Student film a hit with festivals

19 October, 2020

At Screen and Film School we love hearing about our student and graduate’s projects in all areas of the TV and Film Industry.

This week we caught up with Screen and Film School Brighton Graduate Otis Tree to discuss the making of his project, Destructors, his recent success on the film festival circuit, and cooking a DIY dinner for a hungry crew amidst the pandemic panic-buying.



Where did the initial idea for Destructors come from?

The idea came from a short story written by Graham Greene. When I first read it, I had already been brewing ideas for my next project, and this short story kind of pulled them all together into a nice little package. From there it was a case of translating the story from its post WW2 setting into something more appropriate to modern Britain. Working from a pre-existing short story was a great process for me, as it gave me a frame to work in and stopped me from trailing off into the thought stream.

Can you tell us a bit about the production process?

I tend to get quite caught up in the visual side of filmmaking, so having the first couple of months dedicated entirely to writing on the course with Will really helped me to hone in on my ideas and make them ready for production.

As a project transitions into production, it inherently becomes a very collaborative process and I was truly blessed with everybody that worked on the film. I worked very closely with James Gallagher (DOP) on creating the visual language of the film, and with Sophie Stanley (Production Designer) in creating the bleak world of Newhaven. After months of meticulous planning and preparation, we went into shooting with a pandemic looming on the horizon.

And of course… all plans went straight out of the window.

With actors and crew members isolating and the world in chaos, it was hectic to say the least. But those of us who remained decided there was something special about all being crammed into that smelly caravan in Hastings at the end of the world, and we finished the film the best we could.

You can watch the making of Destructors here!

What was your favourite part of the process?

My favourite part of the process is always editing. I was advised that a director should never edit their own films, but I disagree. You make a film three times: once in writing, once in production, and again in editing. The production cycle of Destructorswas literally that; filming in a pandemic meant the script was flushed down the toilet and we were totally improvising. In the edit I was forced to approach it as a literal third writing process, laying out all of the material we had and trying to weave a story out of it.

Whilst still in lockdown it was almost impossible to get any new material which I decided the film desperately needed, so I had to work with my limitations. I got up at 3 am and cycled to Newhaven to get a days worth of B-Roll on my tiny pocket cam, and I had the actors all send me voice memos from their mobile phones. Eventually it all came together but it is very different to how it started.

What was the most challenging part?

I would say the most challenging part of any project is putting pen to paper, but with DestructorsI would say making pasta was the hardest part of the whole process.

Whilst staying in the caravan park, I took it upon myself to cook for everyone on the first evening of shooting, forgetting that everybody in the country was panic buying every essential food item you could think of. After 3 hours of shopping, all we could find was lasagne sheets. So I proceeded to parboil the lasagne sheets, then cut them into little pasta pieces, and then cook them the rest of the way, resulting in undercooked clumps of pasta and a very hungry crew.

To this day I still don’t know why I didn’t just cook a lasagne.

Congratulations on making it into Vancouver international and Earl’s Court film festival! What was the submission process like?

Thank you, the submission process was pretty easy with Film-freeway, the tough part was deciding where to enter it. We entered it into some pretty big festivals and it was really great getting into Vancouver. It’s just a shame that it was the one year everything is online!

What’s next for you in terms of filmmaking?

I am slowly but surely writing my first feature and doing a few bits and pieces like music videos but who knows! Life is very unpredictable at the moment.

What would your advice be to applicants considering Screen and Film School?

I would say firstly, apply. Secondly that once they’re there to take advantage of every second they have at Screen and Film School.

I did my first two years somewhere else, but I wish I could go back in time and change course earlier. I would never have been able to achieve anything near as ambitious as Destructors on my old film course. Screen and Film School made me think big.

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