What’s the origin of the project?
Paul and Arturo, the producers and directors of the project, have known each other for years. They met in 2014 when they both at film school.
Since then they’ve been working together in multiple projects, sometimes Paul would direct and Arturo would write or edit. Other times, Arturo was in the directing chair with Paul working as assistant director. They had wanted to direct something together for a while.
In August 2019 Directors UK and Arri announced their annual Trinity Challenge, a competition where they were looking for a story that could be told in one uninterrupted shot and would benefit from a truly cinematic, large-format look.
At this point Paul and Arturo discussed various ideas and concepts and then brought on board co-writer Kerry-Ann Calleja McGregor and cinematographer Tom Watts. Together they presented a proposal to Directors UK and Arri. We were lucky enough to have our project selected for the challenge.
Is it based on a true story?
The story isn’t based on a unique case. Nevertheless, everything that is shown in the film is based on real experiences lived by people close to the writers, crew and the cast. A lot of the cast and crew had experienced dementia in one way or another via family members or close friends and thanks to their input we were able to adapt the script to give a more accurate representation and base it on real experiences.
We needed to make sure that the script fit the parameters to play in one take, so we had to develop a story that could be told with no cuts and which had a complete narrative arc in that format, so Ruth is not a single person who exists in real life.
We believe that the overall story benefited greatly from being based on so many people’s real personal experiences. We can’t thank everyone enough for opening themselves to us and sharing their feelings and personal experience about the subject matter.
We would especially like to thank Tom Watts, our DOP, whose experience with his grandmother made such an important contribution to the story and the tone of the film.
Paul and Kerry-Ann had worked together on a dementia related project in the past, something that sadly never saw the light of day. It was something the didn’t want to give up on.
With the Trinity Challenge we saw a great opportunity to create something from the perspective of the person suffering from dementia in a continuous one shot. That way the audience could experience everything in real time with our protagonist, something we had not seen created before. At the same time we saw this as an opportunity to shed some light on a subject that we believe isn’t talked about enough and generally pushed to one side as something that ‘just happens’ to some people.
Is it a true "one take"?
The film is a single take in camera. No trickery, no VFX used to blend multiple takes and no hidden cuts during its whole duration. The 12 minutes on screen happened real time from beginning to end. Without any pauses or stops to reset.
We did 10 takes, with only two complete ones. Which one did we use? Take 8. And yes… the completed takes came near the end so the pressure of getting a complete working take before wrap was very real near the end of the day.
Was it difficult?
It was really challenging. Our script was eleven pages long and had action in every room of the house over multiple floors. That meant that we had a lot of movement within a pretty tight space, which needed complex choreography between the camera, crew and our lead actress, Ania Marson.
On top of that, due to the nature of the story we were telling, our most challenging moments from both a technical point of view and also for the performance were in the second part of the film, which added an extra layer of pressure for our camera operator and actors.
It all was shot in one day, which to some extent was quite useful. The crew knew how difficult it was to pull it off and the limited attempts we would have, and you could feel it on set. Everyone was ultra-focused and on the top of their game. You could feel people holding their breath as we were reaching the most challenging parts of the take and everyone exploded into cheers when we managed to pull it off, we knew we had achieved something special. It was a really rewarding experience. We learnt to work in a really efficient way to get the most out of the day.
And now what?
With the film finally out, we’re hoping for it to get some visibility, which would be great for all the people involved in it, but also for people who might be suffering from dementia and want their world to be understood by others.
We’re obviously living in a really challenging time, still in a pandemic that is affecting literally everyone in the world. People suffering from dementia and their families are finding it more difficult than ever with the changes to routines and restrictions, as well as the dangers. We really are living in a world that is hard to recognise right now, for someone suffering from dementia it is likely even more complicated. So it’s good to get their story out and see where we can help as a society.
On a more personal note, both Paul and Arturo are working on and developing other projects, both together and individually, that they hope will materialise at some point during this year.