New Director: Glenn Paton
New Director Glenn Paton takes a rollercoaster ride with his latest short film, H Positive. Taken from shots 163.
If money was no object, how would you choose to die? That’s the question posed by H Positive, a stylish short film in which Mark, a loathsome master-of-the-universe, considers his exit options after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Dismissing the Dignitas route (“Too sterile: there’s no flair to it), he commissions a custom-built euthanasia rollercoaster. Its hairpin loops starve the brain of oxygen – producing, quite literally, the high of a lifetime.
Moodily shot in muted blues and greys, the film features slick cinematography with arty shots illustrating the inexorable creep of mortality into Mark’s carefully curated world. A bowl of fruit visibly putrefies; a glass of champagne tossed into a pool stains the water blood-red. The pace picks up as Mark’s plans take shape, building to a bone-shaking finale in which his life flashes before his eyes.
Glenn Paton, currently head of film at Grey London, has spent more than ten years working as an agency producer at the likes of Mother, Lowe London and BBH London, so the move into directing felt like “a natural progression” though he wasn’t formally trained. Being “madly into film; I’ll happily go to the cinema by myself at least once a week” helped, of course.
The film’s macabre theme was inspired by an exhibition at London’s Wellcome Trust Museum featuring a blueprint of a ‘euthanasia coaster’, designed by Lithuanian artist Julijonas Urbonas and capable of inducing death by cerebral hypoxia. “Reading the blurb, my jaw started to drop,” says Paton, “the physics are there, but no-one has actually made it. I thought it was a great idea for a short film.” He then met with Urbonas and started writing the script.
It took several years to get H Positive off the ground: having exhausted all other financial avenues, Paton turned to Kickstarter to raise his target of £20,000. Despite years of experience in managing budgets, he admits staying within that sum was hard. “The idea was so ambitious it could easily have cost a lot more so keeping a tight rein on the budget while retaining creative freedom was the biggest challenge.”
Finding the right team was less of an issue, thanks to Paton’s network of industry contacts. Academy produced the film, cinematographer Federico Alfonzo acted as DP, Stitch’s Andy McGraw was on editing duties and The Mill handled post. “I’ve built some solid relationships over the years, which enabled me to work with some of the most forward-thinking people in the industry,” Paton says. Although slotting into his new role took some getting used to: “It was weird to have a whole crew look at me after a take to see if I was happy to move on!”
After much research, the team chose ‘The Superman’, a rollercoaster in Madrid’s Parque Warner, for the location. Combined with heavy post effects, including dialling down the ride’s cheery colours, the deathcoaster was brought to life. GoPro helmets were used to capture the raw adrenaline rush of the final segment.
With the film garnering laurels from Palm Springs, Raindance, the Edinburgh Fringe and Rhode Island, Paton is hoping for further stints in the director’s chair: “I would love to direct more. I just need the creatives to trust me with their scripts and we’ll see.”