So the new Director’s Cut will be the only cut, barring a few close-knit people and 2012 festival goers, that the public will ever know which in hindsight may be a good thing as the original cut certainly didn’t receive the attention this version has on the festival circuit a second time around. Out of the 10 festivals we entered, we have been officially selected by 7, whilst already being notified we are finalists in 4 with categories covering Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Soundtrack and Best Screenplay. We just patiently await the final decision on their respective event nights.
We tick a lot of the boxes of today’s issues being fought within the industry right now, which I think makes the film feel very current. We have good diversity both in front and behind the camera, we have an ensemble cast with our female actors playing roles that are interesting and complex, incidentally, the film passes the Bechdel test. One of the characters in the film is LBGT but we don’t make a big issue of it, we cover PTSD, sexual harassment, adultery, incest, without over-sexualizing a scene for the sake of it… Our film has all this it and it was filmed back in 2011, so you could say the film was ahead of its time in those regards but the overall story of greed and betrayal is a timeless one.
Could you explain what a director’s cut is to our readers, and what can they expect to see?
The director’s cut of this film is a pure labor of love for me, first I had to learn to edit! And it took me the best part of 2016 to put it all together (including the grading, sound, VFX etc – It was a very steep learning curve). I always knew there was a different story in what we shot compared to the screenplay I originally wrote, that didn’t shine through on the version that was edited back in 2011. That edit was very linear which to be fair to the editor was mainly due to the tight turnaround we were under by the producers and although it played as a fast-paced drama it lacked the thriller element that the audience will get to see in this new version. I had the time to rethink and weave a more compelling story, the new order of the scenes introduces the characters with an impact that were a slow burn before, now your first impressions of each character will probably change by the closing scenes. There is a few twists and turns in there that will keep even the most eagle-eyed viewer on their toes.
The character, Jacob, is battling PTSD from his time in the Gulf war. Many veterans are suffering from PTSD today. Do you believe the film will help raise awareness of it?
I personally do not believe it will help raise the awareness any higher because the awareness is already there… and it is not the main focus of the film. PTSD is ignored by the very people that sent these brave men and women to fight in a war that wasn’t ours to fight. The governing body has its own agendas that will always affect the rest of the people far more than it does any politician. Greed and corruption will always take precedence over doing the right thing and providing the aid our own people are in desperate need of, not just those returning from war, but our elderly, our young, our homeless, those suffering from mental health and all the families living below the breadline. You don’t have to look hard to see that the government is completely out of touch with the very people it is meant to represent.
Jacob’s character was written with that in mind, a soldier returned home to a country he fought a war for, lost friends to and is subsequently forgotten about. He comes home and struggles to find work, he is having to live hand to mouth whilst battling PTSD in the only manner he has been trained to do, to endure it, not seeking help, downplaying just how much it is affecting him. Whereas his ex-commanding officer and best friend, Hilt has returned making his time at war work for him by going into the private security sector, earning good money and getting on with his life. I, like everyone else, except there are two sides to every story… you can’t be biased when putting a point across, for every soldier returning with PTSD there are 4 who are not, for every returning vet who finds themselves homeless there are 100 who are not and it is because when the numbers are crunched that those suffering will be ignored because those statistics can be swallowed up and painted over.
Is there a particular reason why you made Jacob a military veteran?
At the time the script was written back in 2011, it was fast approaching the 10 year anniversary of that dreadful event that took place in New York involving the terror attack that brought down the Twin Towers. The seemingly never-ending conflict was brought back to the foreground, a lot of my own friends that served were trying to make their lives matter again (I had a couple come help us out on set), and I wanted to have Jacob and Hilt’s characters to be loyal to a fault, so using the solider element to depict a moment in time became the perfect setting for the devotion between these two very different men. I wasn’t out to capitalize on it or glamorize it… and the flashbacks we have to their time in Iraq is merely to show the comradery and relationship between them and the others in their unit. Nevertheless, when the film opened the Cardiff International Film Festival back in October a film reviewer was in attendance amongst the sold out screening and he saw it that the military aspect ran through the entire film and not just for our hero Jacob but saw the varying elements of the effects of serving in the armed forces ravage a large selection of the characters in the film and in turn made me re-evaluate the message I was out to present which is a remarkable feat in itself as I have (along with my wife and main pillar of support Diane) seen the varying incarnations of the film to get it to this stage 57 times and just when I thought it couldn’t surprise me anymore… Guess what? It does.
