Your new movie The
Cunning Man - in a few words, what is it about?
is an enchanted tale about magical possibility in the face of
a cheap-suited inspector and a Ďknackerí man, who makes his living out
did the project fall together in the first place?
became interested in the life of a knackerman. Itís a job at the very
bottom of the food chain, a man who goes from farm to farm collecting
rotten, bloated and stinking carcasses. Itís a gruesome job and to
consider that this is his 9-5pm caught my imagination.
and magician Ali Cook [Ali Cook
interview - click here] had the ingenious idea of bringing the Cunning Man
into the mix. Cunning Men were professional or semi-professional
practitioners of magic, active from the Medieval period through the early
twentieth century, and together with the knackerman we had our tale.
can you tell us about The
Cunning Man's screenwriter, producer and star Ali Cook [Ali
Cook interview - click here], and what
was your collaboration like?
was the perfect collaborator for this project. As a professional magician
Ali brought a sensibility to the project which was undeniable. His
knowledge of the magic arts and my interest in the knackerman and coming
from a farming family, bought the two worlds of the film together.
Cunning Man being about Pagan magic, did you do any research into
that subject to do it justice on a visual level?
Ali had introduced me to Cunning folk, I started to read up on the
subject. I came across a famous Cunning Man who came from Wales, John
Harries (b1785). Although his detractors called him a quack he was a
trained physician with a clinic in Harley St, London who believed he had
magic powers, powers that could heal the sick. John Harries specialised in
curing humans but there were also Cunning Folk who healed sick animals. My
research turned up John Harriesí book of spells or incantations which
is kept at the National Welsh Library. Itís handwritten with drawings
accompanying the spells. One of which we used in the film as a reoccurring
motif, seen in a faded tattoo on the Cunning Manís hand and later in the
ashes collected from the fire.
one of the key factors of The
Cunning Man is its locations - so where was it filmed, and what
was it like filming there?
was filmed on my brotherís farm in Wales. I knew the farm inside out and
could picture every part of it so It felt like such an advantage to be
able to visualise the set, all we needed to do was fill it with a cast and
a story. It
was such a strong influence on the film, it almost became the 5th actor.
It set the mood, the palette and the dynamic.
What can you tell us about
your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
approach is led by the visuals, allowing the story to unfold through the
visuals. I like guess-work, I want the viewer to be curious to find the
clues along the way and to be wrong-footed at times.
always loved Dutch vanity paintings, or vanitas and their themes: the
transience of life, the futility of pleasure and the certainty of death
playout throughout the story of The
Cunning Man. The palette of the film,
from the location to the costume choices were inspired by those of Dutch
talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
moment we set eyes of Simon Armstrongís headshot we were pretty sure we
had our Cunning Man. You feel like he has seen life, has lived it and born
the scars. His character has few words but his expression is all you need,
I particularly love the way you only see him smile at the very end of the
film, and itís a moment when he totally transforms.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot was tough, we only had two days and it was hugely ambitious. We had
quite a few challenges; the pyre of animals had to set, striked and set
again, which was a huge task for the art department, to achieve the top
shot in the barn we had to rig the Alexa in the rafters and control it
remotely, marshalling live animals into one of the scenes was particulary
tricksy. It was a testing environment for the crew and some of the scenes
were disturbing but everyone was on board with the ultimate message of the
film and that was really important.
$64 question, where can your movie be seen?
film is presently touring the international film festival circuit. Check
out the upcoming showings on social media by following the hashtag #TheCunningMan.
can tell us about audience and critical reception of The
love the moment mid-film where the audience take in a sharp intake of
breath. I canít tell you anymore!
Any future projects you'd like to
at the moment.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The
am a BAFTA award winning TV director and have directed documentaries for
the BBC on the Ďwrapping artistí Christo, the photographer Alison
Jackson and the classical pianist John Ogdon, amongst others.
How would you describe yourself as
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Ramsay, Andrea Arnold, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch.
by Lynne Ramsay.
Honey by Andrea Arnold.
and Cigarettes by Jim Jarmusch.
... and of course, films you really
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
you for this great interview!
Thanks for the interview!