Interview with James Hughes

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Powerful short film The Inuring tells the story of a bullied teenage girl confronting her sister about their fractured past. The Inuring played at LIVIFF2017 and we caught up with Director James Hughes to talk about the film.

As a writer/director what was it that made you want to tell this story?

The Inuring is a story I felt compelled to bring to the screen, after researching the many cases of bullying that are unfortunately rife in society. In these numerous cases the victims found it hard and also humiliating to share their experiences with their family members. They would endeavor to bottle up their emotions in a code of silence to shield their shame from those closest to them. These true life stories broke my heart.

It was also important to raise the central question of The Inuring ‘how much could you endure?’ If you had been subjected to this, would you break earlier? Or would you hold onto your dignity for as long as possible and not allow the bullies to win?

At the centre of the film are two outstanding performances from Emily and Sarine. What is your approach to working with actors?

Both of them were the only actors I approached for the roles. As with all of my productions I like to meet with an actor and go through the questions they have about their character. I spent time with both Sarine and Emily separately to shed insight on the back story and motivations of their characters.

I had been developing the story for quite some time as a feature film, so I knew the characters extremely well. On The Inuring we had two rehearsals. But due to the high emotional stakes of the film I was careful not to go full tilt during those rehearsals. I wanted the raw emotion on the day itself. For the power of the story to work, it was imperative to to balance the emotion with a stillness. So that Aleisha and Claudette broke down in their own way. 

I have been fortunate to work with over 100 actors in my career and that experience has shaped everything I write. I always read through my scripts from an actor perspective. How would an actor respond to this? What could be added to aid their understanding? Because for me as a Director, the characters and performances are the driving force of a film, and one must never lose sight of that.  

The film sees the two characters separated and each room is very different in look and feel, representing these characters. Was that how you envisioned the film?

Yes very much so. I was extremely specific about the look for each room. The different tone and design were there from day one. I worked with our Production Designer on every aspect that is featured in each room. To such an extent that I personally collected a lot of the items featured on both sides of the door. I needed to see them in person before decorating our set.

This decoration took place over one day as we built the entire set between the hours of 8am and 6pm. I was there throughout with the Art Department to make sure the hallway and bedroom were the ones I saw in my head. I even got in a van and drove across London during the build to collect our door. I left no stone unturned in making sure when we left the studio that day that the set represented the different worlds of each character. 

These worlds are different because Claudette is determined to transform the home into her vintage style, but Aleisha has a sparseness to her room, a cold blue. She’s someone who is separated from Claudette’s warm vintage and attention to detail, by only having a few personal items by her side in the moonlight glow of her empty room. To further guarantee the look on each side of the door, I spent 6 weeks with our Colourist perfecting every frame to project two very different worlds adjacent to each other in the film. 

The film was finished back in 2016. How do you see the film now and what has the response to the film been like?

The Inuring short film began life as a low budget script about two sisters talking to each other back-to-back. But when the script went out, it got an unbelievable response from agencies, crew, the actors, who all really loved it. As a result of this response The Inuring became a big studio shoot with over 30 people on set, a 40 piece orchestra for the score, and an extensive post. 

As for the finished film, The Inuring is very much the film I saw in my head from day one, so I was as proud of it when it was released, as I am now. For a filmmaker you should only focus on making the film you want. And I managed to do that with The Inuring, thanks to a great team and cast. 

Upon release the reaction has been extraordinary from film festivals who really embraced the film. So much so that it has now been accepted into over 50 film festivals across the world, including Oscar and BAFTA Qualifying festivals. During this festival journey it has also received numerous awards and has been nominated for Best Short Film in over 30 of those festivals. 

This reaction certainly proves there is an audience for this story, so I am now interested in exploring the original concept for The Inuring, which is as a feature film. 

What is next for you?

For the last two years I have been developing the story and script for my next short film, When the Rain Sets In. A modern day love story. Such is my meticulous attention to detail and passion for this film, that I spent a whole year on the script before sending it out. Based on the script alone it has attached an incredible team from Oscar and Emmy Award-Winning productions and for me, it is the best short film I have written. We are now working on our Kickstarter campaign which will launch soon and we hope to shoot the film later this summer.

Carl Barlow