David Dearlove hits the target with award-winning film
Last year David Dearlove picked up the coveted shots Awards Europe New Director of the Year trophy for his brilliant film for Women's Aid. We spoke to him after his win and, below, you can read again his explanation of what it's like to hit the directing bullseye with his first dart.
Congratulations on your win; can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into directing?
I’m currently a creative at an ad agency in London [WCRS] so, for people in our profession, it’s often the logical next step.
Was being a director something you'd always aimed for?
Certainly not from childhood. The more I was exposed to it as a creative, the more I wanted to do it.
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Above: Dearlove's winning work at the shots Awards Europe 2019.
How much does working as a creative prepare you for your directing career?
Loads. You’re involved in some way or another with pretty much the whole aspect of directing, especially post production. Spending a lot of time in edit suites was probably the best learning experience, as it’s there where you really understand how a film is constructed.
How did you come to the idea for the script and was the plan always that you would direct it yourself?
The mission statement of Women’s Aid is ‘Until women and children are safe’. I thought that basing an advert around the effect of domestic violence on children would be a good way to get people to look afresh at the problem.
Writing a script that was designed to be as cheap as possible. No CGI, no music, no extras. Just a couple and a child in a house.
From there, as anyone wanting to direct an advert for the first time will tell you, the biggest barrier was money, hence writing a script that was designed to be as cheap as possible. No CGI, no music, no extras. Just a couple and a child in a house.
Did you know how you wanted to approach the film straight away?
I had the broad outline of it figured out in my head, but the big unknown was just how much violence should be left on screen. We did a test shoot and quickly figured out that even leaving the slightest hint of violence in the film ruined the effect.
Above: David Dearlove, centre, receiving his award from Doc Brown, left, at the 2019 shots Awards Europe last November.
The performances are great; can you tell us a bit about the casting and how you approached directing the two actors, considering much of the power is in what you don't see?
As I’m all a bit new to this, I did it on instinct. Having spoken to survivors of domestic abuse I knew that the man is often quite in control of their emotions, even during bouts of extreme violence, so I wanted someone who could marry those two contradictory forces.
The trickiest thing was trying to get a performance out of a child without explaining what it was we were filming.
I was keen to avoid having him look like a thug. It’s almost more shocking if you can imagine an ordinary person doing it. The trickiest thing was trying to get a performance out of a child without explaining what it was we were filming.
How closely did you work with our Editor of the Year, Joe Guest, on this film?
Lots. He’s a great guy and immediately got the tone of what I was after. We found the ideal edit in just a few hours.
What was the most challenging part of the project?
Getting the project off the ground in the first place. When you’re doing a charity job you’re relying on lots of favours, so I was fortunate to have a company like Riff Raff backing me.
Above: Stills from Dearlove's winning film.
And the most rewarding?
Just being in control of the project from start to finish. The worst part of being a creative is how so many aspects of your career are in someone else’s hands.
What does it mean to win the shots Awards Europe New Director of the Year award?
Incredible. I feel like someone who’s thrown a bullseye with their first dart. I imagine I’ll miss the board with my next attempt!
What are you working on now/next and how to do hope your career will progress?
I slightly naively thought that the awards I picked up in the last year would lead to people knocking on my door. Instead, I think it’s going to be another year of hustling jobs any which way (I’m sure every director right now is laughing and saying ‘Welcome to our world’).