Lucas Jones is a long-time actor and first-time director from Cambridgeshire, and working in London, England. Having worked professionally in front of the camera for almost a decade in a vast array of projects from major franchise films and TV shows to small independent shorts, there are few places he feels more at home than on a film set. As both a writer and director, Lucas is interested in telling nuanced, human stories.
Lucas’ directorial debut, Winner Fights the Moon, follows Arris who has recently been released from prison after serving a five year sentence. Having never met his daughter Riley outside of a prison visitation room, Arris is desperate to make up for lost time. In an effort to reconnect with his daughter and ex-girlfriend Lauren, Arris promises a long overdue family day at the beach. But the young family soon discover that the past doesn’t always stay in the past.
Winner Fights the Moon screened at the Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival. We interviewed director Lucas Jones to hear a little more about how this remarkable film was conceived, and his future as a filmmaker.
Winner Fights the Moon has been short-listed for Best Short Film for the 2023 Lift-Off Season Awards.
Interview by Ollie Baines
What is your film about? And why did you want to make it?
“Winner Fights The Moon explores the cyclical nature of generational trauma as a result of distorted masculinity and hollow fatherhood.
“In the UK, 75% of ex-inmates reoffend within nine years of release and 39% reoffend within the first 12 months. Winner Fights the Moon follows a story I saw play out in my own childhood and adolescence countless times. Growing up in a working class, rural town with little opportunity for young people, a life of crime, violence and emotional disconnect becomes an inevitability for many young people.
“I really wanted to present a nuanced take on a story that feels timeless; to focus on the well-intentioned, but flawed humanity of each character. We find our central characters right at the beginning of their second chance attempting to fulfil the promises made in their youth. I was grateful to collaborate with fellow filmmakers who were equally keen to explore the complexity of morality within two people trying to do what they believe is the right thing. Two people who care deeply for each other, both with the same mission; to be a force for good in their daughter’s life. Yet still, they find themselves engulfed in an inescapable cycle of chaos and continual trauma.
“The film is a painful but deeply important story of youthful love in a damaged world; a commentary on how, for many, the hopeful allure of a peaceful life and a beautiful future is simply unobtainable given the tools and environment they are afforded.”
Who are your 3 biggest filmmaking inspirations and why?
“Derek Cianfrance immediately springs to mind. His ability to create beautiful, character driven stories that centre around the most nuanced, human, sometimes even mundane events has always fascinated me. In pre-production on Winner Fights the Moon we spoke a lot about ‘People, not plot’ as a motivating factor. I always feel like the plot should be a secondary consequence of interesting characters existing in the same space. Not characters forced to work within a pre-determined plot.
“Alma Har’el is one of my favourite visual storytellers of all time. From her early music videos to her feature debut and onwards she’s been so consistent with her ability to unveil, distill and express exactly what the heart of a story is. Especially when she’s leaning into the more abstract side of her style, she finds this strange honesty in moments of fantasy that somehow feels more true than hyper-realism because it speaks to the intangible within all of us.
“And finally, Vincent Haycock. No one knows how to use actors within a composition the way Vince does. No one creates such heartbreaking, human detail in such simplistic set ups. I’ve always been obsessed with music videos – there’s a silent-movie purity to them where actors are concerned – and I had the pleasure of working with / being directed by Vince some years ago on a beautiful music video. His stylistic inspiration is one thing, but the way he runs his set and the sense of calm and presence he carries was a real masterclass.”
What is next for you as a filmmaker?
Next, I just plan to work with Sophie (the producer of Winner Fights the Moon) until she’s sick of me. We have some incredibly exciting plans and ambitions over the next few years and very similar artistic sensibilities, so I just want to essentially recreate the collaborative process of this film, but on a grander scale with beautiful, human stories. And just do that until I’m old and sleepy.
Don’t forget to view the complete Winners and Special Mentions and Shortlisted Season Awards Filmmakers list from Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival.