Q&A with Beth Rowland, director of Bury The Dogs - Clermont-Ferrand 2024
Thursday 25 January 2024, by
A coming of age drama about the cracks that form in childhood friendships, the vulnerability of youth and the frailty of parental figures.
Avoiding didacticism and cliches, Beth Rowland shares a thoughtful, nuanced and well-told story depicting how far-right thoughts and ideals can take root in specific contexts. An impressive early short carried by a solid cast.
The film will be shown at the International Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival 2024.
What gave you the impetus to tell this story?
I’m always interested by what drives people to act the way they do, and violence and aggression is so often born out of sadness and insecurity. It felt like such an interesting moment in Anthony’s life to be with him on this night, where he’s really teetering between his loyalty towards Emily and Tosh, and the wider implications of that. I feel like, as a society in general, we’ve become very polarised between the left and right politically. Only having empathy for those whose views we agree with is so dangerous, especially with right-wing rhetoric, it really creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, leaving people ignored and dismissed, and essentially angrier. Bury the Dogs isn’t about making excuses for men like Anthony and Tosh but exploring why they believe what they do.
How did you get your cast and crew together?
Crew-wise, I either work with regular collaborators or my producers and I get recommendations from other directors I know. I’m a bit careful with who have on set because when it comes to improvising, the atmosphere is so important. There needs to be so much mutual respect, trust and communication to allow for that kind of freedom – basically you have to be proper mates. My DoP and Gaffer Dave Galloway and Owain Wilson are particularly genius at walking that line between naturalism and allowing the actor’s freedom to be authentic, whilst finessing the look. For me with cast it’s about finding great collaborators with the right chemistry. Paddy Rowan, I’d seen his work before on telly, I knew he had the right feel, and then, we had this first phone call, and he understood Anthony so instinctively that it had to be him. Sometimes it just clicks with for people. For Emily, the chemistry between her and Anthony was very specific, this brother sister bond, so we did workshop auditions to find Kirsty Johnson. I had Frank Harper in mind the whole time I was writing Tosh. I love his work and his on-screen presence, so for him to like the script and have this great immediate chemistry with Paddy was a bit surreal really.
What would you say where the biggest hurdles you faced?
Keeping the run time down! With improvising, the blessing and the curse is that you do all these workshops, and there’s always so much more history and life to these characters, they become real people. The whole cast were boss in both the workshops and on set, so we had all this extra material that was proper brilliant, but you can’t use it because it’s not moving the story forward and honestly, if we had, the film would be about ten hours long.
What is your background as a filmmaker?
I’m self-taught. I was always interested in film but it seemed really inaccessible to BE a director. I first started making films with family and mates when I came back from Uni to Stoke – on –Trent, where I’m originally from, mainly because I was unemployed, so I had a bit of time on my hands. In 2018 I was mentored by Shane Meadows through making a short film a month for 12 months, which was a game changer for me. It developed my style and confidence, as and I made a couple of films I quite liked that I could show producers I met and start applying for funding and talent labs with.
What sort of stories would you like to explore next?
Character-driven black comedies with a bit of heart. It’s a scary time but I reckon that’s even more reason to have a laugh, you can push the boundaries more with comedy, and that’s also how life is; you can be crying one minute and laughing the next. I’m always interested in exploring social issues and themes of masculinity and community, but I never want to be preaching to anyone - I’d never write a story around an issue, it’s always character-driven for me.
What are your top shorts recommendations from the last couple of years (or generally!)?
The last few years -‘Three Bull Mastiffs in a Corner Kitchen’ by Paul Chambers, ‘Saltwater Town’ by Dan Thornburn, ‘Gooseneck’ by Jamie Shelton, ‘Hanging On’ by Alfie Barker & ‘For Heidi’ by Lucy Campbell and in general ‘Father Christmas’ by Raymond Briggs has me absolutely creasing every time I watch it.
What are your hopes for Clermont 2024?
Meet some other filmmakers and see some great short films, I’ve never been before and I’ve got
some of the cast and crew coming with me, we are buzzing for it.