Rising Star Award Winners Charlie Edwards-Moss & Joe Williams talk about short film

Charlie Edwards-Moss & Joe Williams co-directed ‘Duke’s Pursuit’, a darkly comic, existential thriller, with some outstanding cinematography, witty dialogue and excellent characterisation. Imbued with the feel of a revenge Western crossed with Coen Brothers wit and style, ‘Duke’s Pursuit’ won the ESFF’s 2016 Rising Star Award.

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We loved ‘Duke’s Pursuit’ it’s a hugely ambitious project as its shot in Iceland with period sets and props as well as drone shots, so how did the concept for ‘Duke’s Pursuit’ develop and what was the germ of the idea?

C: Thank you! It took a long long time. We worked together with a friend of ours, Boas Arnarson who did production design and co-produced the film. After working with him on a previous short film he mentioned it would be cool to make a film in his home country and we were well up for the idea. We started to develop the story, always bearing in mind that we wanted to create a true English – Icelandic collaboration that would feel authentic for each country and character.

J: The germ of the idea was definitely ‘Duke’ himself, this totally relentless and unstoppable character. At one point there were loads of different ideas floating about though – even a heavy drama about a guy who inherits an Icelandic fishing from his recently deceased brother… In the end the film really developed from us thinking about how we could have such an inherently British and stylised character such as Duke marching about the Icelandic landscape.

Did you have any influences in mind when you made the film?

J: Coen brothers, like you mentioned – ‘Fargo’ and ‘No Country for Old Men’ especially in how characterised the landscape was. Duke was also really inspired by DeNiro’s character in Cape Fear – someone who’ll stop at nothing, track you down to the end of the Earth. His character really is mental – by the end he’s almost got these sort of cartoon-like abilities, clinging to the bottom of a car for hours… We wanted that with Duke, like he had a subtle ‘supernatural’ edge to him. We tried to get that in the café with the flickering light.

C: That bit in the café with the flickering light was inspired by Harry Potter, when Harry gets really angry things start to shake and flicker around him. It’s a great technique. There’s also a film called ‘Catch me Daddy’ that came out a couple of years ago, it’s a similar tale of revenge with loads of ominous shots of gangsters driving around the Yorkshire moors, it was a huge influence.

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So, the film was shot in Iceland and set in the 1990s, what unique challenges did filming in that kind of location present?

 C: Weather was a bit of a challenge, on the first night of filming there were such strong winds and we were shooting outside. Lights were getting battered around the place, our lead actor Vince is only a little guy – he nearly blew away into the Icelandic wilderness.

 J: Yeah it was just very, very cold. The 90’s setting wasn’t too hard to pull off, it was more a case of getting rid of modern technology rather than putting in really period-specific props. The cars were probably the biggest challenge, but luckily Iceland’s a pretty tight-knit community so it didn’t take too long to get a hold of an old car collector who was more than happy to have his motors feature in our film!

 How different was filming in Iceland to filming in the UK?

 C: Very different, the Icelandic crew we had working on the film were honestly phenominal – the most hard-working, sweetest, dedicated people. The country aswell is beautiful – there’s nothing like relaxing in one of the many hot tubs after a hard days work (I sound like I work for the tourist board.)

J: It was also by far the biggest and most ‘proffesional’ production we’d been part of, so on top of the fact that we were in a totally foreign country, directing some scenes in a different language, there was also the added from the fact that we didn’t have a bloody clue what they were saying. It was amazing but very daunting at the beginning. I’m certainly looking forward to making a film back in England now.

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 Would you have compromised on the location?

 C: No, the location was the film!

 Did the location force you to make any changes to the film; eg script, scheduling, props or otherwise?

 J: We’d been to Iceland twice before, so we kind of knew the deal regarding how much light you get in the day, weather changes etc… We’d factored all that in before we went out to shoot, so no, the location didn’t cause any more changes than it would a normal shoot.

 We’re very glad you came to Edinburgh for the screening last November, how has the film fared elsewhere?

 C: Yeah it’s been alright, we’ve had a couple of screenings around London. We screened it at Clapham Picturehouse where we work, showing our film on the same screen that I’ve watched so many films on in the past was really really special!  

 What are you planning on working on next?

 J: We’ve just finished the pilot for a sort of film-noir rural detective series that we’ve sent off to a couple of people, although at the moment we’ve just started writing a horror short.

 C: It’s about two priests that experience some very very spooky going ons at a possessed house in the countryside.

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