A short film about a fairytale crazed boy who battles between fantasy and reality when coming to terms with his fathers death in the Welsh coal mines.
Set in the Welsh valleys, during the 1950s, we follow the story of Gwyn, a fairy-tale crazed boy whose Father works tirelessly at the coal mines with his canary. However, due to his Father’s tales, Gwyn believes his Father spends every day venturing down the rabbit hole through Wonderland, to meet characters like the Madhatter. So, when his Father is regrettably killed in a gas explosion, Gwyn thinks his Father must be lost down in Wonderland, “he’ll surely be back in time for tea tomorrow.” Despite his Mother’s tears, Gwyn doesn’t understand all the fuss and starts to grow frustrated that no one is looking for his Father down the “rabbit hole.” It is only at the funeral, where after hearing enough nonsense, Gwyn decides to rescue his Father himself. With his sword unsheathed and shield at the ready, he marches down the mountain, unaware of the horror that really lies beyond the rabbit hole.
As a child growing up in South Wales, I have always had a connection with the historical coal town, Blaenavon, where my Mother’s family lived for the past hundred years. For me, it was mostly a quiet and unforgivingly cold town, where excitement and adventure seldom showed its face. As I grew up, I slowly became aware of Blaenavon’s history and the community which once thrived there. This mountainside lifestyle, which was once at the heart of Wales, and now nearly forgotten, immediately grabbed me as an important setting to convey a story of grief and loss of innocence.
Having a Father who ventures everyday down a mysterious mountain and into a muddy hole, paralleling the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seemed like the perfect way to display our main character’s naïve image of his Father and the world around him.
The film is a poetically driven drama, with the emotional journey of our protagonist at the visual forefront. Through the camera, we want to find the middle ground between poetic and socially realistic cinema, focusing on subtly details of a scene, rather than shooting in a conventional way. Through sight and sound, I want the audience to acquire a vivid sense of the Welsh valleys and the conditions miners were expected to endure to support their families.
I hope this film evokes audiences, as a universal story of tragic innocence and bringing to light a Welsh character, situation and environment that has never been seen on screen before.
- The Son
A curious minded individual, very much lost in his head a lot of the time. He is extremely naïve to the world, majorly due to the childishness of his Father, who feeds his mind constantly with imaginative stories. Adventurous, he spends a lot of his time in the Welsh mountainside, but never venturing further than his parents allow. His idea of fun is pretending to be the local knights man, fighting off any would be villains and monsters. He plays alone, with no friends, but very much prefers it this way. He is most close to his Father, who acts solely as his best friend and admires him greatly. He is a sensible boy, kind and caring to his family, but as all children do, loves mischief. Recently learning the satisfaction of curse words from his Father, he swears heroically to the villains in his play-stories. He is a brave, wondrous soul, but easily shaken by things he does not quite understand yet.
- The Father
Just as childish and imaginative as his son, the Father too is very much stuck in his own head. He works long hours every day in the mines. It’s not the ideal job, but it is the only thing that pays well locally. Seeing his son after work always ignites a playful spark to his day. He doesn’t care much for “adult life”, but would rather spend the rest of his days enjoying his son’s play-stories.
- The Mother
She is the epitome of grace and a true mother. She is quiet, but outspoken when needs be. She adores her family and encourages her child’s imagination. She is known by all the town’s folk and a fan favourite of the neighbouring families. Overwhelmingly in love with her husband, his death causes her complete devastation. A beautiful soul, turned sullen. She may never be the same person she was before.
Gritty and telling, our film will capture the small details in our main character’s world view that tell us the story from his perspective. We will be shooting the film in a deep black and white with amplified negative space surrounding our characters to bring their emotion to the forefront of the film. The cloudy welsh weather, dulled countryside and rough interior walls already set up this austere colour palette; and the colour grade will look to enhance this.
We want the camera to embody a child’s eye, focusing on things a child would, such as the snag of a jumper, or an uncle’s sock. Alongside fluid movement, we believe that these things inherently say a lot more emotionally than shooting in a conventional manner.
We have been influenced by the films of Lynne Ramsay, taking particular inspiration from Swimmer, Ratcatcher and Gasman. As well as film such as Tree of Life and Eraser Head where metaphor is at the visual forefront.
Given the time period of A Dead Canary, the work I do as the production designer is key to making the story feel authentic. It’s the most expensive aspect of our film due to our ambitious script and its setting but one of the most important to build a believable story within a plausible story world.
One of the key scenes in this film takes place underground in a mine, and for obvious safety reasons we are unable to shoot in an actual functioning mine, so instead we are recreating one in our Cheltenham film studio.
Along with designing and building this intricate and complex set, I will be dressing the entire cast in period costumes, dressing a 1950s home and sourcing era appropriate props, amongst a whole list of other exciting elements! Your help and kind donations would help us bring this entire imaginative yet harsh world to life.
- Sound Design
Sound is going to play a unique role in the story-telling of this film. More like its own character in the narrative, sound will change and distort, similarly to our main character’s perception of the world. It will at times be reassuring, like the chirping of a canary, but also violently striking, like the ringing of a siren or the spitting and cursing of a miner’s mouth. Through unconventional sound design, we want the audience to experience aural storytelling in a compelling and extraordinary fashion.
- Musical Score
Musically, we wanted to stick authentically to the Welsh backdrop. We’ve secured the rights to The Rhos Male Voice Choir’s album “Songs from The Welsh Mines.” One of the oldest and most critically-acclaimed choirs in Wales. Their sound is both resonating and tender, which reflects the themes of our film perfectly. However, most importantly, the album too focuses on the hardship at the heart of Wales; coal mining. Our composer, Guy Daws, is an extremely accomplished musician with a passion that spans across multiple musical genres. His musical compositions will drive the emotion of our story forward, as well as contrasting emotively with pieces from The Rhos Male Voice Choir.
Considering the unique and powerful nature of A Dead Canary, we intend to approach the edit in an almost experimental style which will bring a fresh perspective of the themes explored. Taking heavy inspiration from the likes of Lynn Ramsey’s short drama ‘Swimmer’and David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’, we intend on creating moments of peaceful space in juxtaposition to the fast passed and real life horrors of the mines during the 1950’s. In addition, we hope to incorporate techniques of super imposition, intercutting and parallel editing in order to convey the characters emotional agenda whilst creating the tense atmosphere.
Risks and challenges
As with every film, there are plenty of challenges to overcome.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle at this time is our budget. We have a beautiful but complex set build to complete as well as remote locations in the heart of Wales to capture.
We know that we have a fantastic crew behind us who are determined and passionate about telling a story so close to our hearts.
But the only way this film can get made is with your help. So please, spare what you can and get involved in telling a story about real people and their lives.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)