Paul Knight breaks down A Landscape of Lies Movie
I know people expect a certain genre to come out of the British independent scene, so turning the teams hand to a horror or a gangster/hooligan movie may have been less risky than a film which explores how in life there is just 6 degrees of separation, but where would be the fun in that?
I like that I got to make a film that posed questions, that explores how betrayal can be the downfall for our loved ones not just ourselves, and challenge people’s notions of who is the hero and who really is the bad guy. When we get to the root of the story we’re exploring the lengths people go to serve their own interests, the lies they tell to justify their actions and why they do the things they do. As people, we’ve all done something wrong, sometimes it’s even for the right reasons, from telling little white lies to protect someone’s feelings to the genocide of millions in the name of a higher cause. Not that we go to that extreme in this film, but there will always be a pro to every con.
The through line of the film is the murder of a decorated Army officer for his bravery out in Iraq who recently returned home after 3 tours (played by Marc Bannerman). Any time you use something like a war to set a period in time and establish characters you are going to be branded as either trying to glamorise or capitalise on a subject matter that has a strong split of opinion. I decided to keep the moments, told in flashbacks, to the bare minimum, we just used a moment in time to convey friendship and loyalty.
The motivation, when we first started talking about the project, was the feeling that sometimes we become pawns in other people’s games; are we in control of our own destinies? Whether it be a military person, a family, a businessman or someone who is simply lost. We’ve all felt on the outside looking in before and sometimes we find answers in strange places, the characters in this film are no different.
The project has a very strong lead female cast which I feel is appealing. I am keen to work on projects which allow women to explore exciting, challenging and dangerous characters. I don’t think there’s enough out there for them regarding these type of roles. They are usually reduced to either eye candy or in need to be rescued by a man, and I wasn’t brought up to think that way, women birth life, the women in my life are strong, capable and complex this is something I hope to promote throughout my own projects.
I think for most people the film’s biggest surprise was the casting for the Bi-Sexual therapist Dr Audrey Grey, Loose Women favourite, Andrea McLean; “I didn’t go to any acting classes. I just threw myself into it. I thought, ‘Why not? If I’m rubbish, who cares?’ I might be awful. But if I’m all right then I would love to do it again because it was such fun.” Said Andrea. “I had to do scenes that took me out of my comfort zone and I loved it. It feels liberating to reinvent myself, I play the complete opposite of what I normally am. It’s very different and I’m quite scary”. There is one particular scene that really took Andrea out of her safe space, kissing another woman, but being a true professional she found her own way to get through it. “I had to neck half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s to get over my nerves! Christina was lovely and we got it over with quickly, but it was funny how all the male crew suddenly appeared! I had to kiss a few guys in the film, too, which was odd, as I’ve only ever had two boyfriends – and I married both of them”.
When Andrea asked why I considered her for the role, I was honest in my reply. I had discussed that I didn’t want to have the norm. This was an exciting and challenging role and casting for an appealing British woman over the age of 40. We decided why not give an opportunity for someone to break the mould and do something different. Andrea was wonderful to work with; great work ethic and she really threw herself into the role and conveyed the character with such conviction. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in more films over the coming years, she is a natural.
Another area that I felt strongly about was the casting of Andre Nightingale to play Jacob Fassbender, a soldier on a mission to find answers. I know Diversity is such an ‘IN’ word right now but for me, growing up on a council estate in the 60’s, diversity is the norm and I can never understand why there is such a lack of colour in the indie market unless they are playing drug dealers or hooded thugs. I was lucky to secure Andre who was about to go star in the big budget sand and sandals epic ‘Decline of an Empire’ alongside the late Peter O’Toole (It was his last film).
“Over the years I have auditioned for a number of roles, all with a very similar theme so when a role comes up that allows you to act and not be a stereotype, it needs to be seized” Declares Andre “I started out doing a load of roles that required me to speak as though I had no formal education, a lot of ‘Fam’ and ‘Bruv’ in the characters vocabulary, some young pregnant girlfriend in tow whilst I sold drugs with my 9.mill to hand. Paul’s script just reminded me of films like ‘Crash’ or ”Traffic”, where there wasn’t just one narrative, where people’s perception was questioned, I couldn’t find a reason to say no”.
The film is set in modern day London, and explores taboo subjects which are presented as if it were everyday life. I called upon people I know from my own life and translated them to paper. I have known some pretty screwed up people in my time and despite what they have done, still find justification for it somehow in their explanations.
When you spend enough time with them, the explanations become acceptable to the point where validation is no longer needed, and that’s how I put it across, that no one seems to feel the need to give reason as to why they are doing the things that they do in this film.
The shoot was intense as we were on a tight deadline with limited budget and very little prep time, which was challenging but this is a dark intense film and I like a challenge.
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