This interview took place on the set of The Pyramid in March 2016.
The first thing I’d like to ask about The Pyramid is the look of it. How much of that was in the script?
Well, the location came first, which is something I don’t think is that unusual on low budget short films. The location, the balcony and the panoptic view of London’s skyline was the starting point and the look of the film was always very much determined by that shot. It is clearly London, but also has features that are evocative of L.A. The two main roads, wide pavements. Therefore, it wasn’t a massive jump to reach Michael Mann’s Heat as an aesthetic influence and I believe that both the Michaels [director, Fausti and cinematographer Despard] have achieved that with great success.
So, with Heat as an influence, did you set out to write a crime piece?
No. Once I had the location, I knew I wanted to explore the damaging neoliberal ideology taking greater hold of the city. This idea that a self centred competitive nature is rewarded is placed in one of these ubiquitous apartment buildings that cut communities in half and send people who have lived in an area for generations out of the city. The ‘utopia’ we live in, this great city of London punishes those that already find life hard. Now, that’s a difficult and isolating idea to communicate in a short film, so it was from this desire to highlight this bullshit ideology that I reached crime. Because what’s happening to the working class in London is a crime.
The subtext is established then, what about the actual text?
I started with a line, and I can’t tell you where it came from because I don’t know: “I helped build these flats”. And from there, I had this character, this working class man who is symbolic of the larger class and his back story just started to fill itself in. Used to live in London, pushed out by gentrification yet used as a tool to build houses he’ll never be able to live in.
And that, I assume, led to the pyramid analogy?Exactly, the idea of slaves building property for the wealthy, but also the hierarchy.
Exactly. The penthouses at the top of all these buildings.
Yes! The buildings themselves are a hierarchy. The hierarchal class structures that we all live in, the false idea of democracy we have is a hierarchy. So, the idea of these buildings as pyramids developed.
Do you find that the writing process is very much like that? Ideas that develop as if by themselves?
Well, that makes it seem a little like it’s not work! But, I know what you mean. There comes a stage when it becomes more organic. A point when your characters are so fleshed out that their actions and reactions come much easier to write. But, before you reach that stage, a lot of work has taken place.
What is that process?
I imagine it’s different for everyone. Whether I’m working on a feature script or a short, I’ll want to keep writing drafts until I’m either happy it’s as good as I can get it, or I can’t see it anymore for looking at it too much. That’s when I’ll send it to someone I trust to read. And back and forth until it really is, as good as I can get it.
Is that process different when you’re acting in the film?
Yes. Dialogue is hard and you have to write so that I range of actors could read it and find it appealing. Although I write as if I’m not going to be in anything, but with The Pyramid I knew it would be me and Mike (Michael Fausti).
You didn’t want to act in it?
It’s more necessity than desire. We’re making very low budget short films and right now, the money is going on getting the script on film. Professional actors are not a luxury we had on The Pyramid.
You’d rather be behind the camera?
Yes. In some capacity.
What were the biggest challenges in getting The Pyramid from page to screen?
The attack at the end. On page it worked really well, but filming that was very difficult. In fact, of the two nights we spent filming, one whole night was spent filming the attack. Filming an action scene like this is hard, because as it appears in the script it is aggressive and rough and shouldn’t appear staged and ballet like, yet for it to appear to have the former qualities, you need to really plan and break it down into its individual moves. Mike (director, Michael Fausti) did a lot of research into fight scenes and influences from those found their way in. I’m excited to see what it looks like.
How does the process of writing features compared to writing shorts?
I like the immediacy of shorts. From writing The Pyramid to filming it was a couple of months and a few months after that, it’ll be being submitted to festivals. Features are a much longer process. Both the writing and getting them made.
So, what’s next then?
I’m working on both a short and a feature. If you want to be successful, you just have to keep making things and, Fausti Films is putting together a team that makes that happen.