The Kaje talks “Dust” to Lauren Hatchard

Directed by Lauren Hatchard and starring Michael Ross as Dust and Tom Synott-Bell as the Enforcement Officer, Dust is set in 2060 where art, free speech and expression has been eradicated under strict surveillance laws. Tagging is mandatory, and everyone is chipped at birth.

This story focuses on one free spirits survival, living in isolation on a landfill on the outskirts of a society he rejects. Amongst the junk and waste he has built a home, found freedom and held on to his creativity through his music and the philosophy he finds in old books. With only an old Dictaphone for company, ‘Dust’ has the mentality of a survivor, but is he the “only alien in the ant farm” and can he stay off the radar forever?

When our dusty protagonist comes into contact with an intriguing hidden metal box underground, he triggers a tracking device which unknown to Dust, leads the enemy right into his hideout. This is one of the important events that mark the beginning of the domino effect, of the survivor’s revolution.

Dust is a gripping short film, which has a kind of empathic sci fi feel to it. This piece has an air of professional and unique creativity about it, it sets a very high standard for film studies. Hatchard, is of a fine art and photography background and gaining work as a freelancer, Lauren Hatchard has now concentrated her studies in Film Production BA (Hons) at Staffordshire University. Writer Jack Molloy, currently in his final year of ‘Creative Writing & Philosophy’ (BA Hons) at Staffordshire University also keeps the audience absorbed in a clear yet entertaining script.

Tom Synott-Bell gives a genuine, emotional and enchanting performance as the Enforcement Officer, highlighting how emotions can change one’s perceptions of the worlds goings on.

We ask the film’s director Lauren Hatchard 12 questions about the film:

What is the background to the concept of the film?

The film is based on contemporary concerns, such as increasingly invasive surveillance and the ‘throw away’ society of western consumption. Inspired by artistic advocates for peace, the film celebrates music, poetry and philosophy as a countercultural necessity for communal enlightenment.

What is the message of the film trying to convey?

‘Dust: Survivor of The West’ is not a black and white portrayal of political systems – it addresses an eccentric interpretation of a society that has followed a path of inhumane control and objectification. The film promotes self-enlightenment and artistic expression; love and morality within ourselves beyond politics, so together we can re-evaluate economically driven societies, to discover a ‘beneficial political morality’ that better supports and nourishes the people.

What you hoped to achieve from the film?

The aim for this film was to create an ambitious futuristic short that evokes underlying contemporary concerns, but with universal appeal. The film itself tells only a small part of a much bigger story, which we are hoping can eventually become apart of a sci-fi web series of short standalone films, set within the same reality.

What did you learn about directing films?

Directing a crew of eight people was a big leap up from what I have been previously used to, however I embraced the challenge of having a full crew on set because I felt that the project was ambitious enough to justify it.

How was your first experience of working with trained actors?

This was the first time I had gone through the process of working with actors, but has been one of the most exciting learning curves that I have had. Coming from an a photography and fine art background it is a fantastic and rewarding experience to watch your work and ideas come to life right in front of you. The writer and I spent a lot of time rehearsing with the actors and developing the scene together in a creative collaboration.

How did you choose your cast?

When it came to the auditioning process Michael walked into the room with his saxophone and blew us away with his enthusiasm for the role, he was born to be Dust and completely embraced the character. Tom also took our breath away with his enthusiasm for the role and how he too had grasped the character in great detail – it was an absolute pleasure to work alongside such a talented and friendly cast and seeing them on set, in costume was a truly rewarding experience.

What made you decide to use visual effects?

I really wanted this project to be ambitiously creative and technical, in order to push my skills as a filmmaker and ultimately learn more about the filmmaking process along the way. I am very interested in fiction filmmaking and working with a script, creating new worlds and characters.

As a fan of science fiction and films which successfully place the audience into a fictional realm, e.g ‘District 9’ I felt that I wanted to explore ways of making this possible with a low/no budget film and acted as a homage to that genre of filmmaking.

How did the soundtrack develop?

The music for this film was always important from the start, but took an interesting new direction we utilised the musical talents of actor Michael Ross , with his saxophone, harmonica and tin whistle addition to the character’s whimsical charm. During the pre-production, jam’ sessions with like-minded musicians really helped to advance the soundtrack.

Working with composer Jon Ward was a fantastic experience; he took care of the whole sound aspect of the film, from recording with audio mixers, foley and an entire original soundtrack of songs especially scored for the film. The end piece and main theme of ‘Dust’ with the spaghetti western themed music was certainly inspired by my favourite band Muse. This soundtrack had to be epic to match the story and I feel that it does just that!

What was it like working closely with the writer?

Working with Jack is like yin yang; we really balance each other out. He has some truly original and thought provoking ideas and gets them down on paper through writing. Jacks writing acts as a blue print on which to build and sculpt my ideas from, it is very much a collaborative process and the script constantly evolved, almost every day – even on set!

It was a real bonus having Jack on set for the confrontation scene, as I had a million things swirling around in my head, whilst being in a room with a powerful fog machine at -13°c! Jack was able to keep the actors refreshed on which scene we were doing and also discussing their mental state at this point in the film, this was especially important as we were jumping around time in the shooting order that we were filming.

Will this film help out the cast and crew who were involved in the project?

I truly believe that what people put into things, they will get out in return! I was very fortunate to work alongside and pull together a very talented team of individuals. I am hoping for the actors that this will act as a showreel piece that they can be proud of and also expose their talents. Same goes for the crew that have put a lot of hard work and effort into making this film possible, watch this space!

If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?

It’s not cheap making films and I got into a lot of debt over this film, although I did cut a lot of corners and made use of charity shops and the recycling centre for props! However, because I had such a large amount of crew, food, transport and expenses all added up. This has really made me realise how expensive filmmaking is, especially when working on the more ambitious ideas. I think next time I would have to be more selective of crew members and minimise the crew down to people who are multi-skilled. Although I do feel that the scale of this project did justify the larger crew. So really, I guess I would do everything pretty much the same – better to be poor and happy!

Where do you see the future of British filmmaking?

I think that it is very sad to hear about the government cuts in the arts, which at its core is what ‘Dust’ is discussing as an underlying message. However, I believe that these government cuts will mean that there will become a more underground style of filmmaking come through. If there is no longer any UK film council, then there will have to be a lot more self funded projects – which I know from experience, personal investment in a film really gives you that drive to make a truly fantastic film. Plus the explosion of video sharing online has made it much easier for independent filmmakers to expose their work, so I need to get ‘Dust’ out there.

Words: Eleni Kypridemos

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