DANIEL THOMAS FREEMAN
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"The Silence After Life" cover

Feature film released 2020 on Blink in the Endless

pre-production


SCRIPTING


Excerpt from the shooting script for The Silence After Life

"The Silence After Life" (TSAL) can be seen as a natural progression from Daniel's previous music / poetry / photography project "The Infinite and the Unknowable" (2016) and, as such, it was written to embody the same slow, meditative but intense properties as that album. The film was always envisaged to have minimal dialogue, partly to enable a faster, simpler shoot and to utilise the director's existing sound and scoring skills but mainly because the nature of the grief, reflection and spirituality we were trying to illustrate demanded it.

Co-producer (and partner) Valerie Adam Freeman oversaw and guided the script to final draft at which point we decided to commit to making the film a reality. Knowing that TSAL was definitely feature-length but with no previous directing or production experience to attract investors it seemed wisest to self-fund, to pare the budget down to an absolute minimum, and to concentrate on utilising skills and resources at hand. Derek Jarman's "Last of England" (1987), Peter Strickland's "Katalin Varga" (2009) and Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" (2013) acted as examples of how such an independent approach could work and be creatively inspiring.

Given that the budget was going to be so small, the decision was taken early on to use a documentary style of shooting but apply it in an narrative / experimental context. The perceived size of the film would then be expanded by using intense sound design and score.


CASTING AND REHEARSALS


Although Daniel had already started to experiment with audio-visual forms, TSAL only really started taking form when Daniel met, worked with and was inspired by the experienced screen and theatre actor Sally Mortemore on the music / theatre project "The Lie Box" (2015). She was able to see enough promise in working together and in the score of "Catch Me Daddy" (2014) which Daniel had co-written with Matthew Watson to take a chance on a then-unproven writer / director. Daniel responded by writing the main role of Katherine Amesbury specifically for Sally, knowing that she would be able to handle playing this seemingly cold but fragile, strong, tender and complex character and to perform it mostly without dialogue.

As this was our first feature we knew that we would need to rely on the help and experience of professional actors for most of our main cast but TSAL does introduce one newcomer to film acting: Lucy Alfred. We spotted Lucy doing great silent work in a local amateur theatre production and she was kind enough to help us create "Poultice" (2017), a short film focused on TSAL supporting character Marianne Blake. This was our first TSAL rehearsal / experiment as we tested out our new and (slightly) unconventional shooting and post process with additional crew Anna Durbridge.

For the other two supporting roles we were keen to find a cast who would immediately gel together so it seemed wise to ask Sally to work with actors she already knew. After following up various recommendations from her we then invited Emma Spearing and David Broughton-Davis to complete the rest of the main cast.

In contrast to perhaps the stereotypical experience, the role of the main character's partner was male and we're grateful for David's understanding that he would "just" be playing the husband, especially as some of his few scenes unfortunately had to be cut or shortened for budgetary and technical reasons. The role of Martin Smith gave David a chance to play against his normal comedic casting.

Emma joined the cast as Claire Renshaw just before our second rehearsal shoot after our original choice had to drop out. Played wrongly, Claire could have come across as somewhat bland but Emma soon proved she could show the depth of kindness and trauma this grieving widow exhibits even as she helps Katherine to recover.

All of the main cast and crew then met up for a weekend to film another short, "The Land Artist", as rehearsal for TSAL and to test out the location for Katherine's house. By the end of that shoot we knew we had an ensemble and a process which would work for the feature so there was no need to complete this second film, although some shots of "The Land Artist" shoot were later integrated into TSAL during the edit.

Casting was finalised with a number of minor roles and over fifty extras all played by non-actors, usually re-enacting situations similar to those they were already very familiar with and mostly from church backgrounds (Anglican, Baptist and Catholic). Although our film is very much set in England our cast included people from Romania, Australia, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Hong Kong.


LOCATIONS


Even though the budget was microscopic, the director felt it was really important that the film was not just restricted to one location as he wanted to give the film the best chance of having cinematic scope. We were therefore very fortunate to be offered half of our locations for free with the remaining offered at very reasonable rates.

Many of the nature scenes meant to be set deep in the East Sussex countryside were actually shot in the centre of Croydon, a city borough of Greater London usually only known for its grim and towering concrete architecture. These woodland scenes were complimented by other country scenes which were shot in East Sussex in the tiny village of Penhurst, including four scenes in and around its 17th century manor house which is now a centre which specialises in running silent retreats.

The locations for the Katherine and Claire houses took the more typical micro-budget approach of asking family and friends if we could borrow their living space.

The church and its congregation were found through another family connection. We wanted to use a church that would fit with the English stereotype of medieval stone architecture for such a building but involve a congregation who would defy common expectations and the All Saints, Little Bookham community proved to be beautiful in both respects.


Sunday 17 January 2021


All content © Daniel Thomas Freeman 2011 - 2021 (except where otherwise marked)

DANIEL THOMAS FREEMAN
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