In 2015, I produced a short film called A Six and Two Threes. I had met Andy Berriman (writer/director) earlier in the year and fell in love with the script and his vision for the film and became determined to make it.
That year a scheme called iShorts was open for submissions, and we decided to apply as a team. The film would play at over twenty festivals and even make the BIFA long list for Best Short Film.
We learned a lot, both as a producer/director team and individually, during the course of making the film. Five years on, we decided to sit down and rewatch the film together, reflecting on the lessons learned along the way.
Above the Line | 'A Six & Two Threes' Case Study.mp4
AB: [00:00:02] I wrote this, I think, pretty much after I just finished film school, so.. 2008 would have been the first draft, it would have been 2014, when iShorts were accepting applications that I had a meeting with Roxy. Um, and she was like, "what happened to that script that you sent me years ago?" And I was I don't know, it's just in a drawer somewhere. Um, she was like "well you should dig it out, it's a good script" and then I think it was Roxy who introduced us. So you'll have read a version of the script, which was probably north of 20 pages long.
MCG: [00:00:41] Yeah, I think it was about twenty two pages. Yeah, I know that, and still had the river scene.
AB: [00:00:47] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well I was in love with that scene. You know, visually and I had the location and everything but I think I may have been another Northern Film and Media initiative, I got a development, like an hour talk with Ivana McKinnon. Yeah. And she was like, "why do they go to a river?" I was like, because I want to film in a river. She was like "That's not a reason."
MCG: [00:01:11] Ok, I think we should talk a bit about working with Creative England because it was our well, it was my first sort of official commission from, say, like an industry organization, I think it was yours, too. And for a lot of, I think new filmmakers, that can be quite a daunting step or, you know, something that you really build up and you really, really want. And I think we did put some pressure on ourselves to make a really good film without making it, you know, not big pressure.
AB: [00:01:50] I mean, a lot of pressure and all all from within, you know, and you feel like you can't really admit vulnerability very much. You feel like you have to constantly have this facade that you know what you're doing and I don't know how true that is, really. I actually don't know how. I think 90 percent of people are fine with you being vulnerable. And actually, that will just make them want to help try and find help find a solution, you know, but that's something I think that you learn. And when you get your first commission, it's like. Well, of course you want to knock it out of the park, you know, and within that is not wanting to let people down within that is your own ego. It's funny when you think back, it's like, what, five grand? You know, very grateful to get it, but it's like how how high could the stakes have been? But at the time you just felt like. Yeah, like, I've got to get this right, otherwise it's game over.
MCG: [00:02:45] Yeah, I think I certainly felt that pressure was like this is my one chance to to impress people, because prior to that, a lot like you, I had made short films sort of on the side or crowd funding, and I hadn't had a commission. And I was terrified, maybe I won't say terrified because they weren't intimidating the execs in the room, but I was so desperate to make a good impression. Um, I think everybody who was doing an iShort really wanted to make good films. And I was really ... and we were in a year with so many talented people as well was a great scheme also for me it was like, um. The first time I worked with a... It wasn't a big crew, but it was the biggest crew I'd worked with, and I think for me it was like, you know, trust people get out of the way and don't worry too much because people are going to do a good job for you. Um, and I think there's always that worry of like, oh, I have to do everything myself, otherwise nobody will do it right. And it was just, it's a terrible attitude to have. Um, and it's why I think on that film, sort of taking that leap of faith and just being like it's going to work out, people are going to do a good job. Um, don't worry. Just do your job. Well, I think that was it was a good lesson in collaboration, I think, for my part.
MCG: [00:04:10] I don't know if you just want to, like, walk us through kind of, The script, like maybe the casting, because that was a really great process that we went through and a lot of help from Daniel John Williams, who was a champion of this film before it got made, before I even knew about it.
MCG: [00:04:27] Um, and also the way he just worked his socks off to help us find these kids who their performances were just fantastic. Um, so this was shot on the first day and the taxi and the shop cost me 50 pounds to hire if anyone's interested. No bargain. Okay.
