It’s been a busy time for Southampton Alumni Kate Briggs-Price. Their recent film, Social Cues, won the award for Best Film at this year’s Southampton University Student Film Festival, and has recently been selected to show at The First-Time Filmmaker Showcase, a quarterly event aimed at showcasing emerging talent from around the world. This is an amazing achievement for someone who is 23 years old and at the beginning of an exciting career, but Social Cues, isn’t all they have under their belt. Editor of the Edge, Morgan McMillan, was lucky enough to (virtually) sit down with Briggs-Price in this exclusive interview, where they discuss their production company, Keep Busy Productions, the films that influenced them, and why student media (special mentions to SUSUtv) is incredibly important to kickstarting the careers of young aspiring creators.
When you first came up with the concept of Social Cues, what was your vision, message or story that you wanted to get across to the audience? And how successful do you think you were at conveying that message?
Social Cues really started with the character of Georgia. I was sick of seeing ‘powerful women’ only in the niche of being productive society members and I wanted to highlight, that for me, part of what is empowering to women is the acceptance. They can be terrible people but not lose their womanliness. Whether you’re a young man or woman, in my opinion, the most difficult time is when you’re fresh to adulthood and trying to forge your independent identity as an 18/19-year-old. That is when the people you meet have a more lasting impression on your personality, you’re less self-assured and so it’s easy to get swept away by a more self-assured person or someone who has had to grow up more quickly because of their surroundings like Georgia. It’s not necessarily about being dominant but having the encapsulating quality that draws you in before you realise really what you’re getting yourself into.
The script was 30 pages, so a lot was cut out of the final film which has come out as 18 minutes long. My focus when writing was the subtlety of her negative or controlling influence but when it came to the film, we were cramming so much content into so little time, spread over many different locations offering their own problems (such as shooting whilst standing on the bed of moving vehicles etc). The logistics for me, trying to be as inventive as possible with locations and set design when having no budget and little time, meant that I went in quite heavy-handed in terms of presenting the narrative. In hindsight, I probably should have shot over a longer time and delegated more within my team. These are all first filmmaking mistakes and of course, I was caught up in the fact that I had to rely on myself to get everything done. In reality, there are so many talented people in Southampton and eventually a lot more people were brought onto the project later which I’d loved to have had at the start so I could slow the process down for a better result. I’m debating about still releasing a ‘director’s cut’ with the deleted scenes to see how that would affect the way people would view Georgia and Kyle’s relationship.
One of the things I’m super happy with is the way the soundtrack turned out, everyone knows I’m obsessed with Peaky Blinders, and the idea of using different versions of the same song throughout came from that series. The lyrics of ‘Full Circle’ by Half Moon Run in my head mimic the ‘vibe’ or feeling I try to allude to in Social Cues, so the idea of expressing that also came from listening to that song. Ed Gill did an amazing job with the music, after working on The Real Lives with me. So I’m glad he came back for more because to me the soundtrack of Social Cues is so important and I don’t know anyone who could have interpreted my lack of music knowledge better. I wonder if the soundtrack will always be a huge part of my films, we will have to wait and see.
When the movie was first released, it was described as an “alternative love story”, can you expand on this?
Definitely. The film was the first release with SUSUtv on Valentine’s Day back in February, with the idea of it being a ‘love story’ that leaves you questioning whether it is ‘love’. I think a lot of the time, if a relationship ends, it doesn’t necessarily end with drama or end with anything. At least in my experience, you don’t really understand a relationship until afterwards but even then, do people really consider a ‘narrative’ when they think of a relationship? At least to me it’s usually a confusing mess of events, mixed with other people’s interpretations that come from discussions after the fact. Anyway, with Social Cues, I didn’t want to invalidate the infatuation Kyle may have had or even reduce his coming of age story to a chronology, but allow him to apply hindsight to his own experiences within the film, and to decide, along with the audience, whether Georgia is a good or bad person. From my perspective, it’s alternative as it doesn’t actually focus much on the ‘love’ part of a love story, but rather on how one kind of personality meets another, and the impact of that when you’re impressionable and haven’t yet forged your own personality. That was the thinking behind it anyway and hopefully that came out to some degree to the viewer!
With Social Cues was it harder getting started on the project or to keep going? Were there any issues you had to conquer to make this beautiful film?
Definitely to keep the project going. I set a lot of deadlines for myself on a timeline that I thought was the most important thing in the world. When delays came it felt again like the end of the world, which took some maturing to realise that it takes as much confidence and self-belief to adapt a plan as to stick to one. I was on the committee of three societies, starting up my own business, working two jobs and completing an MA in Global Media Management during the post-production process of this short. And I wouldn’t recommend that, it’s not a flex, I think it harmed the outcome of the film because I was so busy. There was a lot going on, I learnt so much about working smart and streamlining the production process – this was the first film I ever wrote, organised, shot, colour corrected, distributed, and had to stand up to criticism about. Some of the scenes from the film were cut, for various reasons, and that changed my thinking about it a lot. I think the hardest part was ‘getting over myself’ in many ways and not cutting off my nose to spite the face. Being so close to a project over such a long period can skew what is important when in reality you’ve just got to do your best. Of course, it wasn’t just me involved in making Social Cues by any means as you cannot make a film alone, or at least not this kind of film. Especially huge thanks to Molly Blumsom who produced the film, but also helped me overcome my own self-doubt on many occasions.
You have created Keep Busy Productions, was there a particular event or time when you recognised that content creating was more than just a hobby and something you wanted to do for a living?
