Exclusive Interview: Andrew Chambers – Best Director of FanFilm Awards 2016
What was your inspiration for Detectives of Noir Town?
The original idea came from me and a filmmaking friend and actor (Paul Layton) wanting to make a little video for Youtube and start our own channel. We used our smart phones to film and light it. I was fascinated with old Noir Movies at the time, so I pitched the story idea of a Detective stuck in a film Noir, but his voice over monologue kept on distracting him and getting in the way of solving the case. Paul really liked the idea and minutes later we ran down on the streets and were filming and improvising lines. The film turned out really well for something so indie.
I am a huge Jim Henson fan and 2 years later I found myself wanting to make a film with puppets and I searched for puppets on eBay, there was a great puppet-maker in the Philippines that made custom puppets of any design. He designed and sent over 9 puppets that all had an old Hollywood Noir look. They looked amazing. I asked Paul if I could rewrite the script to incorporate puppets and if we could shoot later on the year. With a film festival deadline hanging over us we started organising a film that would be a bit bigger than the one we shot on our iPhones.
The quality was amazing for this film. How indie was this production?
It was as indie as you can get. Some people say they have a skeleton crew with eight or so people, but with our little puppet film there were some days it was just Paul and I on set and that’s pretty hard when you have a puppet to operate. The most crew we had was 2-3 more members. A DOP on some days and 2 extra puppeteers. We didn’t record sound on location and we just set up lights before shooting.
The whole budget of the film was paid for on my bank cards. I knew I had to prove my skills as a director before a producer would invest in me, so I was happy to pay to have the film look how I wanted.
Who were the Puppeteers?
Throughout filming we all had a go at operating the puppets and the arm rods, but our lead puppeteer is my usual lighting guy Jason Thomas. With no previous experience he did an amazing job. We did all get a masterclass in puppeteering by Sue Wallace, the very talented puppeteer who runs the Sydney Puppet Theatre here in Australia.
This was a hilarious piece. Was directing a comedy a challenge?
No, not for us. If anything doing drama would be a challenge. Paul and I are massive comedy fans, any time Paul and I are on set we make each other laugh by quoting anything from Monty Python to Danny Kaye. Also we figure the world is glum enough without us adding to it, we thought it best to try to put a smile on people’s faces. There is something so gratifying in making someone laugh uncontrollably and with comedies, an audience will tell you straight away if it works or doesn’t. It’s harder with dramas – people can hide their boredom if it doesn’t work.
Were there other challenges in producing Detectives of Noir Town?
There are always challenges with every film we make and what’s surprising is that the challenges are always different. We thought we were going to have it much easier this time around, as there was no sound recorded while filming. It was just play-back and the puppeteers would do the dialogue. The big challenge was doing the puppets and making them look convincing. We had never done anything with puppets before and some people study it for years, so we really needed to be on our A game.
We had to learn to be better filmmakers as well. Normally I could say to an actor, “say that line with an expression of authority on your face,” but with emotionless faces, the camera movement and angles needed to add that information e.g a low angle shot on a puppet to show power or a high angle to make the character come across as inferior.
How long did the production take to complete?
12 days. Most directors like to say that they filmed a short in one day. It makes the cast and crew think you’re efficient and quick. But this was very ambitious and we didn’t have the luxury of a large crew to do lots of set-ups in a short amount of time. Also puppets slow things down, everything from continuity, eyeliner lip-sync. So we planned every shot out in advance and got small crew of 1-3 people. We shot for 1-4 hours each day over 12 days. We could only shoot at night as people had to work and we had to be done at 12am as the sound would annoy neighbours. We shot the whole film in and around my house, dressing the location up so it always looked different. The police turned up on one night as my neighbour told them that we were making a blow up doll fetish sex film on the road outside. The police laughed when they arrived and it was just a hooker puppet on them road scene.
Is there more coming from Noir Town?
We have had some interest from producers to turn Noir Town into a series, either for the web or television, so we are having regular meetings and writing scripts.
People seem to love puppets and we’re happy to make more.
More about Andrew Chambers – Director, Writer, Producer
Andrew (Sydney, Australia) has been a long-time fan of the making of movies nearly as much as watching them. At a young age he fell in love with filmmaking and discovered a strong talent for writing and directing. Andrew attended filmmaking courses at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) and AFTRS Melbourne to round out his skill set. This gave him the confidence to write, produce and direct a full season of 25 Frames (a movie review and comedy sketch show) for TVS a community station in Australia. Several short films later, Andrew wrote, produced and directed his stand-out comedy short ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ which was screened at the Sydney Underground Film Festival in 2014 and
Andrew is currently working on developing the concept of ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ into a television series and he is also touring his recently completed self-funded puppet short film ‘The Detectives of Noir Town’ around the world. It has played at nearly 70 festivals around the world and won has 13 awards so far.