AB: [00:04:48] Yeah. Um, yeah, the casting was absolutely crucial and I think that was the thing I was most worried about. Obviously, Daniel did an incredible job, set up some workshops and I don't think it's a secret that Shane is a sort of fan is family to Daniel, but he had to work like everybody else to get that part. And Andrew, it was really interesting, he couldn't... we did a workshop on the morning for Mac. So young, younger kids and after afternoon one for Sean. Andrew couldn't make the afternoon once we came to the Mac one. And to be honest, I think that's like... He's so fortunate that he couldn't make the afternoon session because seeing him get to play with all of the, You know, sort of mess about an improv and sort of be kind of a bit of a acting punching bag for all these little Macs and really worked and... There is a longer story that I can tell you like afterwards is something which is why I cast Andrew ultimately, but. Yeah, I couldn't done it without Daniel and Daniel worked with Shane behind the scenes, like, I think even more than I knew he did. You know, I think Daniel basically... Shane obviously had something natural about him. Uh, I think Daniel basically taught him to act in about two months, you know, sort of, um. So, yeah. Always grateful to Daniel for that because he was amazing, wasn't he? I mean, you know, he just was incredible on those three days, Shane, considering he'd never done it before.
MCG: [00:06:39] Yeah. I remember one of the workshops when I first met Shane and he you know, everybody was sitting down but Shane was standing on the chair or lying on the chair or under the chair like he wouldn't sit still. And I thought, golly, this kid can he can he focus? And then we started doing these little scenes together and he was just he was magic. He had like a lot of personality, um, and then he would just become quiet and in his own world. And, um, so I couldn't... I don't know what to make of him, to be honest. And it was I think just credit to you and to to Danny. You really saw that special quality in him. And, you know, the more time you spend with him, the more you realize that this kid really understood what his character was going to be. Um. And he was he's just fantastic, really, really great.
AB: [00:07:35] Yeah, well, he is he is the character in real life. You know, he just at that point in his life, he was just. You know, I don't want to say no acting required because he did work really hard and is actually quite a lot of discipline involved in what he's doing, but, um, that's I what I mean, I think that's what you're looking for when you look at a cast a kid is you're just looking for this close to the character as possible, and this is my favorite shot in the film. I think this is like sort of OK.
MCG: [00:08:04] And I think I remember being behind the camera and willing that boy to climb the pole because he was doing it in between takes. And we thought, wouldn't it be great if he did it just naturally during a take and he did it just like, go on, climb the pole, because it's absurd. I don't know why he decided. And again, like, now, that would freak me out and be like health and safety. But then I was like, oh, I hope he climbs the pole. That would look mint.
AB: [00:08:27] Well, that's a pastime and, you know, in Stockton
MCG: [00:08:31] And so I remember shooting the scene and I think people were a bit confrontational around because they had just finished Benefit Street and people felt a bit aggrieved by camera crews. People like were interested in engaging in what was happening once we won them over that, we weren't making a depressing film. Um, but filming around Stockton was a really cool experience because I think once people forgot that we were, that we were a camera crew and they knew we weren't making something that was seeing the place in a bad way, um, they kind of took to us quite nicely and made our lives quite easy, I think.
AB: [00:09:12] Yeah, there was a bit of both, wasn't there? There was ... I mean, there's always going to be people who have something to say just because that's the way they are. But, um, you know, but like I said, you know, those kids are in the shot a few minutes ago. You know, people I think that, you know, they found it quite exciting once.. You're right, once they found out what it was that we were doing. Um. Yeah, but then it's a very personal thing to go into people's homes, not literally into their homes, but, you know, sort of where they live, the streets where they live, and just rock up as much as you want to, you can't go and knock on the door and get to know everybody in the street and So, yeah, in fairness, it's you know, it's their territory and they want to know what you do in there, you know. And Lewis, who plays the the Kid who knocks Andrew out, is an incredible dancer. I absolutely love that fact.
