Legacy Film Poster
Sean Langton participated in a collaborative writing project for theatre Town with No Traffic Wardens and his short play Dad was presented as part of Beginnings both for Aberystwyth Arts Centre, both produced by Scriptography Productions. He was commissioned by Ceredigion Mental Health Forum to write a short play Army Surplus about ex-soldiers suffering from PTSD in the NHS. He is currently working on a TV pilot script. For Trebuchet Films he has produced the short film Legacy and has two short films in development along with two feature films Cowboys Can Fly and Broken Boys. For Chen Noir Films he produced the short film Brotherhood and for Monty films he currently has a feature film in development.
Where did the idea for Legacy come from?
I’d been estranged from my family for about four years, and when I finally got back in contact with my family I found my father had died six months previously. It got me to thinking about how you can repair rifts when that person is dead. I originally wrote it as a monologue for a theatre showcase at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The piece had a good reaction, in writing the piece I found the theme of forgiveness and I thought the theme gave it a uniqueness that would make it stand out as a short film. I thought I could adapt the piece for film and write something that would make the audience think about the issues involved.
How was the process of adapting it for the film?
The monologue was one man talking to a gravestone so it didn’t have a visual side that was needed for film. In telling the story on film I chose to tell the story of Ryan as a child with his father and the complexities of a relationship that traversed a loving relationship between father and son and an abusive relationship and alongside that the story of an adult man visiting his father’s grave.
You put together an impressive crew of people to work on the film, director Alan Campbell, DOP Phillip Escott, Ian Smyth Production Manager, Andy Carslaw co-producer/editor.; How did you get them all involved?
I was having a pretty dire Christmas alone and I’d just got a twitter account and I tweeted, all I want for Christmas is a producer to make my film. Within 24 hours I’d had a a tweet from Andy Carslaw who was initially interested in directing the film, I sent the script to him and he came back to say he loved the script but thought that because of the subject matter it might be difficult to get someone on board as a producer so thought I should produce it myself. I thought – why not? So I did some searches on the web to find out how you produce a film and came across the Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass which is run by Chris Jones. I tweeted, does anyone know Chris Jones and is Guerilla Filmakers any good. The first person who got back to me was Chris Jones who told me he was really good and the course was great.
I then spoke to Andy Carslaw who’d been on the film the year before. So I went on the course, it was an intensive three days of 15 hour days, complete information overload but I came away with everything I needed to be able to produce the film. Most of the other people involved were also people who responded to my tweet. Ian I met in Game where he was working just before starting a film course. I was in Game because I was selling all my electrical goods to put towards the film budget. We got talking and I convinced him to come on board with making the film. I ended up with a great team of people who really believed in the film script and the subject of the film.
How did you go about casting the film?
I started off locally trying to find people but I found when I asked people to be in the film they looked at me a little bemused really because I think they doubted whether it was going to happen. I then put an advert on a website asking for actors and I found James and Ryan through that site. It was great to get James on board because he’s a writer himself so having an actor who could look at the project from a writer’s perspective and see what I was trying to achieve with this first film was a huge bonus. It was very difficult to find the actor to play the young Ryan because we needed to find an actor mature enough to handle the subject matter who had very supportive parents who were willing to be there throughout the filming. Ryan’s parents were fantastic. They read the script through with him several times before agreeing to do it, ensuring he understood the subject matter. He was brilliant in audition. In the film he really does handle some very difficult scenes with maturity that is astonishing from such a young actor.
You managed the funding campaign yourself. How did you go about raising that?
I raised as much as I could initially, personally. Then I ran a crowd funding campaign on Sponsume through the website and twitter. It was really hard work but it was worthwhile because it covered some vital costs of the filming. As well as promoting the film. I know I was a bit of a pain and some friends stopped following on twitter because they were getting a bit sick of me constantly asking for money even though they’d already give me some money but luckily once the campaign was over they did start following me and talking to me again! A film company Chen Noir contacted me to say they wanted to be involved, we went to London to meet Brandon Smith and he asked how much money we wanted but instead of taking that offer, because it involved signing over more rights than I was willing to give. Instead we asked for him to come on board with his marketing expertise and as a co-producer which he agreed to do.
What was the pre-production of the film like?
It was like putting together a huge jigsaw, and you didn’t know if you had the right pieces or if they would fit until the first day of shooting.
What is it like shooting the film?
Well the very first hour of shooting was a bit of a disaster for me personally because on the way to set at 8am, I was heading over in a car really early to get to my friends house where we were shooting I was desperate for a wee. We stopped at a farm to ask if I could use the toilet and the farmer said they didn’t have one but I could go behind the bales so I climbed over a gate and fell face first into a cowpat. So I arrived for the beginning of shooting covered from head to foot in a cow pat, I had to ask my friend if I could have a shower and borrow some of her husband’s clothes.
