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An Interview with Stephen Frost, Director of Leave Now

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2016

Quick Links

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Your upcoming movie Leave Now - in a few words, what is it about?


Leave Now tells the story of Rose Montefiore, recently bereaved, who revisits the seaside town where she first met her late husband. However, instead of finding the peace and quiet she seeks, Rose is disturbed by recurring problems with an electrical fault and has to call upon the services of local electrician, Titus, and his son, Robbie. When Rose saves Robbie's life after an accident she finds herself caught up in the lives of those around her, past and present, who need her help. After she discovers a forgotten phonograph in the attic and listens to the distant voices recorded on an old wax cylinder, she begins to unlock a secret that lies deep within the house itself.


With Leave Now being a ghost story of sorts, is that something you can at all relate to, and what can you tell us about your very own approach to the genre? And some of your genre favourites?


I don't believe in ghosts. I'm a very evidence-based person, and extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence to support them. Every instance of the supernatural that I've come across can be explained by natural causes. On the other hand, we are surrounded by forces that we accept as normal because we are so familiar with them - gravity, magnetism, electricity, time - and yet when you stop to think about them they are mind-blowingly bizarre and have not yet been explained at their most fundamental level. Leave Now attempts to tap into this aspect of our world - familiar, yet utterly strange. Genre favourites? The Innocents, The Others, Don't Look Now.


I've read somewhere that you've been inspired by listening to 100-year-old phonograph recordings and the effect they had on you - care to elaborate?


One obvious thing to say about a phonograph is that it doesn't use electricity. It creates a purely mechanical reproduction of the human voice: Someone spoke a hundred years ago, which moved some air that moved a cutting stylus that cuts a groove. One hundred years later we reverse the process and the same air moves again. There is nothing that separates that person from us, except time. When I first heard a phonograph wax cylinder in the flesh, so to speak, I remarked that it felt like I was listening to ghosts.


Other sources of inspiration when dreaming up Leave Now?


Grief. Ultimately, that's what the film is really about. I believe the heightened emotions of grief can cause us to perceive the world in a different way and so experience, or even create, what we call supernatural phenomena.


Do talk about your directorial approach to your story at hand!


The audience's imagination is my most powerful tool. What's around the corner? What's in the corner of their eye? How to make the audience be scared or moved not by what they see and hear in the moment, but by what's coming next. The scariest ghost is the one you can't see.


What can you tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Sylvie Bolioli plays the central role of Rose Montefiore. Rose is grieving, but for much of the time chooses not to reveal her sadness to other people (and sometimes even to herself). So I was looking for a character whose smile contained a subtext of melancholy. Sylvie, not at all a melancholic person in real life, was able to do this brilliantly. The character Titus is a hard man, old-fashioned and unable to express his feelings, and yet deeply vulnerable and fragile. A tragic figure. Jerry Anderson was able to bring those two sides of Titus's character to bear in a wonderful performance.


With a film like yours, it always seems that location is key - so what can you tell us about yours, and the advantages but also challenges filming there?


The cottage that Rose stays in is a key location - you might even say that it's a character in its own right. We were able to secure an 18th century cottage which was pretty much the perfect set as soon as you walked in. Having said that, we used two other locations for the cottage - one for the outside shots and another for some significant scenes in the attic. It was also important to me to capture the atmosphere of being by the sea. All exterior locations were shot locally in my home town of Ramsgate. The sun rising early over the wind farm out at sea looks like a million dollars - and it's free. Challenges? Mainly audio I would say. The sound of the sea and the wind is hugely evocative, but is a nightmare for the sound department. However, as long as you are aware in advance, these things can be dealt with.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


We shot over a period of two months, but not every day was a filming day. Because all cast and crew were local, it was logistically possible to do this. I think we managed to create a very happy on-set atmosphere and by the end we felt like a family. Our producer Tracy Russell was brilliant in ensuring this. All of this is important in its own right of course, but I think it also has a positive impact on the quality of the performances and on the footage itself. We had no primadonnas or jobsworths and it was a total pleasure for me to work with these special people.

The $64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the general public?


We are speaking with distributors at the moment and are planning a general release in 2017. Before that there will be an out-of-competition screening at the Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival in March.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Currently in development is The Forge (working title) which is a drama about the impact of World War One on the people left behind in England. The screenplay is being written by screenwriter Adrian Bain, based on an idea of mine. I have several other projects in their very early stages of development - I'll probably run out of time before I can make them all!


What got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I think sound and music got me into filmmaking. Until about ten years ago it would have said “musician” on my passport. As a child and teenager, music was my main source of visual story-telling. Prog rock gets a lot of bad press these days but for me it was a way of making films in my imagination because it told stories. It's the oldest cliché in the book but it's always worth repeating - your film is 50% sound. And yet I still hear some directors describe film as primarily a visual medium. In my opinion this is to misunderstand not only how film works but also how the human brain works. Evidence is growing that we all have synaesthesia (overlapping of the senses) to some extent. This means that sound doesn't just enhance your visuals, it changes them. Sound and music are incredibly important to me when making a film, it is often the driving force behind a scene, and even when initially writing a script it plays a crucial part.

I've had no formal training, I've learnt by watching, listening, reading, talking - and most importantly, by doing.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Leave Now?


Leave Now is my first feature film. I was lucky enough for my first short film Is Anybody There? to win Best Director at the Rob Knox Film Festival in 2009. Making my next short film A Piper's Maggot convinced me that it would be possible to make a feature. Certain themes contained in both short films return in Leave Now, as indeed did some of the cast and crew.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


What I'd like to think I am and what I actually am are probably two different things - you'd have to ask the cast and crew! A director's skills need to be many and varied, but what I think is vital is to be able to read people - who's happy and who's not, and why. Be sensitive to dead spots in performance, and discuss solutions. A good director is a good psychologist. I like the set to be a mixture of calmness and energy. I come to the set not only with as much preparation as is humanly possible but also with the willingness to change (or throw away) that preparation if needs be. Have a plan B, and a plan C. And a plan X.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Nicolas Roeg, Terrence Malick, Anthony Minghella, Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Poliakoff.


Your favourite movies?


Always a difficult question to answer! I tend to end up selecting on an entirely sentimental basis so here goes: The Thin Red Line, Atonement, Minority Report, Apollo 13, The Jungle Book (original Disney animation of course!), Psycho, Don't Look Now, Battle of Britain, Back To The Future (part 1), Memento, American Beauty.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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x-rated  find Stephen Frost at

Wow, that's a strong word! I guess I do get frustrated by action movies (or any genre, come to that) that have shallow stories and characters. Sometimes the more money that is spent on a film, the weaker it gets. If you try to keep everyone happy, you keep no one happy. But I don't deplore even that. It's all incredibly hard at any budget and I take my hat off to everyone that succeeds in making a film.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Website: You'll find our first teaser trailer there too.


Thanks for the interview!


It's been a real pleasure, thank you.


Special thanks to Richard S Barnett, founder of IIWYK!!!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


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