Michael Lennox is an award winning BAFTA filmmaker who started his career with short films such as Rip and the Preacher and Dinner Party. His 2015 short film Boogaloo and Graham earned him the BAFTA award for best British Short Film and had even garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Live-Action Short Film. Michael made his feature film directorial debut with A Patch of Fog, which will be released by XLrator Media on iTunes and VOD on January 24.
World Film Geek had the opportunity to talk with Michael about A Patch of Fog.
First of all, thank you Michael for taking the time out of your schedule to talk about A Patch of Fog.
Thank you. I’m most happy to talk about it.
For those who do not know your work, how did you get started in cinema?
Well, it happened by accident. I never grew up thinking I wanted to be a filmmaker. When I was about 18 or 19, I met a group of filmmakers who came over from London to Belfast and I was always loved films, and for me, there was such an excitement for what they did in life. I wanted to do something where I can feel just as excited so I decided to try it and I got involved with the practices and I realized this was something I was meant to do.
I have made loads of short films and I made a documentary. I shot weddings, in which I would shoot over there and then go to the editing room. And it was there that taught me about shots and storytelling, no matter what it was. And that would give me a chance to do my short film and I would end up getting a place on the Masters of Arts in Fiction at the National Film and Television School. I just came out of there a few years ago and I got a chance to do my first feature film and commercial films and recently, I’ve been working in directing television.
What led you to make your feature film debut with A Patch of Fog?
The script was written by Michael McCartney and John Cairns, and they’re from Northern Ireland Screen and they got a producer named Robert Jones, who was a producer on The Usual Suspects. It made quite a lot of charm when the film was made so he’s always work with first-time filmmakers like P.T. Anderson and Bryan Singer. He was looking for a first-time filmmaker and I was lucky enough to get an interview and get the gig.
With regards to story, I thought it was a good thriller, stalker movie. And it’s not like other films like Hard Candy. It’s more like a go to extreme, introverted kind of movie. You’re not quite sure who gets the upper hand in a particular moment. There’s no good guy or bad guy, but rather a grey area where anything could happen and we never always followed the script, so that was something I found interesting. That I can change a few things here and there so it is definitely a debut feature for me.
With your experience, what do you think the difference is between doing a short film and a feature film?
Feature films are definitely a challenge. With short films, you would get like fifteen pages and you can think of the whole film in your head at one point. With feature films, it is totally different because you shoot out of order and you have a hundred and fifty things and you’re trying to feel the whole picture and shape of the story, the individual story. For me, it is definitely the biggest challenge to try and keep that level of focus and consistency. So for me, it’s the bigger aspect of telling the story in a longer stretch of time.
It’s the biggest challenge. Technically, it’s sort of the same making a short film. It’s just that there’s no break because you are always fighting and dragging, trying to come up with new ways to do things.
What was it like working with Stephen Graham (who plays Robert) and Conleith Hill (who plays Sandy)?
Yes! Absolutely one of the best parts of my experience. Stephen Graham has always been one of my favorite actors from Boardwalk Empire and he’s been in a lot of independent cinema. Robert is one of those characters who can have both a wicked sense of humor and can also play it utterly, dangerously frightening. You always don’t know if he will punch you or give you a hug. For me, the character of Robert, he’s kind of extreme and we try to figure him out. Stephen worked really well with that character.
Conleith Hill is a great character actor. He’s a great actor and I’ve always wanted to work with him. He’s not the stereotypical, kind of character for a leading actor. He comes from a different angle and he gives something that is a bit different that works quite well in a buddy movie. And once he realizes that he has an enemy, he actually becomes quite different.
What would you consider your favorite scene to have shot and the most difficult scene that you had shot making the film?
I think one of the best scenes is when Sandy breaks in Robert’s apartment and he sees the snake pit because that was never in the script. And that just happened to be part of the location. The guy who owns the house actually owns the snakes so we actually had to put them in the film and it added to the drama. Conleith actually had the guts to do the scene and that was one of those moments that we came up with at the spur of the moment and it was a lot of fun.
When Stephen and Conleith are shooting the night classic, Conleith would go off script and there would be a lot of playing and I would have to start trying to calm him down, but it was very entertaining.
Technically, the filming in the water was a little difficult because we didn’t have the proper tanks or budget for the equipment. However, it was a little exciting to think of inventive ways to shoot the scene so technically we got through it and I loved it.
This was a really good debut in terms of feature films for you. Are you or will you work on another feature film in the future?
Oh yes, definitely. I am hoping to have another one started by the end of this year. It will be an Irish movie, a black comedy about two brothers who go to a pub. Hopefully, I can get that done at the end of the year, and I am very excited. It’s similar in that there are two characters who are flawed but find themselves making a bigger mistake.
Finally, for those who want to break into filmmaking, what advice would you offer them?
The advice I would give is keep shooting whatever you can. Take it from me, with the technology today, if there is no script, there is no film. There are those who say that they want to be a filmmaker, but never shoot anything. Take the time to practice. I started shooting weddings, corporate videos, and landscapes. I think the more you shoot, you start to learn what kind of filmmaker you want to be. You start to develop your own style and identity from your own perspective. And you can learn the technical stuff, you can learn it in about six months and get better at it. You start to get creative and identify yourself as you learn and shoot more. So that’s the advice I will give.
A Patch of Fog will be released on iTunes and VOD on January 24, I would recommend this film. Thank you again Michael for taking the time out of your schedule to talk about the film.
Well, thank you very much. I’m glad you enjoyed the film. And thank you for helping me promote it.
Well, if you have some new films, I would love to continue to help promote them.
That would be great! Thank you!
A Special Thank You goes out to Katrina Wan PR for making this interview possible and to Michael Lennox for taking the time to talk about the film. Check out A Patch of Fog on January 24 from XLrator Media.