ASFF Filmmaker Interview: Nicholas Paton

It is now exactly a week until the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) opens at City Screen in York. The following days will see 200 films screened at 15 different venues across York. These films are the products of incredibly talented filmmakers from across the world. Amongst these filmmakers is Nicholas Paton, director and writer of Candid. Based on a supernatural mystery that emerges from a photographers images, Candid will be screened along with five other short films at the York Explore Library and at the Guildhall. Aesthetica speaks to Nicholas Paton about drama, photography and his future plans.

A: Your film Candid is a drama, what is the storyline?
NP: In the aftermath of a broken heart, there’s nothing quite like seeing a photo from the candy-floss days of love to realise just how miserable you are now… how happy you were back then. The power of the photograph isn’t just to record an image, but to immortalise an emotion. Candid is the story of Annie, a photographer who observes her life through the prism of her stills camera. When she secretly photographs her boyfriend conducting an affair with another woman, she becomes entombed by the devastating images her camera has captured… frozen in time, at the moment of heartbreak. The film is an attempt to communicate the emotional stasis from the moment of lost love.

A: Is drama your preffered genre?
NP: It still bugs me that there isn’t a single gag in Candid, it bugged me even before we shot it. A laugh is a great thing to hear in the cinema… it lets you know that the audience is on board. I hope to direct a lot of features, and drama I find the most fulfilling in terms of production and viewing. But drama takes time to set-up and pay-off – at least, you can set-up and deliver comedy a lot quicker. So I feel comedy works better for the short film format, it works quickly to form a bond with the audience. I think it’s very difficult to pull off an effective dramatic short, but I love it when I see one.

A: How was it that you came across the idea for Candid?
NP: It was a product of numerous thoughts I’d been dwelling on: wanting to shoot a drama, and to shoot long-lens in public spaces; taking advantage of being both writer and director by telling a more personal story; and looking back at old photos which generate an array of emotional responses and reminiscence. Annie’s journey, from taking photos of her boyfriend to becoming physically consumed by them, occurred as a visual story and seemed to perfectly express an elusive feeling, so I wrote it pretty quickly. Then worked on later drafts to create as much narrative drive as possible.

A: Which films and filmmakers have personally inspired you?
NP: That would be a very long, very tedious list! There are probably a couple of terraforming films though… E.T. was the first film I saw in the cinema. I was four, and had to stand on the seat to see the screen. Se7en was the first 18-certificate film I saw in the cinema. I was 16, and had to stand on the heels of my Doc Martens to get in. Those two films blew my mind to pieces, partly because of who I was when I saw them.

A: What sort of plans do you have for the future?
NP: I’ve been a long time in the post-production of my feature film debut, a modernisation of Macbeth, with Anthony Head as Duncan. I just finished a short film called “No Strings”, which is a taster for a sitcom featuring puppets and ventriloquy. My next short film is called “Tewkesbury Jones.” It’s about a farmer who engages in an unusual battle against darkness… it’s kind of a kitchen-sink action-adventure. I’m in pre-production for that. Like Candid, it poses a few interesting technical challenges.

Aesthetica Short Film Festival, 8 – 11 November, across the City of York.

1. Candid by Nicholas Paton, courtesy of ASFF.