About - An interview with Phil Dunn, Director, Screenwriter and Poet
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Image credit: Dee Ramadan
Social Media Editor Jack Proverbs chats to Phil Dunn, director and co-writer of the award-winning film About, after the announcement that the acclaimed short could be made into a limited series.
How do you feel that your multi-award-winning short film is going to be made into a limited series and did you expect this to happen?
It’s something I’m really excited about. You make these things, and you don’t know what will happen to them and it’s an amazing thing and you hope that you can develop it further and take the idea further.
After winning the awards, we were approached by Lift-Off Global Network. They got in touch and said they take a few projects every year to the film markets to be developed. To hear this from someone external, completely unsolicited, was a huge encouragement. With indie films you are putting yourselves out there, calling in favours and hoping it will all pull off.
We have now developed an idea for the series with a good eight-episode arc. We’re waiting to hear back from sale agents and news on its development.
The main feeling is exciting, encouraged, and hopeful that it will all come to fruition!
That’s the key with a short film - make it simple, cinematic, intriguing, and watchable.
Can you tell us about your inspiration for creating the short film?
It was from a conversation with a friend of mine who was a composer in the last short we made. We were talking about ideas for films and something simple to shoot. That’s the key with a short film - make it simple, cinematic, intriguing, and watchable.
We had this idea of these people coming back from a party who know the host, but both have very different ideas of who they are. The idea of two people who don’t know each other but both having an extremely different experience of somebody is something that happens so often. We thought that it would be interesting for them to realise this in a short space of a car journey, and the awkwardness that it can create, as well as the intrigue surrounding the character in question.
It’s that question of how much you know someone, as what you know is what they’ve presented to you. Do you come across as the same person to everyone else?
Image credit: Authentive
Tell us about what it was like as a writer watching your short film come to life on screen, particularly the hugely positive response with its success
It was great to watch the ideas come to life, that’s what I love about the filmmaking process and writing with Theo [Brun, co-writer] on this. I loved writing and directing this.
It’s such a team effort with all the crew. We all literally filmed it in the car on the streets of Brixton. I was in the boot with the monitor trying to stay down behind the seats next to Theo and not make any noise!
It’s completely bonkers, but that’s indie filmmaking in a nutshell!
To end up with the edit knowing we’ve got something that fits and works, it’s such an amazing feeling - and for that to go off to festivals to be watched, nominated, and win 14 awards is incredible. We’re so happy with that and it's extremely encouraging.
Image credit: Authentive
Will you be using all three actors as the same characters in the limited series? What was it like working with them and why did you use them for the short film?
The way we’ve written the series is focusing on the four main characters and I would love to work with them again. The short implies there’s more to the driver than meets the eye and Don Patrick fit the role of the driver perfectly and brought something special to the part. Both Ellie Piercy (Caitlin) and Natasha Alderslade (Rebecca) are very experienced actors with both doing lots of TV, and they can really carry it off.
We’re currently looking at who will be Tom, as he will be one of the main characters amidst the other three. For casting of Tom, there’s people we are looking at. Idris Elba... we did an April Fools Day gag about trying to get him on board.
What can you tell us about your plans for the mysterious character of Tom in the series?
We’ve developed the character of Tom in our pitch and one of the words to describe him is mercurial, in that he’s some things to someone and others to other people. He wants to win no matter what, he will be who he needs to be in different situations to get what he’s looking for.
He’s been portrayed as tough in the boardroom, but Caitlin has seen him softer and more spiritual. It's valid what both have said about him, but he’s still unsolved as a person himself. It would be great to see him come to life, that’s what is so intriguing within the short with how he’s not present, yet very much the central character. That’s why we had that spare seat between the two women with being positioned on different sides of him.
The suspenseful ending leads to many questions, but we’re intrigued about the start of the series. Do you know whether the series will begin with the end scene of the short film, or will it begin before the car scene even happens?
The short film is the first five minutes of the first episode. Which is there to raise lots of questions. We will show lots of flashbacks to see the run-up to the taxi drive. Most likely in the next scene it will cut to Tom and finally meet his character and find out there’s more going on than even we think in the short.
Image credit: Authentive
It helps with the pitch, and we found even taking to Cannes film market we were in a really good position to pitch as we have the developed idea but also the proof of concept, then with the first five minutes already filmed we’ve been able to use this to our advantage.
Will you be using Brixton again as the main filming location for the series?
We definitely want to use Brixton again; I’ve lived here for the last 13 years and it’s a really great place for creative people. The way I want to do my productions is to give people opportunities from this local area and ideally to those of unrepresented or underprivileged background.
Tom and Natasha are both lawyers, so we’ve also love to include the city of London, the Canary Wharf area. Caitlin will be working in fashion and will be in the creative side and enthuse Brixton and East London for this. In contrast, we’ll be using council estate location for the driver and using all different types of areas in London. We want to show a side of London which hasn’t been shown so much before and use Brixton for this.
It’s a melting point of everything going on in the capital. Some people find it overwhelming, but I love it. You’ve got every culture under the sun here and it’s an amazing vibe.
The way I want to do my productions is to give people opportunities from my local area
Can you give us a rough estimate about when we can expect to watch the limited series?
If we do get the funding, then it would be great as we can start production in 2022 and hopefully aim for a 2023 release date. At this stage it’s all up for grabs. We’re going to push this and pitch this as much as we can.
Finally, what’s next for you going forward? Are there any other projects you’re working on?
The next short film I’m working on is one I’ve written myself, called The Stupid Boy which we are about to start filming in mid-September here in Brixton.
The central idea came from being in London after the terrorist attacks ages ago and getting on the tube or being in public places, with everybody looking at anyone with a rucksack suspiciously.
I kept thinking, what would I do if somebody stood up and shouted that they were going to blow themselves up? I think most of us would run away out of fear, but the idea came to me; what would happen if someone walked up to them instead, out of love?
In the short, there's going to be a boy with a brain condition who's not capable of hatred or malice, and it makes him very affectionate. But he's growing up in a London where there have been a series of white supremacist suicide bombings, and one day, he encounters a bomber...
I’m pulling in favours and spending money I shouldn’t but we’re going to get it made!