We made The Mother out of a tin hut in a
car park just off the Shepherd’s Bush roundabout. The art department
moved the junk out, painted it white and put down some second-hand carpet,
and set up different spaces for dressing rooms, for make-up, for costume,
a camera store and a rehearsal room. Every morning we would meet up
at the tin hut, eat bacon rolls, and prepare for the day. The rules
we set for ourselves were: every location had to be less than fifteen
minutes’ drive from the hut; no generators allowed; no trailers;
no catering vans or dining buses; in fact, as little of everything as
possible. We worked from eight till five, without a break for lunch,
for six days a week. The sun shone, the weather was warm, England got
knocked out of the World Cup, and for six weeks we shot our film.
Making a low-budget movie like The Mother
can really work to your advantage if you let it: the beauty and effortless
spontaneity of available light; the scintillating grain of blown-up
Super 16mm film; a compositional sweetness and clarity made even sweeter
by stripping away, rather than adding, objects and dressing to real
locations; but above all the way in which everyone, cast and crew alike,
are constantly within touching distance of each other. In my experience,
trailer culture is generally bad for film-making, giving rise to an
odd feeling of isolation. Actors step out of their car and into their
trailer, usually before dawn. No wonder they feel a little scared and
weird when, hours later, they are led onto yet another enormous set.
At one point I worked out that for the cost of one Changing
Lanes (my last film) you could make thirty-two The
Mothers. Both were great experiences for me. Both involved great
actors and hard-working, committed crews. One was like riding high in
a beautiful, well-oiled Rolls Royce, and the other was more like…well,
hitch-hiking, in fact. Both ways of travelling have their advantages
and disadvantages, and in my latest film, Enduring
Love, I have tried to combine the best bits of both experiences.
But that’s another story.