You have assembled a great cast and made sure they will resonate with viewers. What can the audience expect from the characters in the director’s cut?
The talent we have in this film is astonishing… unlike other micro-budget Indie films produced in this country on a similar budget we made Landscape on (£84k), the audience is going to recognise at least 90% of the cast from other films and prime-time TV shows and those they won’t is because they are newcomers especially in the form of Andre (playing Jacob) and Rosie Ginger (who plays rebellious teenager Hannah Clancy) who has grown into a very talented songstress (it’s amazing what 7yrs can do for a person). It goes without saying the biggest shock will be those witnessing Andrea McLean play against every possible wholesome image you have of her. For her debut role, she is simply astounding on screen as well as an absolute pleasure and professional to work with.
For me the actor that steals the show is Danny Midwinter, it is no secret that I actually passed on Danny at first, I felt he had played a similar role in ‘Freight’ which he won Best Actor award for and thought it would just feel too samey, but Dan got me on the phone and said to audition him and if I still felt the same way afterwards then that was that. Dan came in with such a unique take on the character that it changed the very perspective of Brannigan that it altered the feel of the overall film. I am big enough to admit, passing on him before seeing him was the wrong decision and I am very grateful his persistence made me agree to audition him. He is a force, totally underrated and deserves all the accolades that come his way.
Rounding off the main cast is Philip Brodie, Lucinda Rhodes, Victoria Hopkins, Marc Bannerman, Mel Mills, Christina Baily and Sam Cunningham.
We also have some great cameos from the legend that is Daniel Peacock, ‘Footballer Wives’ favourite, Helen Latham, Danny Young (Coronation Street), Kelly George (The Bill), and Paul Reynolds (Quick Cuts) and not to mention ‘we got them before they became famous’ Chloe Farnworth (Ava’s Impossible Things) and the multi award-winning Anna Passey for her role as Sienna Blake in ‘Hollyoaks’.
The whole cast is mesmerizing on screen and although it was a micro-budget film they gave it their all providing a powerhouse of performances. It was humbling to work with such an array of talent.
You’re an avid writer and filmmaker, who continuously hones his craft. What keeps you inspired?
I didn’t get into this industry until I was in my early 40’s so everything was an excuse to learn, I love engaging in new things… I envy the youth of today who get media studies as an option from secondary school… we had one BBC dragon computer in our school growing up and were more encouraged to join The Royal Mail for a career or get a trade (which I did as an Engineer)… The Arts were never presented as an option and we never had the technology that people have today and take for granted. I didn’t attend film school or anything like that, my first feature was funded out of my own pocket and I made every mistake there is to make… from believing those who went to film school actually knew what they were talking about, to never allowing the cast and crew to have an open tab at a restaurant… I was held to ransom by the DoP and Gaffer, messed about by the editor for 11 months before he finally came clean and admitted he hadn’t done anything with the footage… the audio was bad, dirt on the lenses, we didn’t get the elements that distributors were after… It was a nightmare, thrilling and fun but a nightmare… but at £10k I got more hands-on experience in 2 months than I would have got in 3 years of study at university for £30k just to produce 1 short so I feel like I got a good deal!
The whole experience sparked my interest and I wanted to learn more, but it is a very closely guarded, catch 22 industry. No one wants to help anyone… the industry is like the magic circle, all closely guarded secrets but when you look hard enough, long enough, you see how the trick is done and that is what fuels me… learning the secrets and then sharing them, I believe your giving hand should be working a lot more than your taking hand… and from that attitude I have a collective of like-minded creatives that get together, we bounce ideas off of each other, share the stories, warn others of producers who don’t pay their cast or crew, discover who to avoid, who to push to work with and discover new talent. There is a fantastic sub-community of people who have had very similar experiences that I have endured and band together to help others. It is that kind of comradery that inspires me to keep honing the craft, I found my passion late in life, but better late than never.
