We had the absolute pleasure of talking to the brilliant director Charles Williams about his film ‘All These Creatures‘ which won the Palme D’or for Best Short film at Cannes this year. We asked him about where the idea of ‘All These Creatures’ came from, the important message behind this film, his upcoming projects and his advice for anyone wanting to take a step in the film industry.
Hi Charles, how are you doing?
Really well thanks, I’m just at the Milan film festival at the moment.
Congratulations on All These Creatures. It’s an incredible movie with a very dark but great story. Where did the idea for this movie come from?
It’s difficult to give a simple answer. It’s a mix of my own memories and obsessions I’ve had for a long time about how we re-evaluate our parents as we grow older, how we have compassion for people who have caused damage in our lives and how much responsibility we all bear for our actions, especially where other factors like mental illness is involved.
It’s also a very emotional story where emotions are priority instead of dialogue. Those emotions are brought incredibly well to the screen thanks to the amazing cast. How did you find them?
Thank you, the casting was a complicated process. Initially, it revolved around finding the right adolescent person to inhabit the lead role. The role is essentially passive and is really more of a vessel through which the audience experiences the story. So I needed this innate mix of innocence and maturity, and someone who’s could be captivating on screen by just watching events unfold. This was going to be difficult to find in someone so young, my casting director Fiona Dann and I opened up the casting to all races and genders. I knew if I found the right soul and I could rewrite the story around their gender or background.
After a search of kids that included schools, special education, youth groups, local kids and professionals, I found Yared Scott who was clearly the best person for the role. Yared has been raised in Australia but was born in Ethiopia, so that determined casting parents from that region and, importantly, bringing on a number of local Ethiopian Australian advisors to make sure the film was accurate and sensitive to their culture.
We found Mandela Mathia, who plays the father in the film, through another short film he had been in and he was a real gift. He was studying acting at NIDA in Sydney and really brought a lot of dedication to the role – he was also the only professionally trained actor in the film.
How long did it take to make this film? From creating the idea to the very last minute of post-production?
It took almost a year exactly between me thinking up the film to the premiere in Cannes. I had submitted the film to Cannes as a work in progress and just finished it before the festival.
What was the hardest thing while making this movie? Any unforeseen circumstances you had to overcome?
The film was incredibly challenging is a lot of ways, many of which stemmed from the fact that I had no money to work with. Everyone on the film worked for free and all of the equipment was donated by some very generous sponsors, beyond that was just my credit card.
It’s challenging to work with kids, non-professionals, insects, animals, cars, road closures and shooting on film, even if you have a budget – without it, you have to be very flexible.
During this year Film Festival de Cannes the movie won the Palme D’or for Best Short film. What went through your mind when you heard that All These Creatures won?
Nothing too insightful I’m afraid, just enormous excitement and gratitude. It’s a massive ceremony too and it was the first award announced so I had to quickly think of a speech!
This is your 5th short film as and a director and the 8th as a producer. What was it that made you want to work in the film industry?
The short answer is that cinema has always been the most meaningful thing to me, so I felt I had to peruse it. No one from my background had any experience in the film industry or anything to do with creative pursuits at all. It was really crazy to think of doing this where I’m from, and we had no money which you often need to take these kinds of risks.. but there was nothing else I ever had any interest in at all – so no choice!
Do you have any advice for people wanting to do the same?
Try to make sure you have some support around you. Whether that’s family or friends or whatever. You’re going to struggle so make sure you’re not struggling alone.
One last question: Do you already have any other projects planned?
Yes, I’m just trying to finish my feature script at the moment. It’s called ‘Inside’ and is very much of a similar piece to the short film in terms of tone and themes, but it takes place in a more criminal environment. It’s been great to see the short film with different audiences and feel their reactions to help inform the writing of the feature too.
Liselotte Vanophem, Film and Celebrity Reporter – Just Celebrity Magazine