Content creating is so broad and we’re all content creating every day just by living in the modern-day. I think my personality though has always been independent and coming from life from a specific point of view. From being brought up with a specific cultural perspective as a traveller, that made me come at problems with a different mindset than 99.9% of the people I was coming across at University. It was definitely a perspective I wanted to push further and create bigger things that would reach more people. The only person who could do that for me was myself, so it made sense to me to start pursuing my own business and really focus on content that I wanted to make and that I enjoyed because I felt like it was a niche that could be filled. Don’t get me wrong, it took me a year in Germany and my final year of my undergrad to build up to it, but eventually I made it to what I want to be focusing on. I think working for myself is something I’ve always wanted to do; my family have always been self-employed and have a crazy strong work ethic. It may not sound typical of a 23-year-old, but what brings me the most happiness and contentment is work. More than socialising most of the time which has caused problems in the past but when I boil it down, if I’m doing something that I love every day that can hopefully help raise awareness on social issues, that’s what I want to do and that’s what matters.
Keep Busy Productions doesn’t just do films but also podcasts, is there any other mediums of entertainment you would like to delve into?
Eventually all mediums! I think a lot of people limit what they make because they’re worried about diluting their message or that they don’t want to dilute their own specialist skill set. But to me, this is where student media at University really helped, even student societies more generally. I think I’ve been involved in nine societies whilst at University – I’ve made so many friends and met so many people who have such various skills that I wanted to know and do everything possible. As a story-teller, the people who were teaching me had such interesting stories and each of these, that come from interacting with various people, require support from specific approaches to story-telling that fit better within specific mediums (e.g. podcasts). However, by limiting mediums, are people really limiting how well they can tell people’s stories? Of course, logistically, focusing on filmmaking and podcasting makes sense for the moment as that is where I personally have the most experience, but I find the possibilities are endless. The only thing that would limit myself is my own work ethic and dedication which is controlled by me, and I have so many super talented friends I have met along the way so I’m willing to put in the time and ask for help and advice!
What films have been the most inspiring and influential to you and why?
I love biopics, and I’ve said before that it’s real people’s stories I want to tell. That’s just what I find fascinating and I think with every single person I’ve ever met there’s always been something super unique and interesting about them. I think no matter who it is, there is an interesting angle that would make a great film – people never think that about themselves but we have to bring back a bit of wonder for what others dismiss as ‘mundane’. My go-to films are Walk the Line (2005) and Ray (2004), which are the biopics of Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, and they just give me everything I want to see on screen as a person and as a filmmaker. In terms of student films, I remember seeing From Russia with Murder by Hudson Hughes (Southampton Alumni) in my second year, and I just thought that was a completely new way of making films as a student. I’m not a comedy writer by any means, and I don’t want to make those kinds of films but just the imagination and attention to detail that goes into Hudson Hughes’ films is next level for a young filmmaker and I have absolutely loved working with him on projects (check out Wednesday in Space coming to UK cinemas in November!).
If there is one or more thing you think would make the film industry better, what would it be?
Of course, representation is the huge one: whether that’s based on race, gender, religion, class, sexuality or geographic location. Whether that needs to come from within the film industry itself or from the outside in. That’s really the eventual aim for Keep Busy Productions, it might sound outlandish for now but that’s where I want to end up. I want to offer starting filmmakers a steppingstone, giving them a launchpad filling the space between student filmmaking and professional independent filmmaking. Providing a ‘production team for hire’ for people who have an idea but do not have the knowledge, funds or connections to get that idea to the mainstream. Then if they wanted to, distribution wise, they’re reaching out to people with a development idea with examples and treatments to show people. If not, however, they have something they can travel to festivals with and get their story out that way. Maybe, eventually, they can even apply to be selected for the Keep Busy Festival that celebrates unique perspectives on the world.
What are the personal attributes that make for a good filmmaker, and what advice would you give young filmmakers who want to make their first film?
In my opinion, SUSUtv is a great place for upcoming filmmakers in Southampton to just give it a go. There’s no risk, the equipment, the cast, the crew, editing software and advice are all readily available and it’s free to join. If that doesn’t get you creating content when you have the desire, I’m guessing it’s a question of self-confidence or intimidation. I know that was a problem for me when I first contemplated the idea, the general idea that everyone knew better than me. But what I realised is that everyone loves chatting about their own projects and techniques, showing you how to use the equipment, or just if you’re genuinely interested and give them the respect of your attention, then you’ll have a pile of people all willing to help you to the best of their ability and invite you on their projects too. In my opinion, there’s a difference between being a ‘filmmaker’, being a ‘director’ and being a ‘writer’, which is not a popular opinion but of course, I’m talking about it from a student film perspective.
First piece of advice: being on the set of a film in any role is better than not being involved in a project at all. If someone needs a sound guy, be a sound guy. If someone needs an actor, be an actor. No matter if it’s not what you want to do as a career, you’ll learn infinitely more about every role from just interacting with people that get on with it and actually make films in any capacity. Second piece of advice: remember if you’re the director of a project then you have to give the project it’s direction. It sounds redundant, but just grasp the reigns, be self-assured and that will make your project ten times better because it has passion and direction throughout which is half the battle. I know I said ask advice, but between these two pieces of advice, also remember that there is a balance to be found between asking for constructive criticism and following your own decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask people for their advice but at the end of the day, it’s your project and do what you think is suitable to what you want. It is your own unique perspective that people want to see reflected on screen or any given medium. At a student level, the project is mostly for you as much as it is for an audience. The best outcome that can come from working on a big film project is that you learn a whole lot from it about yourself as a filmmaker, and as a person.
If you would like the Directors Cut released of Social Cues be sure to follow Keep Busy Productions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or their website to not miss out! And if you can’t wait for more content be sure to check out Keep Busy Productions’s weekly podcast, The World At Your Finger-Tips, featuring 2019/20 SUSUtv Station Manager Molly Blumson.
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