Thus far, what has been the best experience working in the industry?
They say you never forget your first… and that is so true. When embarking on making my first feature ‘Thugs, Mugs & Violence’ – it was a laugh a minute experience, working with friends, being thrown in at the deep end and rolling with all the disasters as they happened… even looking back at it now 9 years later it still brings a smile to my face.
We set out to make each set a fun set, I work with the same core people because I trust their work and it makes for an easier time when new cast and crew join the project. Which let’s face it, when working in indie film, your mates are who you hit up first. On Landscape working with professional actors was a great honor and obviously very different experience than directing your mates! It encourages you to step up and work harder, but being on set is always thrilling and I will keep on doing it until it’s not fun anymore.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we haven’t mentioned?
The positive feedback that is coming back from Landscape is opening up opportunities to work with a host of producers and filmmakers and as such, I have several new projects in various forms of development that will be making up a new slate for 2018 onwards. I’m thrilled to be working with some new emerging talent coming through the ranks like Patrick Ryder, Marc Zammit and Alex Igbonoi whose passion project ‘Champion’ is a moving film that I am very enthusiastic to help bring to life. While working with more established figures like the legendary Stephen Evans and Paul Tucker, and getting the chance to write a few screenplays for films being produced both in the UK and the U.S.
My solo project has been greenlit to go into production in 2018 titled ‘Palma’ a story set in 90’s Spain and inspired by the violent true events around John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer. This is something I have been working on in the background for the past 3 years and I am very excited to be able to bring this to the big screen.
Complete this sentence, if I had an opportunity to do anything I want, I would ___________.
Start a program that helps new filmmakers fund and to produce their first feature film and a writer’s room to develop new writers. The UK does not treat the film industry like other countries, it is still run by an old school tie mentality which hinders those that come from poor backgrounds like me. Most Indie filmmakers swim in the micro-budget pond, which is known about but not encouraged or recognized by the likes of the BFI, Bafta etc who class low budget as £500k – £2m. Outside of winning the lottery, no budding filmmaker is making a low budget film… Truth is it will be micro-budget which is basically zero upwards – these are the filmmakers that need help and funding.
The antics of a lot of the lower end producers and production companies in this country seem to fit squarely in the ‘Rob ‘em till I’m caught’ category, and writers, directors, actors – you get the idea – are being knocked for payment, or just plainly being asked to work for free while the numbers are being fudged and syphoned off into the producers personal pocket meaning the money doesn’t even go on the screen. Filmmakers have to put up with this because unlike Hollywood and other countries that take their film industry seriously, the UK is filled with middlemen, no one ever seems to be able to do what they say and are always hustling at the filmmaker’s expense, which in turn makes it harder for them to progress, you don’t know someone is wasting your time until they’ve already wasted it!
When I took Hollywood guru Dov Simens course, who is the mentor to such filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Chris Nolan, he highlights that to succeed and watch your career grow you first have to do the no budget film, then the 10k film, then the 50k film, the 100k, the 500k, the £1m, £2m, £10m and up and up you go – however most micro budget filmmakers never seem to get past the £50k because of the huge gap our industry has created between the sharks of the indie scene and the unrealistic climb to the low budget sector that gets the nods of acceptance by those governing bodies that are meant to be including new talent that has come from the more unorthodox avenues. So that is what I would love to be in a position to do and create the opportunities that keep the talent in this country rather than all our brightest and best wanting to escape to LA to follow the dream that is not on offer here.
That and getting to make a movie for Marvel or DC – An R Rated Punisher or Lobo movie would be right up my alley. We can all dream, right?
“A Landscape of Lies” Official Trailer