Psychopaths Anonymous dir. Adam Hales-Walker screens soon at Amsterdam Lift-Off, after winning Vancouver Lift-Off Online. We wanted to hear a bit more about Adam as a filmmaker and his experiences.
Interview by Claire Richardson
What made you want to be a filmmaker?
You know when you’ve just loved film for as long as you can remember. My grandad (who I’m with right now!) he really loved film, and constantly took me to the cinema when I was a little boy, every film that came out. We’d watch old films together and would talk about them, and the passion was passed onto me. Originally I really wanted to be an actor, because in my mind at that age I thought the actor was creating the character, and then I realised I wasn’t creating anything, I was just performing. So when I started to figure out the whole creation process, in terms of writing and direction, I thought that’s what I want to do! Actually come up with stories and capture them.
Talking about inspiration, who are some of your favorite directors?
I’ve got favourite directors and filmmakers who I don’t want to be anything like, if that makes sense? I watch films that are incredible and blow my mind, but they aren’t the types of films I want to make. Directors like Christopher Nolan, I love his films and the scale of them, but I don’t come away thinking, I want to do that. Directors like Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths and Oscar winning Six Shooter. Every time I watch something he’s made, I have to consciously think “don’t copy him” as I like it that much! The tone that he creates is exactly the type of thing that I’m going for, but I don’t want to make something that’s exactly the same. He is definitely an inspiration. Alex Garland writes films that are usually in a specific environment, but it is always to do with human beings and how they turn on each other, or help each other and that always interests me. It always has to be about the character, and that’s the same with my films.
So the characters are always your starting point? Was that the case for Psychopaths Anonymous?
Yes, I wanted it to be about a group of people, and their motivations and conflicts. That’s where the drama comes from. I came up with an idea that I quickly realised was a feature film idea, about three serial killers on the run. I knew the scale was too big, and we wouldn’t get the budget for it, so I decided to try and make the idea a bit smaller. A support group like alcoholics anonymous, keeping the same character motivations but down-scaling it. That’s how it started.
How long did it take you to write?
I think I had it in pretty much its final form within a week. It’s hard to tell because I think about it for months, to get it completely clear in my mind, just writing notes, and then I write it down in one day ready to leave it and come back to with fresh eyes. I think that’s a great thing to do when you’re editing a film also. You can be too involved otherwise.
What have you learned from the process of making this film?
Well this was only my second film, but both times I’ve wanted it to be shorter. I think that’s always the trick. In the editing, ultimately you can’t take out too much, or the story won’t flow properly, so it’s condensing it in the writing.
Well Psychopaths Anonymous has already proven hugely popular with a Lift-Off audience, winning Vancouver Lift-Off Online. How did you find that whole process?
It was great. Vimeo is a great site to use, so I was pleased to be on there. My mum was a big help, if any of my older friends and family had trouble signing up/voting, she called them up and walked them through it. I hadn’t been pushing the film too hard, I teased it a bit with some behind the scenes photos, mentioning it a few times, but not many people had seen it. So when it came to the online festival, it was the time for people to watch it.
I watched a lot of the other films too. That’s a real learning process, constantly consuming other films and other people’s’ work is the best way to learn. And I never feel like it’s competition, they’re so different, so you shouldn’t compare, you should just be in competition with yourself.
Psychopaths Anonymous next screens with Lift-Off as part of the Shorts Programme 2 on Saturday 7th October at 2:15pm.
You can follow Adam on social media at