Paul Holbrook Interview

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MANIFF2018 'Best UK Short' winner Sunday Worship has qualified for selection to next year's BAFTA awards after screening at the festival. We chatted to Paul Holbrook, one half of the films writer/director duo alongside Sam Dawe.

What inspired the film?

Coming from a working-class background, grass roots football was something that played a huge part in growing up on a council estate and it was something we’ve wanted to portray on film with authenticity, not diluted by cinematic norms for a while. We were just waiting for the right idea to land. We didn’t want to write a football film, we just wanted a script where we felt we could add the splash of ‘genre-colour’ the sport brings. We knew we needed something that we ourselves could relate to in regards to our central character’s arc so that we could tell a heartfelt, deliberate and authentic story. This isn’t a sporting drama, it is an emotional character driven piece with a splash of colour and vibrancy that hopefully makes it move a little quicker than if we just solely relied on the central narrative.

How do you approach Directing?

Collaboratively. We think it’s important to go into every project with an open mind. You can be assertive and have a clear vision of course (and so you should) but if you let your ego get in the way you can miss out on some solid gold. Creativity is a team game and people need to feel they are part of a creative journey where their input is valued otherwise a film shoot can become emotionless and cold and that can sometimes come through on screen. Filmmaking is fun and as a director you need to take responsibility for the atmosphere on set as much as the atmosphere on screen.

If you have done enough work in development and pre-production everyone will be on the same page anyway and it makes steering the ship at lot smoother.

How was your MANIFF experience and what do festivals like MANIFF mean to independent film like Sunday Worship?

We loved MANIFF! Having screened at numerous festivals around the world, MANIFF has been one of our absolute favourites. Politics left at the door, film-maker focused and the one of the most welcoming, inclusive and fun festivals out there. 

Screenings take place at a legit cinema so you really do get the big screen experience and the atmosphere is spot on, with everything geared towards networking. The quality of curation is top notch too, with seemingly no ‘back door selections’ which means that your film is screened alongside the very best films out there, which is the validation we crave.

How excited are you to have qualified for a BAFTA?

We qualified for a BAFTA with our previous film, but with Sunday Worship we just didn’t have the budget to hit many of the qualifying festivals, so to qualify through MANIFF was a fantastic. 

Qualifying for a BAFTA, as well as screening at any festival is all about validation for the all the hard work that goes into making the film. MANIFF and the crew behind it feel like they are a big part of our film now as they have been so supportive and championed our work. We’ll be forever grateful.

What is next for yourself and the film?

Sunday Worship has completed its festival run (we ran out of money) and is now available online. We are busy in pre-production on our latest short film ‘Hungry Joe’ – a working-class body horror. Imagine if Shane Meadows or Lynne Ramsay directed Cronenberg's ‘The Fly’ and you’d be in a similar head space. We are aiming to shoot in January 2019 and we hope that we get to play MANIFF again (maybe even a premiere).

Watch Sunday Worship here.