This was the very first time you had been on a film shoot. Did it meet your expectations?
I remember thinking – will you just get on with it. Everything took such a long time. The first 3 seconds of the film took 4 hours to film and it was in a tiny room and we’d covered the windows with black bin bag because it was supposed to be night-time and it was boiling hot and we were sweating. It was a real shock how much work is involved from so many different people. The film is five minutes but it took us one week of filming.
What was post-production like?
It was a bit of nightmare to be honest because we had to do it all ourselves and it was new ground for pretty much everyone on the film. All of the sound we’d recorded had to be re-recorded in a studio. Then agreeing between us all -the final cut of the film. Then the colour grading which was something I didn’t know anything about , colour grading is the process of making the film look as though it is all shot on the same day at the same time. Editing the sound had a complexity which I hadn’t realised with the different layers being added on like the sound of the boy diving down in the bed, the footsteps, the clinking of a plate, which had to be added on. We were really lucky to get Steve Lord who worked on the sound for us. It was a really long process and we were learning as we went along.
What was it like seeing the first rough cut of the film?
It was quite emotional seeing something that had been in my head on the screen. By the end of post-production I’d watched it so many times that it lost all emotion and you watch it from a very analytical view point.
And how was it when you saw it on the big screen?
That was very emotional again because the impact of seeing something that began life as a nugget of an idea 18 months ago was there in front of me on this huge screen. It hit me all over again what an amazing job the actors and the crew do working on the film.
This is a very personal story for you but now it’s a film. How does that feel now?
Yes, now I look at it and it’s a product. A film that shows my writing and my producing, it shows what I can do. It was a truly cathartic process to go through. Writing it was something that allowed me to work through some real issues for me and hopefully can now help others going through similar issues. I had one friend phone me in tears after watching it and also had one guy who saw it said to me, “really touched me on a personal level and helped me re-think issues in my own life. To have those kind of responses. It was why I made the film and it doesn’t get any better than knowing people have been touched emotionally by the film
What is the plan for the film now?
We’ll be entering the film into festivals in Wales, UK and the world. We’ve had lots of really positive feedback
You were asked by Chen Noir films to produce another short film Brotherhood. What was that experience like?
Yes, Brandon Smith approached me with a script he wanted to produce by Adam Cohen. The film was about two brothers – one of whom has Downs Syndrome
A friend of mine, Debbie Moon, has recently created and written a CBBC drama Wolfblood, and it has a really good male lead Bobby Lockwood so through Debbie I contacted him (through Twitter again) to see if he was interested in playing the lead in Brotherhood. He was really interested and I signed him up.
I went to the London Screenwriters Festival and on the second day I was having a coffee and this guy Stuart Fryer who has directed commercials and music videos, introduced himself and he said he was looking to go into drama. I sent him the script once I got back home and he sent me a treatment. I thought straight away that his vision for the film was perfect so I asked him to direct him.
He then brought on board his wife Charlotte Woodhead who is a commercials producer, she brought on a vast amount of experience and contacts which just gave us access to equipment and support that was incredible. She also brought Eileen Garstead to the film who has masses of experience filming in Manchester.
We then got Otto Baxter and Edward Ashley signed for the other roles.
It was a whole different world on Brotherhood with a large crew. We were filming in a student house and I was in the production office which was upstairs in the house. In the morning I went into the office and when I came down in the afternoon the design team had transformed this plain, stark, magnolia house into a family home. One day we were filming a party scene and the art department had done such a good job that one of the assistants thought a party had taken place and started clearing up.
My role was to deal with any problems, Charlotte was an incredible mentor to me and taught me so much, and was continually challenging me to push myself. I learned so much on that film. Legacy we filmed on an £800 budget. Brotherhood was a £10,000 budget.
What other projects are you working on now?
At the beginning of the year I began to develop an idea Broken Boys about homophobic bullying. It is Romeo and Juliet meets Neds. I’ve written the story and outline and an American writer who is currently resident in Wales Julie Grady Thomas is currently writing the script. It is Trebuchet Films first feature film. Trebuchet Films have also bought the rights to Ken Smith’s film Cowboys Can Fly, a coming of age drama and a homosexual love story, which takes you back to a simpler time before computer games and playing on phones when children playing in the woods and playing cowboys and Indians . I’ve also agreed to work with Stuart Fryer again who wants to make a horror film as his next project. Some of the projects will be Trebuchet, some will be for other companies.
Legacy won the Audience Choice Award at Cardiff Mini Festival.