Edward L Dark is a Creative Director of Button Up Productions in London, UK. He started as a Production Assistant on InkHeart and 10,000 B.C and as a Visual Effect Coordinator on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2009, then he moved into directing films. His most popular work has to be Chasing Cotards (2010) with Andrew Scott and Olivia Grant. We are delighted to say that we were able to interview Edward at Ealing Studios in London and have a chat about his work and Button Up Productions.
Maggie: You are a Creative Director of Button Up Productions and collaborate with an independent filmmaker Ismar Badzic. Could you tell us more about the production company?
Edward L Dark: Ismar is my business partner, me and Stephen Follows do projects. It’s an interesting time for me, Button up Productions is very much concentrating on music videos, promos and that sort of thing. We are split into two entities and the other entity is a company called CATSNAKE, which Stephen has been running for almost ten years. And between the two companies we are looking to diversify and do more projects. The CATSNAKE side of things are going to do more charity based videos, love stories and short films with the message that help charities further their brand and further their mission.
Maggie: You’ve worked as a Visual Effect Coordinator on Harry Potter: The Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter: Deathly Hollows, as an Assistant Camera: Vista Vision on InkHeart and 10,000 BC. Apart from The Rosary you also directed Chasing Cotards. For those who don’t know, could you tell us what was behind the project?
Edward L Dark:(Ed laughs) The Rosary was rubbish but it was a great learning experience.
Maggie: You had to start from somewhere (giggles)
Edward L Dark: Don’t ever show your first short film (laughs). That’s the message!
Maggie and Roxy: We loved Chasing Cotards, we were left sobbing for quite some time.
Edward L Dark: Thank you! I was working on Harry Potter at the time. I was a tiny cog in a big big machine, which was great! Working on a big film is fun. I had worked on some big films before that. It’s all well and good to be in a film industry, to be a director. When I met my wife and we went on our first date to see Indiana Jones in a cinema, we were chatting and she asked me ” Why are you in the film industry?” I said “I want to be a director” and she said “You are a Visual Effect Coordinator, so what went wrong?” That reminded me that that was what I wanted to do, I really wanted to be a director. So I made a decision and, luckily, our romance flourished into a marriage and she kept reminding me that I’d be directing and that it would definitely make me happy. As our romance blossomed we decided to do Chasing Cotards together. She was a producer for a company called In The Dark Productions, it’s her own company that she’s set up and she is a producer on Cotards too. I must say it almost broke us up because it’s was so difficult : hard work and late nights. But in the end it made us stronger!
Maggie: How long did it take you to make it?
Edward L Dark: I thought about it 3 years before it’s premiered at IMAX, that’s when the initial idea came up. But because I was working in the film industry I kept it in a drawer, saying: ” You know I will make it someday” and that’s the dream to make this film.And then a couple of years later after I met my wife, I took it out of the drawer and then we decided to really get it done. My DoP Steve Brook Smith had a great idea to shoot it on this Vista Vision camera and then screen it in IMAX. I asked him if it was easy and he said that yes it’s easy. I realized that’s not true (Ed laughs). It was really hard. Basically because no one has ever shot a short film on Vista Vision, on an old camera and for an IMAX screen. So when we kept asking companies how we do it, they said ” we don’t know, let us know how you do it”. That’s where the Vista Vision and IMAX thing came from. James Clark came up with the idea and my friend Olivia Wakeford rewrote the script. Then we all went full blown into production.
Roxy: Chasing Cotards originated from James Clarke’s line: “Man looks at painting, woman comes out of painting”. How long did it take you to develop this into your short film?
Edward L Dark:3 years, we worked intensively on it for about a year. That’s the year when me and my wife were working hard.
Roxy: In the scene where Hart is reconnected with Elizabeth, did you feel it was important to give actors freedom to provide their own interpretation?
Edward L Dark:What’s interesting about that is that I wouldn’t let them kiss. I told them not to kiss each other, I wanted them to rehearse the scene but without the kiss. I wanted that first kiss to be on screen. I thought it’d have some energy. I left them together in the room for a while so they’d do their own thing. And also I like to have a back stories for all my characters. I told them all about it, the great thing about Olivia and Andrew is that they both worked their own stories into this film. Especially Andrew, he really does come to the set with a plan rather than turning up saying ” Where do you want me?” That’s a breath of fresh air. Some of the best ideas were his.
Maggie: When you met Andrew and Olivia on Cotards did you hit it off pretty much straight away?
Edward L Dark: Yes, we got on straight away. He’s hard not to get on with. He is such a lovely human being. He got on with everyone, there were no airs and graces, he is a lovely chap. Olivia was great too. What interesting about Olivia was that in the build up to the scene she was crying two hours solid beforehand.
Roxy: Why did you choose music to show characters emotions rather than dialogue?
Edward L Dark: Because I love silent movies, Chasing Cotards was always meant to be a silent film. And the music was always meant to control the viewer a great deal. You can change a context of a film completely with a different, even slightly different, piece of music. Mark Lo, Music Supervisor, found Paul Thomson, a fantastic composer, and that’s why we had a great music in the film.
Roxy: With Chasing Cotards why did you decide to use Vista Vision rather than digital? And do you think it added another dimension to the film?
Edward L Dark:Yes, I asked for Vista Vision because my DoP suggested it so we could do the IMAX thing. I always wanted to make film on film. I don’t know if I ever shoot on film again. Digital is getting closer to looking like film, the only difference is that you can do 57 takes on digital but on film you have to nail it in three takes otherwise it will get very expensive. I do suggest if anyone can afford to do it on film they should shoot on film. Because you learn so much from shooting on Vista Vision.
Maggie: What’s your favourite aspect of being a film director?
Edward L Dark: Characters,reactions,framing. I really like framing. I am not a big camera guy which is probably why I used Vista Vision because it’s stupid (laughs). I hired a cameraman to do that. There is a myth about Alfred Hitchcock that he never looked into the camera, apparently he trusted the camera guys. He just told them what he wanted. It’s very old school but it’s sort of how I work.
Maggie: What has been your most satisfying moment in film business?
Edward L Dark:It must be that moment at the Chasing Cotards premiere. Me and my wife were sitting at the back of the cinema room, we wanted to see people’s reaction after the screening. When the film finished everyone stood up and gave us a standing ovation, even now that makes me choke up. It is not just about the film, they all knew the journey that we went on while filming. It was a huge relief that they liked Chasing Cotards.
Roxy: Have you got any new projects in the pipeline?
Edward L Dark:Yes, we have got few. Friends of the Earth project and another one called Lucy’s Cycling Treasure Hunt for Sustrans and Google maps. These are the two things at the moment and we want to diversify and become more of a love stories and charity videos. There is a short film in the works, it’s called Bulbs. It’s been produced by Mark Lo, who was the main music supervisor on Cotards. He is now looking to produce. This is something that we are looking, hopefully, to do at the end of this year.
Maggie: Are you thinking of making a feature film?
Edward L Dark:That’s phase three of the plan. Charity videos is number one, number two see where that goes and three it’s feature film.
It was a great pleasure chatting to Edward L Dark, he simply rocks!
Interviewed and edited by Maggie Gogler and Roxy Simons