As of this week, the up and coming film production company SweetDoh! has seen their fine-tuned, low-key existential short “Contractor 014352” (dir. Simon Ryninks) with British star on the rise, Johnny Flynn (Emma, dir. Autumn de Wilde, 2020) released on Omeleto – the hot-ticket platform for high quality, Academy qualifying short films. Screening at Vancouver and London Lift-Off Film Festivals in 2017, winning Best Short and Best Screenplay respectively, it is a genuine thrill for us to share this news.
Here at Lift-Off, we’re quite passionate advocates for helping passionate, talented filmmakers get their ideas made, seen, and fuelling their next projects. One cannot help but take for granted the long and arduous work independent filmmakers must do in order to make lasting imprints, unless you are actually doing it yourself. The output of SweetDoh! is something that Lift-Off are always excited to see ,and from experience, screen at our festivals to wildly receptive audiences all over the world. Since screening “Contractor 014352” in 2017, SweetDoh! has produced an onslaught of distinctively sleek, quality short films. One being “Innocence” starring Alice Lowe, won Best Short at our 2019 Season Awards, and “The Plunge”, winning Best Short at our New York festival in 2019.
Founder of SweetDoh! Tibo Travers and writer/director Simon Ryninks took the time to answer a few of my questions regarding this wonderful little story over email (global pandemic obliges):
What was the catalyst of this story for you?
“Contractor 014352″ is a timely story that needs to be told. It’s a story of us vs. them, of recognising the individual from the masses, and the importance of every human interaction we have – even the ones we consider unimportant. It reminds us that a chance encounter could open up our worlds. Based on a poem the film’s writer Zak Klein penned in 2012, we honed the script over two years until it felt ready to be produced.
From start to finish the film took three years to make. It’s hard to say exactly what made this project feel like a worthwhile pursuit over all that time, when others have fell by the wayside, but I think it has something to do with its quiet ambition.
How did the casting for Contractor 014352 come together?
As a fan of Johnny Flynn’s work as both a musician and actor, I was always very keen to work with and ultimately cast him to play Guy. So we began conversations with his agent as soon as we had an idea of the shooting dates, and Johnny expressed an interest right away. We were delighted to have him attached. Zak had worked with Daniel Ings before and the film’s producer Tibo Travers worked with Omar Khan before – they were both keen to come on-board and, after setting up meetings we knew we had a dream cast. Soon our ideas became concrete and then, before we knew it, we were all on-set.
This story, to me, resonated as a comment on how easy it is to feel like one’s life slips through one’s fingers and can become meaningless if we don’t take action on what brings us joy. What else did you particularly want to get across with this story?
The film also explores a lot of the same concepts as our previous film “The Elevator Pitch”, such as the little guy rallying against a perceived injustice and the role of fantasy in our everyday lives. I also think that it has something to say politically, but in a very gentle and universal way. Essentially it’s a very special film, which is probably why we persisted with it and why audiences around the world seem to have really responded to it.
If you think you might enjoy watching something of substance, short enough to consume on a break working from home, “Contractor 014352” will satisfy that itch. And whilst you’re over on Omeleto, give the rest of the short films available a browse, you will find way more than you bargained for.
Having taken their latest film production “Out There” to Berlin’s European Film Market (EFM), I also asked Tibo if he could tell our readers a little more about their exciting new cinematic endeavour.
Who is this story for?
It’s a comedy sci-fi with coming-of-age elements so we imagine it will appeal to young adults. Especially with its young cast of upcoming actors, its humour and YA themes. But we also want to make something millennials like us can appreciate. We hope to achieve this by playing on 1990s nostalgia through the film’s period setting and its aesthetic, which will borrow from science fiction films of the 1980s and 1990s.
How did the project come to life? Was the story from scratch or inspired by anything?
Set in 90’s rural Wales, Out There is a sci-fi comedy about the two teenage alien obsessives that witness a UFO crash. The idea came to me after learning about the Welsh UFO sightings of the 1970s, in particular the Berwyn Mountain incident (dubbed “Roswelsh” by the media) and the Broadhaven sightings of the late 1970s. There were so many sightings during this time that the region became known as the ‘Broad Haven Triangle’ after the Bermuda Triangle. More recently, the actor Michael Sheen commented on the number of sightings in Wales, describing the country as being “like some sort of stop-off… the Little Chef of the Galaxy.” I was stunned to learn about the country’s affinity with aliens, and learning about its long- standing history with UFOs, I saw an opportunity to tell a unique story anchored in real events. I’ve had a strong desire to explore and write about my Welsh heritage through the work I make and the film’s been written with the country’s unique voice and sense of humour in mind.
What have been the highs and lows of making this project?
The film is still in early development so we haven’t had many highs or lows as yet, but receiving support and funding from Ffilm Cymru Wales earlier this year has certainly given the project a lot of momentum, as well providing our team with some work to do during lockdown.