MCG: [00:10:11] Yeah, he does. He did like all kinds of dance.
AB: [00:10:13] He's a very, very good dancer.
MCG: [00:10:18] And can you talk about directing this? I remember this is what we shot on the last day.
AB: [00:10:24] Oh, yeah.
MCG: [00:10:27] Um, and it took a bit of choreography and working with the characters, it was an important moment. You want to talk a bit about that?
AB: [00:10:34] Yeah, yeah, I think. One of the most interesting things is that the window that they're looking in when we're shooting exterior is not is not the house that we used to shoot, so. Um. When we're shooting them back through the glass, we're in the room that Mick The Fish was in, um, so that was a bit weird filming a scene, because I think that was... Either end of the day and. Yeah, I mean that. I mean that that shot was like really important, that's kind of the emotional pivot of the film really, its where Sean sees his real Dad. In quite a sad and sorry state, you know, um,
MCG: [00:11:26] It's hard it's hard to talk about these things, really, because it's like, you know, you look back and I'd Do it's also differently but also I wouldn't change my experience. So it's it's a tricky thing to comment on. Yeah, that was interesting. That was such a crap answer.
MCG: [00:11:48] No, it was good. I mean, I like watching this moment in the cinema because everybody thinks that Mac is sort of conned... Like Mac has conned Sean and then when he, you know, eventually there's the reveal and Mac is going to run back and everybody just goes, "Oh...." And it's I think it was my favorite scene to watch with an audience. Um. For this particular film.
AB: [00:12:17] I think it was like the happiest moment working on the script when I came up with that idea. That he nicks off with his wallet, and we all assume the worst and he comes back. I just felt like that totally encapsulated what the film was about for me, it was just I was really chuffed when that idea came along. Yeah, and it is ... Shane plays that brilliantly here.
MCG: [00:12:46] We went through quite a few ice lollies as well.
AB: [00:12:48] Yeah, well, Shane made sure of that. I think he was ruining takes so he got to eat another one.
MCG: [00:13:00] And here we are at the at the end, and I think, like there was a lot of initial discussion about how this film should end, and you felt very strongly that you wanted to leave these characters here on the bridge.
AB: [00:13:15] Yes. And so annoying that they make railway bridges safe now because no one really wanted them in the middle, you know, there was that quite obvious, bit cheesy metaphor of, you know, the different sides of the tracks and how they they've grown up in very different circumstances. But I liked leaving them hovering between these two worlds because neither of them really belong in their individual worlds.
MCG: [00:13:44] I mean, I think it's such a beautiful and special ending.
[00:13:52] Yeah, it's cute, isn't it? It's a cute... It's nice to leave them together. I think if there was a good goodbye, it'd very different, we can we can let the audience sort of imagine .. Yeah, just stay in energy, where they are sort of together.
MCG: [00:14:18] And now I think we should talk a bit about what happened when we finished the film because, I mean, they were like "and now you send it to festivals", so, you know, we came up with a list of festivals and I'd like to think that there was a lot of strategy. It was something that I learned to develop a festival strategy.
MCG: [00:14:38] But, um, I think it surprised a lot of people like how just how well it did. People really, really took to it. Um, and it was a great experience and lots of things to be positive about. Um, I wondered how you felt about, you know, the film going out. You went to a few festivals, didn't you? Um, and what was that experience for you?
AB: [00:15:03] In terms of going to festivals?
AB: [00:15:05] It was really interesting seeing it with different audiences. It really hits home that, you know, if you film doesn't get into a festival, it doesn't mean they didn't like it. And it's just a really good chance they just couldn't fit in anywhere, you know? And it's really interesting how an audience perceives your film. Obviously, it's when you're watching short films at the film festival, you're often watching five or six at least, you know, end to end like a two hour program of short films or whatever.
