Cymru Culture

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Interview with Caradog James

(June 01, 2014)

Interview with Caradog James

Portrait of Caradog James

Nick Stradling met the writer and director Caradog James, to talk about his latest film, The Machine ...


CC ... Hello Caradog - thanks for meeting and chatting today.

Caradog ... You're very welcome and thank you for your interest in our film.


CC ... Firstly … The Machine. Was the idea something that developed slowly over time, or was it more of a 'Eureka!' moment?

Caradog ... The idea developed over roughly a year and was partly inspired by the work of American futurist, Ray Kurzweil. We started off from the central premise that, in years to come, scientists will be able to forge exact copies of the human brain, which naturally encourages the question; 'What is humanity in the days of AI?' [artificial intelligence].

The Machine - Poster

 CC ... Did you draw inspiration from any films before that?

Caradog ... Well, I think it’s very important not to copy stories, so to speak. But I have personally been very affected by the work of John Carpenter, Martin Scorcese and, of course, Ridley Scott. I did not attend any kind of film school, but grew up with these directors.


CC ... Of course, an obvious reference point is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. But we found Toby Stephens’ Vincent a bit more sympathetic than Harrison Ford’s Deckard …

Caradog ... I've become interested in the links between the development of AI and the treatment of neurological disorders, such as autism and Rhett syndrome. This fed into the development of Vincent’s daughter Mary (played by Jade Croot), who has Rhett syndrome.


CC ... I thought she was the heart of the film. How was the dynamic with the actors on set? Was there a particular skill-set you were looking for?

Caradog ... We wanted actors who had maybe been overlooked, perhaps typecast or underrated. Toby Stephens is, of course, best known for his work on the James Bond film Die Another Day. But he has so much more range than he's often credited for. We wanted to take advantage of that. I first met Caity Lotz via Skype and in our first online meeting I was convinced she could convey - and identify with - the vulnerability of her dual characters. It also helped that she is an expert in martial arts. So, when you hire Caity, you get all that experience and credibility in the action sequences.


Toby StephensToby Stephens

CC ... and of course Denis Lawson. What was it like having a cult Star Wars actor on set?

Caradog ... Denis wasn't surprised when I told him that he's in my favourite film of all time. What did surprise him, was that I was actually referring to Bill Forsyth's Local Hero! I wasn't trying to be ironic or cute - for me it is one of the most beautiful and inspirational films ever made.


CC ... with a very famous soundtrack …

Caradog ... Of course. Which gives me the chance to mention our composer, Tom Raybould, who was working on his first feature film and really tapped into what we were doing.


CC ... I enjoyed the score a lot. One thing which really stood out for me in The Machine was the restraint exercised in the art department. Not just the slightly retro soundtrack, but also the CGI [computer-generated imagery], which I honestly didn’t notice on the first viewing. The digital imagery is almost seamless …

Caradog ... I'm glad to hear that. When doing CGI, it’s obviously important that it doesn't become - or distract from - the story. We had over 400 effect shots in The Machine, which were provided by a company called Bait, who are based in Barcelona. We wanted a mix of the digital, with the real, and we are very happy with them. We also used anamorphic lenses, which we feel helped give the visuals authenticity.


CC ... We noticed Film Agency Wales get a credit for the film. Can you describe your relationship with them?

Caradog ... They were tremendously supportive. They funded our test shoot - which is a very important part of the development process. We’re very grateful to them.


CC ... On the subject of Wales … obviously, here at Cymru Culture, we’re supportive of all things Welsh and the idea of Welsh movies. Can we ask you – what is your favourite Welsh film?

Caradog ... Hmm, good question. I suppose that depends on what you'd class as a Welsh film!


CC ... Good answer! Perhaps - rather than a film made in Wales or by a Welsh director. Have you ever seen a film about Wales? Or about a Welsh theme or folklore?

Caradog ... Twin Town - that's pretty Welsh! There are some great Welsh directors out there. Marc Evans is very active in Welsh projects. Which stories in particular would you adapt for screen?


CC ... Thanks for asking! Quite a few. Local Hero, for example, is unmistakably Scottish, but it is very similar in theme to Emlyn Williams’ The Last Days of Dolwyn. We feel Wales could tap into its history more on screen. But how hard is it to get a movie idea off the ground at the moment?

Caradog ... It can be very difficult, but certainly not impossible. If you have an independent project, you’re looking at £5 million at least, before you even turn your camera on. That's if you want to market it effectively. So it can be a real challenge going forward with ideas, when you have bills to pay! When you consider that you have to, at least, make the money back. In the days when adults visit the cinema less frequently, it can be a challenge.


CC ... Finally, how about yourself? Do you have any projects in the pipeline that we should look out for?

Caradog ... Yes, I'm directing an urban legend horror film called Don't Look Twice, which is very exciting and filmed here in Wales. It's going to be very, very scary!


CC ... Best of luck and thank you very much.

Caradog ... You're very welcome, and I'm delighted you enjoyed The Machine.


Nick Stradling, June 2014

BIFA 2013: The Machine - Winner of the Raindance Award - Caity Lotz Nominated for Best Newcomer
Winner of Best UK Film: Raindance Film Festival 2013
Winner 3 BAFTAs Cymru 2013, including Best Film

If you enjoyed this, you'll also enjoy this, by Nick Stradling:
Review: The Machine; March 2014

Review: Y Syrcas (The Circus); December 2013
The Braveheart effect and the lost stories of Wales; December 2013

Nick Stradling blogs on the "idea and reality of Welsh representation in the movie industry" at Wales in the Movies, including reviews of Welsh and Welsh-interest films.
Find him on Twitter at @MoviesWales

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