At last month’s annual Raindance Film Festival, The Edge got the chance to sit down with Keir and Dédé Burrows, the director and producer husband-and-wife dream team behind this year’s Raindance resident dark horse, Worm. Following PhD student Ana as she and her team manage to break science and create a wormhole, Worm was one of the best films to be screened at the 24th annual Raindance, and one of the most neglected in recognition. Here’s part one of our interview with the pair, where we delve straight into all things ambition, adventure, and life after Worm…
So the premise for ‘Worm’ is quite an original one – what can you tell us about your reasons for making it?
Keir: I wrote it quite a while ago, four or five years ago. We’d just done one short film and I was just trying to write some more short films, the intention was never to write a full feature, and so it actually came from two short film ideas – one which I had turned into a script, which is actually the first bit of the film, that first twenty minutes. I wanted to make a short film which was just all about the thrill of scientific invention, essentially, without it being full of exposition. I wasn’t looking to explain every step of the way, it just needed to be people doing shit, and making it happen. So yes, I wrote that as a short film and it’s exactly the way the feature film starts, its first few shots. And then I didn’t think about it for six months and then had an idea for another short film where, and this is kind of a spoiler alert, there is the idea that – and this is an idea done quite a lot in sci-fi – where science fiction sets up ways for a character to meet themselves. It’s done in Moon, it’s done loads of times. But for me, it’s never been done satisfactorily, if that makes sense. Where Moon was amazing but the characters conflict with each other, they bitch with each other, they don’t get a long with each other. So in the moment, if I were to meet myself, I’d crack jokes with me, we’d have the same sense of humour, we’d get along, we’ve both got to be idiots. So I just worked that idea out in my mind.
You’ve made a ton of short films before Worm, many of which have been selected and screened at film festivals all over the world. Was there a lot of pressure to do even better with your first feature length?
K: Hm, I don’t know. With the short films, by the time we were getting on with our second, third films, we were very confident that we could do them, and so what we were then trying to do was to make things that were amazing – we didn’t have any doubts in our ability to get it made. With Worm, so much of what occupied our minds was “are we actually going to get this effing thing finished?” rather than “is it gonna be any good?” Obviously we worked very hard with all the prep and making it good and hoping it would be good, but I think we were more concerned with just getting it done. We were doing it by ourselves, and it was such a labour of love done over the course of a year, we shot it on and off in chunks for ages, so yeah the pressure was more finish the fucking thing rather than make it good.
That makes sense. What was it about filmmaking that drew you to the art?
K: The collaborative nature of it
Oh really? That’s interesting, I haven’t heard that before
K: Yeah, that’s one hundred percent it. I spent a long time in my early twenties trying to be a writer, and just got bored. I liked talking to people, I liked working with people and I never once in my life as a teenager or even as a young adult thought “I want to make movies.” The Edgar Wrights and the Tarintinos are all like “yeah I was four years old when I started making movies” and I’m all like “nah, I was twenty-five.” I was like “writing by myself sucks, what can I do creatively that means I still get to work with other people?’ so I decided to go to film school, see how that goes. And that was literally it!
Oh cool! That’s so interesting! In relation to Worm, as a spectator, at least from my experience watching it, you come out of the film a little less trusting of the world, and all these tiny, everyday normal things. Was it ever like that during shooting?
K: Good question! I think because of the way we made it – like so fragmented, we started filming in November 2014 and we shot the last bit of footage in August 2015, and we did it in so many small chunks. There were like three month gaps where the actress wasn’t even in the country and we didn’t even know if she was going to be back – there was a lot of drama – so it was very hard to actually engage with the story while we were shooting, if that makes sense. It was so fragmented that it actually felt, and we knew it was going to because this was the way we planned it, like we were shooting five short films.
Dédé: The actors actually had to live their characters for like a whole year. All three actors said it was the most harrowing experience. They kind of dipped in and out of character because they all had other projects in between.
K: Yeah, so it wasn’t like this six week intense shoot with everybody fully engaged with it, like what you were asking about it feeling surreal in that sort of sense – not really, because we were so disengaged with the story. When we were editing, and we first kind of started putting together the green screen, so Ana could talk to Ana, that was a real like “ohh fucking brilliant we’ve done it, we’ve done it!! It actually looks real, like they’re talking to each other.” So that as a real cool moment, it was at that point that I was like “well now that works, we have to make sure everything else works.”
D: I think that this whole process was all probably the most surreal for you, because you’d worked on it for so so long. Because you were writing it, I wasn’t involved as producer yet whilst you were writing it. He had an editor, and Keir basically worked with the editor and then he did the last little polishes of the film himself, the grade and the colour and the sound as well. So you’ve really lived the film I think
K: Get out of my head! Yeah, I’ve had enough, basically. Actually that’s one of the things we were saying before, this whole reason why Raindance is so nice. Like the film, it’s out there. People can go and watch it and people can talk about it and we’re not going to do anything to it anymore.
D: No more changes!
K: It’s a lot to deal with in terms of distribution and talking to people about the film, but it becomes a historical project creatively, if that makes sense, and we can start focusing on the next thing.
Worm was shown as part of Raindance Film Festival last month. Look out for part two of our interview soon.