Beneath Water is an award-winning dramatic short written and directed by British film-maker Charlie Manton. On the first anniversary of a traumatic life changing event, 16 year-old Daisy attempts to get through to her increasingly withdrawn mother. Is her only solace beneath water? Winning the Horizon Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the 24FPS International Short Film Festival in November of 2014, the film has gone on to be selected and shown at over 35 film festivals internationally. Charlie Manton discusses his film and inspirations.
How did you get started in film?
I’m an actor. That’s what I do on the side. I kind of started through that. When I was at college, I started taking it more seriously. I made a short film with a friend, and then I made Beneath Water. I put money into and took it far more seriously. Directing and producing is what I want to do now as a career.
Had you always wanted to be in film?
Yeah. When I was younger, I think I wanted to be more of an actor. As I grew up, that changed to wanting to be more of a director and producer. So, yeah, I do want to spend my whole time directing. I also enjoy acting, so whenever any acting work comes up, I have to take it.
What was your first project with your company Duelling Productions?
All my previous work, I put under that name as well just to keep all my experience together, and Beneath Water is the first project that was produced by Duelling Productions. The production company is also a theater company where my brother runs the theater side, and I run the film side.
What made you decide to start your own production company with your brother?
It was my brother, Jamie’s idea. We got the name because our granddad’s father was a famous gun maker called Joseph Manton. He built Manton Pistols, which are quite famous. We just thought there are two of us, and we thought ‘duel’; let’s just call it Duelling Productions. So that’s where the name comes from.
How did the idea for Beneath Water come about?
I listened to loads and loads of film scores and strange music. It’s my kind of creative process. I always like to listen to music when I am brainstorming ideas. So, that’s where the initial idea came from. I was listening to Take Shelter, which is an amazing film by Jeff Nichols with an amazing soundtrack. The soundtrack is by David Wingo, and I brainstormed the idea while listening to it.
Take me through how you began developing the short?
I started writing it when I was at university, which I then left after the first few months. I brainstormed, and started writing in October of 2013. It’s kind of all quite a new thing for me to get my own project off the ground, especially because it is something I wanted to do. It would cost money, so I got a friend on board as a casting director, and we started looking for talent. It was getting some people on board and putting it all together that drove me. I learned a huge amount. I mean it’s quite a hard thing to do, and it was fun.
I detected southern American accents, but they’re all English actors, correct?
Louisa Connolly-Burnham plays the lead character Daisy, and she is from the UK. The other actress, Miranda Wilson, plays her mother and is actually from the U.S. So, Miranda’s accent was actually the reason why we decided to set the film in the U.S. When I was writing and when we were casting the film, it was set in the UK. However, when Miranda came in to read, we asked her to do it in her native U.S. accent, and it just fit it so well. So, we changed the location in the screenplay to the U.S., and went on from there. We’re lucky we found Miranda Wilson, because she’s been an actress since her early 20’s. She was in Santa Barbara and Days of Our Lives. We were really lucky to have found her. I’m really looking forward to working with her again.
How did you find Louisa Connolly-Burnham?
Lia Hatzakis who was the casting director put out a call on twitter and we were fortunate Louisa messaged in. She is an amazing actress and done so much in the past. Louisa is an amazing actress and she’s done so much in the past. She’s been on BBC’s Wolf Blood and has quite a big following. She’s exploring and taking on other great roles. I look forward to seeing where she goes, and hopefully will work again with her soon.
Where did you film?
It was shot in England in two counties. We shot in Surrey for all the outdoors and exterior scenes and in a lodge in Somerset for the interior scenes. It was hard to find locations that looked like the U.S. [Laughter] I think we just about got away with it. Although, if you look closely, you can tell it’s not set in the U.S.
How long did the project take from start to finish?
It took way longer than I would have hoped. I started two years in late October. I really finished it last June, so probably seven to eight months. It shouldn’t have taken that long. It was editing it and doing the music, which just drove me crazy. [Laughter]
What was the most difficult scene to film?
There are a few sequences in the film, which we shot in the water and underwater. The toughest sequences were probably those and we were shooting in February, so it was freezing cold. We were shooting in an outside pool, as we didn’t have access to an inside pool. Our lead actress, Louisa, was amazing and she went along with it. We got her a wetsuit, but the water was almost icing over it was so cold. It was a tiny, tiny, tiny pool, and it was so hard to make it look like a lake. Those sequences were really tough to do. Louisa almost ended up getting hypothermia, but luckily she didn’t, thank God.
What inspires you to make movies?
I think every project’s different. I just like finding something which I can cling onto. I love creating a sense of atmosphere and mood, and setting characters in that world. I obviously love working with actors, and I just love creating movies and telling stories really.
What would you tell somebody just starting out in film-making?
I think just do it, literally. So many people talk about doing a film, or making a short film, but the idea is only in their head. The most important thing to do, and probably the hardest thing, is just taking that leap and doing it. I was close to not doing it. Making that jump, and just going in for it and putting all the effort in are the best things. Just do it.
What do you think was holding you back do you think at first?
I think the idea itself for Beneath Water was really ambitious. I had all these sleepless nights of worrying how to do things. I was planning on shooting actually in the lake, and having a 10 year old kid on a boat in the middle of a big lake. I noticed it’s probably not the best thing to do when you’re on a budget of less than 1,000 UK Pounds. I was just quite worried about that. I tried to make it a safe as possible, but in the end, we didn’t put him on the lake and we composited him in later.
Where can the general public see Beneath Water?
It’s not online yet. It’s still making the rounds on the festival circuit. We do have a website, www.Duellingproductions.com, and there’s a section there where it says where our film’s screening. We’ll probably end festival screenings in December this year. I’m hoping it’ll be online at the end of 2015, or the beginning of 2016.
So what’s next? What’s your next project?
I’m currently working on two features. I’m currently working on a psychological horror film and the other is a drama. I’m working with a few producers on both of them, and I’m hoping to start filming later this year. It’s just so tough to get these things off the ground. It’s just constantly working and trying to get people excited about them.
I think people will be very excited to see your film and what is next. It’s been wonderful to speak with you. Thank you so much for your time.
To learn more about and contact this talented film-maker, please go to www.duellingproductions.com
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