Meet Indie Filmmaker: ENTWINED

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Entwined is about an elderly lady forced to confront her fears of living and dying with regrets as she spends the night trapped in a Victorian whirligig. We talk to British director Reeve Nixon about old age and gambling with the weather when shooting a film outdoors in Scotland.

By Mairi Cunningham

Q: First off, tell me a bit about your film. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed to me that the elderly lady s entrapment in the Victorian whirligig was a metaphor for her being trapped within her own body, powerless to the onslaught of old age, the passage of time and cut off from those around her? Where did the idea for this come from?

The idea came from my late grandmother who spent her final years in a nursing home. She didn’t like to socialise with other residents, she called them inmates. She told me you must never have regret in your life especially at my age, it is a disease and the biggest killer of us all . Once the worries start it s a steady decline. In there, people worried family would stop visiting them and that caused them to question their life decisions. Yes, the theme of death and decay hangs in the air; it s about coming to terms with yourself and your life, your choices and regrets.

Q: On a more practical note, tell me a little bit about how you filmed the actual moment when she becomes trapped in the whirligig and later on when she becomes more and more entwined in rope.

The sequence in which Deirdre becomes trapped in the whirligig was filmed in slow motion. We carefully picked shots from opposite angles and used a series of cutaways to give the impression of it snapping shut, fast and hard. Another trick was to put the camera inside the whirligig to give the audience the sense of being entwined. All the night shots were filmed in a studio with black infinity coves and we imported grass bizarrely enough from an old graveyard. In the scene where the rope tightens around her face and body we simply filmed it backwards and then and then reversed it in post-production.

Q: The landscape coupled with the isolated figure of the elderly lady creates a beautiful opening sequence. Where was the film shot?

We like to think that the film hits the ground running and doesn’t need any extraneous back story at this point, it simply notes both the woman s fragility but also her independent spirit. The location was a hill near the town of Torrance, just North of Glasgow and we have Jamie Stone and his family to thank for that location. The night scenes were filmed in the Edinburgh studio Red Roof.

Q: How long did the filming process take and what difficulties did you encounter along the way?

The production was 7 days. The only real difficulty was spending 6 of those days in a dark studio, during which Scotland experienced one of its rare sunny spells! It was sunny in the morning when we went to set and then we d go indoors and it was night time all day! When we finally got outdoors for the exterior scenes. The weather was touch and go, but the film Gods answered our prayers in the end. The shoot ran very smoothly thanks to Ryan Blackwood, my producer, whom I have worked with since 2008.

Q: The film takes on a very haunting and nightmarish quality as the lady is confronted with characters from her life, past and present and her fears of wasting away. Tell me a bit about this scene and how you approached the filming of this part.

With my grandmother I spent a lot of time trying to understand regret at the end of your life, but this scene is where I put my stamp on it and made it my own, taking a more surreal departure. I wanted a series of strong intense visuals to reveal the horror of her pulsing memories as her confusion grows and the hypothermia sets in. It was actually my mum who s not an actor by the way playing Deirdre s daughter. She features heavily in the sequence and I knew what buttons to push to get her to deliver the performance she did.

Q: Sound plays a crucial part in this scene in particular. Tell me a little about how you approached the sound effects for this part. And where did the idea for the guitar playing lover come from?

The Spanish guitar player was a pivotal character as Deirdre s affair with him during the War remains her biggest private regret. She has been forced to keep this secret that has eaten away at her through the years. Memories often are more than just images, and the guitar player’s music was supposed to be evocative of her sense of that time and place. The sound design mix at the end included sounds of the 1940s to create a nightmarish intensity.

Q: Tell me a little bit about working with your actors- children and adults.

Our leading actress Barbra was 87 at the time of filming and she had bags of energy and really went out of her way to make the production possible I don t think she complained once in spite of all the horrible things we had to put her through. I spent a month working with her before the shoot and I ve used her in [advertisements] since. What a woman! The kids were aged between 5 and 9 and were great fun to work with. With me being very much a big kid at heart we all wondered around the smoke filled studio like Zombies! If only we had to time to learn Thriller.

Q: Old age seems to be somewhat of a taboo subject. To me it seems we are reluctant to talk about growing old, because we dread what might come with it loss of independence, physical degeneration and inability to function as we once did. Is this the issue you were trying to tackle in your film? What message do you hope to come out of the film for audiences?

I hope that the audience takes the time to reflect on what their concerns might be when they reach that time at the end of their lives. It’s haunting to think about our legacy and what will be left when we re gone. Or at the very least they learn how to get rid of your grandmother.

Q: Tell me about your next or current project.

I am currently writing Speak Ill which will be my third and final short film about death, details of which can be found on our website at www.oooi.co.uk. We are also developing two other feature film projects.

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