An interview with 'Fading Petals' writer and director Bradley Charlton by Missouri Sutcliffe.
MS: Can you give me some background on how the project came into being and tell me a little about the premise of the film?
BC: Well it started after shooting my last short film 'Binary Truths'. It was a big project where we shot forty-seven scenes in over a dozen locations in just 6 days. I thought that myself, Oliver (Oliver Rigby - Cinematographer), Dan (Dan Evans - Production Designer), Gabby (Gabrielle Mastrolonardo - Producer)... all coped quite well with it all and so I felt we were ready to take the next step and make a feature length film. Originally, we were planning on making a film called 'The Trespassers'. It was a large ensemble piece but the pandemic was worsening and we quickly realized that it wouldn't be possible to make it. But that desire to make a feature remained and as a recent graduate I thought, if we didn't do it now then that we might get bogged down by life and it may never happen. So I decided to write something new. This was in June. It took me 2 or 3 days to come up with the characters and the basic premise of the film. Then I started to write the screenplay and it all just came pouring out and I had my first draft in under a week. I'm not usually a fast writer. I knew I had to write the script around what I had available to me as I would be self-financing the project and the project was going to be tiny. So I wrote a more contained character piece with just two main characters. I also knew we wouldn't have access too many locations so I made something that takes place in mainly one location which turned out to be my parents' house. Due to it's short run time, we didn't get to fully explore all of the themes present in 'Binary Truths' and so I think in some ways 'Fading Petals' is a continuation of that. 'Binary Truths' is a companion piece to this piece. A sister piece.
MS: It sounds like you've actually written it as a pandemic film?
BC: Yeah, that's an interesting point and I didn't realize as I was writing it, nor did I intend to do that. Yes I purposely scaled everything down but there is no mention of the Pandemic nor is their social distancing or masks present in the film. It wasn't until we were casting the Young Woman's part, that actors who read the script kept mentioning how relevant it was to the world today. Maybe subconsciously it all seeped into the film because yes, when you look at it, the predominant themes of the film are those of isolation, loneliness and characters being cut off from the world.
MS: Can you talk a bit more about filming during the pandemic?
BC: Yeah it was tough. It's hard enough making a feature film at the best of times but to make one with a crew of just five people on a minuscule budget that could only afford twelve days of shooting is especially difficult. In fact, other than Oliver who really did a great job, I think the photography is amazing, he's a really hard worker and really very talented. Other than him, the other three crew members were family and friends that have no background in film and were willing to help me simply out of kindness. I'm very grateful to them. Also, in order to comply with COVID regulations, we put my parents in a hotel and we all lived and then shot the film in their house, creating a bubble for filming. We were all under one roof without any contact with the outside world for the first seven day. It was one big filmmaking family. Livingwith these people for that period of time was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We would film from dawn until dusk and then each evening we would all sit around the table and eat a home cooked meal together. It was great. Until the last couple of days of shooting, we didn't mix with anyone else as we couldn't afford for anyone else to enter this bubble nor could we risk anyone getting infected. This meant that all of the supporting roles until that point were played by crew members. We even had my dad who had never acted before play the father. He was great. But yes, filming in the pandemic was really quite a challenge, a bigger one than I thought and those external influences changed scenes and locations withinthe film but you know, as Orson Welles said; 'the enemy of art is the absence of limitations' and I believe that to be very true and I think, ultimately the limitations forced us to be more creative.
MS: What was it like working with the actors?
BC: They're just the best! Mel and Charlotte are just incredible in the film. See, the secret to directing is surrounding yourself with very talented and creative people both in front of and behind the camera and then they just make you look better than you are. I worked with Mel before and I wrote the part especially for her because she is such a talented actor. With Charlotte's part we went through a very rigorous audition process. We started with hundreds of applications, it was tough, we had really strong applicants but Charlotte just offered a more round character. Watching her audition tapes, you sensed there was a lot going on beneath the surface and there was something inside to be got at. It was great working with her, she's supremely talented and I couldn't see anyone else playing that role. We didn't rehearse as I didn't want the actors to meet but we did prepare backstories, picked out wardrobes and props to develop the characters. Without them there is no film and I really hope this serves as a launching pad for both of them. The highest compliment I can pay them is that the only thing that surpasses their abilities as actors are their qualities as human beings. They are two of the loveliest and most hard working people you could ever hope to meet.
MS: Can you talk a bit about post-production and how long that's taken you?
BC: Post-Production has been tough. Probably tougher than the shoot itself. It took nearly six months and it was just me for the entire process. Unfortunately we didn't have the budget for colourists, sound mixers... when you're on such a low budget film you have no choice but to do everything - it's hard. The only other person involved in the post production process was William (William Cunningham - Composer) who just did an amazing job with the score. That guy is good. But I must confess that I do enjoy editing. It's there that the film really comes to life. I think once the filming is done I can take the director's hat off and become the editor and look at it objectively. There might be a shot or a take that I really love for directing reasons but if it's not right for the film I'll cut it.
MS: It sounds like this entire process was really difficult so why do you do it?
Well... to be honest I wouldn't want to do anything else. There is an additional pressure when you are self-financing a film and you also feel a responsibility to deliver a good film just for the people who are involved with it so they can be proud. They've put countless hours, blood, sweat, tears and toil into the film. But as Cassavetes said, 'You must be willing to risk everything to express it all'.
MS: What's next for you?
BC: After this, it'll be about getting the next project off the ground and finding some funding. I have a couple of scripts that I've been sitting on for a while now but they're much bigger films in terms of scope.
MS: Can you tell me a little bit about those projects?
BC: Sure, well I have a couple of scripts that I've been sitting on for a while now. But there's one in particular that I've been trying to get funding for, it's called The Trespassers. It has been a passion project for a while now. It's an ensemble piece with multiple story lines. It's a non-linear timeline with intertwining stories. It's basically a tale of morality with characters ranging from teenagers to pensioners, benefit seekers to professors and from the best of humanity to its very worst. I think it could be a great project.