16th Mar2018

Starbust Festival 2018: Sam Saffold – ‘A Welcoming Place’ Interview

by Philip Rogers

welcoming-place

With A Welcoming Place making its debut UK screening at the Starburst MediaCity Festival I got an opportunity to ask Sam Saffold a few questions about his debut film including; his inspirations for the look and the style of the film, the challenges he faced and his favourite scenes.

How did you first get into filmmaking?

I always loved watching films. I didn’t grow up with a lot of TV, but the video tapes we had were amazing to me, things like The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins. It wasn’t until I saw Star Wars that I got into the idea of filmmaking though, and when I was 9 or 10 my neighbours were throwing out some of their old clutter. They gave me my first video camera.

Your debut short A Welcoming Place which you wrote and directed is getting its first UK screening at the Starburst MediaCity Festival this weekend, what can the audience expect from the film?

I’m so excited that it’s screening! I’m going to try and avoid saying too much, but I’ve had a few people describe pretty different experiences with the piece. I tried my best to make it engaging, even thought-provoking, but ultimately I’m just honoured to have it playing in a room full of people.

What were your inspirations for the look and style of the film?

It’s drawing from a range of influences. I looked at a lot of gothic horror stories, as well as some science fiction horror. Pan’s Labyrinth () kept coming up in conversations about visual aesthetic and tone, as did a lot of neo-noir films. I wanted something that placed us in the mind of the protagonist, crafting the world around him and his perspective. We tried to shoot different characters on different lenses depending on his state of mind. There was also an emphasis on shadows, we even reshot certain scenes because they just weren’t dark enough.

What were you biggest challenges whilst making the film?

I don’t think there was a single ‘easy’ day from start to finish, although I’m grateful for every single one of them. The timing of the project was the first big challenge. In the past I’ve had much more time to work on projects and this was a much faster turnaround. The script was also longer and more ambitious than anything I had ever written, but I tried to see it as a chance to push my abilities. Most of the crew, myself included, were also students, and so organising this around our different schedules took a lot of hard work from everyone. I was lucky to have such a generous team of people who were willing to give their time to this.

Are there any elements in the finished film which were different to how you envisioned them when you wrote the original script?

There is so much that has changed! Characters begin to shift the moment actors step into them, and I kinda love that. I would write and rewrite on set when it became clear that things could be improved. I think the largest change from the original vision was to do with the scope of piece though. The town as a whole was a much larger presence in the original script, where the finished film focusses on the house and its occupants. Nothing comes out exactly as you imagine it, and I’m extremely happy with the results. I think the emphasis on the family unit adds to the sense of isolation for Phillip, and it connects to his personal journey a lot better.

What was your favourite scene to film in A Welcoming Place?

Each of the letter sequences are special to me. It was really interesting creating this family that are unable to communicate properly in person and exploring how each of them puts their feelings into words was something I really enjoyed. Nina also has a scene that I absolutely adore. I won’t say too much, but we used an early draft of it for auditions, and Francesca’s reading just took my breath away with every word. I was so excited to see how it would read onscreen and she didn’t disappoint.

Do you have other upcoming projects which you are working on?

Imagine me shyly looking at the floor… I don’t really know how to be not busy, so I won’t say too much, but hopefully you’ll be hearing more from me in the coming months, if not sooner.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into film?

Try to engage with as many films as you can and remember the hard work that goes into every one of them. Tell the stories you need to hear. Be kind to people who give their time. Remember that your experiences matter.
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A Welcoming Place screens at the 2018 Starburst MediaCity Festival on Saturday March 17th at 5.05pm

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