ME, Film Review and Director Q & A
(Click image above to see, ME, now)
‘He should have looked both ways, that’ll teach me.’
Justin Carter’s short film, ME, is about a man who is haunted by his own self. We see that he is driven to booze, the strong stuff, and will do almost anything to escape the vision of his other self, a self that is real enough to reach out from a mirror and slit his throat, real enough to pass a gun out of his television, and the fear it appears, is real enough to drive himself to pull the trigger.
But then after death comes a new day, with less booze in the bottle, more self demons to face, and a body to bury. Which self is the true self, which is the dead self, and are these all just machinations anyway, ghosts of a madman, brought on by paranoia, or an endless cycle of bad dreams? Perhaps the drink and drugs, to deal with the loss of a loved one, was the prelude to his delusions, or perhaps the delusions drove him to the drink. ‘Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.’ The cycle of the killing of the self is darkly comic, yet deeply unsettling. And then the film starts off where it all began, and so there is no escape, but instead just a man caught up in the eternal insanity of his own demons and dreams.
(Richard Knox, as, ME)
The haunting music, unsettling camera angles, tight editing and a stirring performance by Richard Knox, makes this film a very creepy, eerie, haunting and perfectly paced short film that is open to many individual interpretations. I loved Justin Carter’s previous short film, Portent, (review here) and I feel that with, ME, he has raised his own bar again and created a short film to thoroughly haunt the self. I’m already looking forward to his next effort.
I was able to put a few questions to director, Justin Carter, to get more insight into the making of, ME, and his other forthcoming projects.
Q & A with Director, Justin Carter
(Director, Justin Carter with actor, Richard Knox)
Is there a particular style or genre that you most associate yourself with as a Filmmaker? My work is pretty matter of fact. There's an honesty to the way I put material together, regardless of the genre or narrative. I approach almost everything with conviction and usually avoid any tongue-in-cheek or quirky stylings. Playful is fine, but quirky material is screaming out for attention. I cringe when I see material like that at film festivals. There are some established directors that do it really well, the Coen Brothers for example, but most are creating that from an unnatural place and that bugs me. I don't think there's a specific genre that I would associate myself with, in regards to my long-term plans, but of late I've focussed my efforts on material best described as psychological horror.
At what point did you decide you wanted to be a film director, and was there anything specific that pushed you in that direction?
I was very young when I thought about working in movies, but I didn't decide to be a director until I was studying A-Level Media in college. Everyone in my class had to produce their own opening of a movie, to demonstrate that we understood how each genre worked, and my assignment was to produce the first 10 minutes of a horror film. The class were all new to production, and I'd never used the equipment before, so I only managed to cobble together 60 seconds worth of material. It didn't seem to matter though as I was highly commended for my efforts. My next video was well received too, so I decided to focus my attention on the role of director. I won my first film award a year later and I'm still going strong.
How did the idea of, ME, come about?
I was looking to make something set mainly in one location, with one performer and very little action. I originally intended to do all the production work myself as a D.I.Y. project just for fun, so I opted for a simple set up that would be twisted enough to keep people interested, but easy enough for me to produce. I'd had an idea for a feature a while back about a guy that kept killing himself, disposing of his own corpse in his back garden over and over again until those bodies all rose from the grave. So the guy would've ended up battling an army of zombies that are all dead versions of him. I took the kernel of that idea and ran with it.
From a technical point of view, how did you go about achieving the doubling of actor Richard Knox onscreen?
We literally filmed each side of the performance from fixed camera positions, making sure Richard didn't cross the centre of the frame and I just cut each shot in two during post production and fit them together. So it was technically very easy to do, but we had to marry up the timings of the performances on each side whilst we were filming so that they matched when put together. There was an awful lot more of that originally filmed than is in the final production, but the plot didn't require all of it and we wanted to keep our edit nice and lean.
What was the last film you saw that you wish you had directed?
That's a tough one. Probably, Dunkirk, or Blade Runner 2049. My favourite film of the year so far is, La La Land, but I don't think I have one of those in me, even if I wished for one. But, Dunkirk and Blade Runner, definitely carry characteristics of my directorial approach, so they're more in line with what I would hope to achieve in studio filmmaking. Independent spirit with commercial appeal. Villeneuve and Nolan do this. They're both fantastic at what they do.
(Cameraman, Benjamin Hodder, with actor, Richard Knox.)
What is the best single piece of advice you would give to any fledgling filmmakers out there?
Remember that you don't need to be using the latest technology to tell your story. Nobody sits in a cinema wondering what type of camera was used on each shot. Most people couldn't care less. What audiences really care about is your content. Content is King! Make sure that content is your priority, not your equipment. You could be using cutting edge technology, producing the most gorgeous visuals ever to grace a silver screen, but if your script is crap, nobody is gonna care.
What film projects do you have lined up for the future?
We're just finishing up post production on a short vintage style zombie flick that I wrote and directed. It's titled, ZED. It was shot on a rare, Bolex D16, by my good friend Christopher Williams, who also acts as producer on my work. The footage looks gorgeous and I can't wait for folks to see it. And I'm also in pre-production for my next feature film: a supernatural horror about witches in the West Country, terrorising a small rural village. The narrative is exciting, intense and quite harrowing. I'm doing my very best to create something original, but keep it as accessible and commercially viable as possible. It's a tricky proposition, but I think I've got it covered.
(Zed, above, will be Justin Carter's next film.)
Photo Credits: All exterior behind the scenes by producer, Christopher Williams