AB: [00:15:33] And, um, it's really interesting to see how the film that precedes it really affects how an audience receives your film and even within even within the parameters of the film itself, I found that watching it with different audiences is that I found that there was a sweet spot. If they laughed at a certain point, then they were totally like in sync with the film. But if they for whatever reason, maybe there'd just been a really depressing film or something. So they didn't feel ready to laugh for a couple of minutes. They're never really fully caught up with the film, you know, and it's a it's really interesting to see how an audience really participates in a film, because you could you could walk out of the individual screenings and even though the film was obviously identical, just you feel so different depending on how the audience has responded, you know, the feeling, the energy in the in the cinema. And it taught me to if you're going to make a comedy, let the audience know that you're making a comedy like really early, as early on as you possibly can, give them permission to laugh. They just need that little indicator to know that they're allowed to laugh. And I think that would be my tip if you're making something.
MCG: [00:16:51] There are a lot of comedies that don't make people laugh. I think for me it was like a bit of a wake up call to, well, not a wake up call, more like an introduction to The Industry in capital letters. The importance that some festivals were given over others or that you were expected to go and network. What a terrible thing. And, um, sort of everybody wants to know, what are you going to do next? And you should be planning for bigger and better things. And I think that was both helpful and not, because then you get sort of preoccupied with, um, presenting yourself to the industry and then feeling kind of a bit lost in it all. Um, I don't know if you ever felt that way, but I was just like, oh, I have to keep, like, doing things now. And, um, I see other people who make, like, one short film or two short films that are like, I'm going to make a feature film. But I think I was just like, oh, I'm going to have to make loads of short films so I get really, really good at producing because the industry is not going to forgive me if I make a bad film or if I make a bad first feature film. Um, and it was like it was a a very steep learning curve for me to understand how it functioned, what was expected of me and what, um. what people thought my career should look like.
AB: [00:18:15] I mean, there are so many pieces of advice that I would give.
AB: [00:18:20] But I think the the one I would most like to hear, OK, there's two that I would've most like to have heard or tell myself, like we were talking about earlier, the stakes aren't as high as you think they are like these these things here for you to learn, be less afraid of making mistakes and be bold and have fun and try stuff out use it as an opportunity to find out what kind of filmmaker you are, rather than maybe playing it safe to try and ensure that things don't go wrong.
AB: [00:18:53] You know, they won't go wrong and they will go wrong because all sorts of things go wrong on a shoot, but they'll be fine. And it's a learning experience. And that's what short films are about. Should be. Should be about.
MCG: [00:19:06] Yeah. I think looking back now, five years later on A Six and Two Threess. It was such a special film and such a special experience, and I have like nothing but like happiness every time I think of that film. And it was obviously separate to the film itself, I got to know you as a person and, you know, forced you to become my friend, and my life is better because of it. And I feel like there's so many positive things that you could take away from making a film, from creating something with other people and forget about the festivals and the funding and the, um, the accolades and, um, where you go in the in the industry, whatever, it's, um, it's like a joyous experience, isn't it? Creating and creativity is such a wonderful thing that we get to do. And, I think when I'm having a bad day, I think of A Six and Two Threes also. Then, you know, I would meet people at film festivals who said like, "oh, I'm from the north and I saw A Six And Two Threes and nobody uses that expression" and its sort of a way of connecting with people. And it's just it's a short film, but it actually means quite a lot to me from a very personal point. Do you want to conclude with something hopeful and inspirational?
AB: [00:20:28] I think I can just reiterate that point that, you know, it's easy to lose your way, but just remember that there's some there's something that got you there, something that made you want to make films. And that was a very pure thing. If you do find yourself going down, you know, and this could apply to an individual film, you could just be in the sort of wilderness of production and losing your head. Just try and remember what made, you know, go back to that very pure reason. That's the reason that you wanted to make films, was because you're a creative person.