Each year hundreds of aspiring British directors submit their debut features to the London Film Festival, in the hope of it being selected and finally given the recognition it deserves.
This year Simon Baker is one such director. Having spent much of the last 15 years working with short-form film, producing and directing everything from television commercials to short documentaries, Baker has finally made the leap to feature film with Night Bus, a curious portmanteau of urban life that’s propelled forward by a fantastic cast and imbued with a uniquely British tinge. Clearly humbled with the deservedly positive response his film has received at the Festival, Simon sat down with us to discuss Night Bus, funding independent filmmaking, and the future.
Culturefly: How did the idea for the film first come about?
Simon: Well I’ve always had a great love of singular locations films that focus on character and dialogue, such as 12 Angry Men, and years ago, back when I was a film student, I remember regularly catching the night bus and thinking that it would be great potential fodder for a film. As an independent filmmaker, you’ve always got your ears and eyes open for ideas that could conceivably be made on a limited budget, and with the freedom offered by the advent of digital technology, I sensed an opportunity to get the project off of the ground.
CF: How did you go about funding the project?
Simon: One thing I knew I didn’t want to do was go around and try to get money off of people. And I was also anxious to begin working on the film as soon as possible, before anyone else came up with a similar idea. So I decided to use the contacts I had made and start the project myself, using my own money to supplement the budget.
CF: Was there any particular reason you didn’t wish to pursue funding from other sources?
Simon: What I’ve found is that as soon as someone gives you their money, they want a piece of what you want to do; not financially, but creatively. I was keen to retain final cut of the film, and figured it was worth going alone in order to achieve that.
CF: Do you believe funding is integral to helping those making an independent film?
Simon: I have mixed feelings. Obviously, any kind of funding or investment is a good thing for a director. But, at the same time, there are so many different resources out there to help filmmakers these days, and by tailoring your ideas to what’s available you can make the film you want without seeking outside capital.
CF: Of course much of the film hinges on the characters on the bus itself, did you struggle at all to find the right cast?
Simon: No, not at all. It was a lengthy process, of course, but there’s an abundance of great acting talent in London, and so it wasn’t too challenging to find a cast that allowed me to transport these stories on to the screen.
CF: What was it that you wanted to achieve by making Night Bus?
Simon: I wanted to get myself and the talented cast and crew on the radar. If this film never makes a penny, then we’ll release it on YouTube. It’s about making a creative mark and I hope that by being here we have started to do that.
CF: What are your plans for the future?
Simon: We’ve entered Night Bus in to a few other film festivals, so we’ll have to see what happens there. We also have a number of ideas within the same pragmatism and linear structure as Night Bus that we’re hoping to produce some time soon.
Our review of Night Bus, direct from the London Film Festival, can be found here. Culturefly would like to thank Simon for taking the time to speak to us.