Play 06.10.14

Food For Thought: Peter Lydon

In the latest serving of inspiration at the Fold, writer and director, Peter Lydon, joined us for a screening of his new short film Dating Eliza, followed by a Q&A.

Having directed TV shows such as Mistresses and Shameless, and TV ads for Sky, to our very own ‘The Crate Escape’ for Carlsberg, Peter’s latest offering is a charming 12-minute film focusing on the character of Eliza and her unsettling relationship with her mother.

The film opens with an awkward encounter between Eliza and her date John, who she met on the internet. Moments later, Eliza’s parents turn up, leaving the two to improvise their newfound ‘relationship’ for the course of the film; making for some very entertaining viewing. Shortly after the screening, Peter discussed the filmmaking process and also touched upon his work in advertising…

Do you invent characters or are they inspired by people you know? 
It depends on the film I’m making. With short film, I just set off. I had the idea of the mother-daughter narrative and let the characters naturally come into play.
I started reliving conversations with my own mother, you let these voices talk to you to some extent.

How essential is the casting process to the films you make?
Casting is key; it’s a process I love. It’s where the work develops and evolves into something other than what it first was on a piece of paper. Half a dozen actresses auditioned for Eliza’s role but after a Skype audition with Selina Macdonald, I just knew right away she was perfect. I was happy with the script but even happier with the film. The actors lifted it and carved out these identities for the characters, which was amazing to watch.

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 Why did you choose to set the film in a pub?
Tarantino once said that you should stick to one location, so I’ve tried this approach. My first film was shot in one location and every short film after that has followed the same style. I’ve filmed in a flat, café and now a pub. It’s something you can easily shoot in two days. The design inside the pub was great and felt right, we wanted to make sure we picked somewhere that had enough depth and character from every angle. Also the parking didn’t cost too much.

How has directing TV ads affected the way you direct fiction?
There’s fundamental differences, however the two strongly feed into each other. The focus on costume, performance and storytelling when making a TV ad, is also essential when doing short film. With both, you still have to pull people in and make them feel something.

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What’s it like working with big names like Al Pacino and how much do you guide them on their performance?
You have to just get in there and have an opinion, you can’t let it daunt you. Working with Al was great, he’s a good guy and wants to enjoy the process and collaborate. I fed stuff in but didn’t direct as such. When I worked on a show with Ray Winston, it was a similar experience. You guide them, providing parameters to shape the performance. But then you also get others who really want to be directed, it all depends on the type of actor they are and how they enjoy working.

Once you’ve created your films, how do you get to people to see them?
By entering them into festivals like Sundance and Palm Springs. With Dating Eliza, the purpose is to launch it and to get people’s interest in the script, and if they like it, then they’ll take some interest in my other shorts.

A big thanks again to Peter and his team for taking the time out to host our latest Food for Thought session.

You can watch the trailer for Dating Eliza here.