A gripping short
Along with his producer brother, Harry, Joshua Warren has directed some stunning short films that evoke the feeling of forgotten paintings brought to vivid life. At only four minutes in length, his next work of art (after The Gatekeeper from 2021) is a short film that grips the viewer more than most full-length features. Watch out for this incredible talent… I have a feeling we are going to see a lot more from him.
What inspired your latest short?
It was based on a painting by the incredible artist Denis Forkas. I suppose I was thinking a lot about the medium, in that whenever art of any kind is referenced in film it’s usually for a single shot/tableau, which is a fantastic way to highlight the emotional tension in a scene, but I wanted to look at the context around the composition we find in the painting.
Considering what happens with some short films, as a proof of concept how much of your film is purely a poem (an abstract) and how much of it may potentially grow into a feature?
A great example that always comes to mind is Brothers by Robert Eggers, as an indirect proof for The Witch. It’s really interesting, as the story is quite different and included child actors and the woods so it’s almost a proof of his vision more than a scene lifted out of a feature. I think that’s what our short is; an abstract idea that in my mind is finished but something to use to prove style and theme.
This may be a coincidence, but has Roger Christian’s Black Angel (1980) and Vincent Ward’s films (The Vigil in particular from 1984) been an influence at all on your work?
Must be a total coincidence as I’ve not seen either, but they look great! They’re on the ever-growing watchlist.
There is a precision in composition to your work — the symmetry of the fire scene in your previous short film The Gatekeeper — everything beautifully painted and meticulous in its details from the framing of the landscape to the typography and cinematography. Your short films are not only cinematic but feel like lost classics. I’m interested to hear about your collaborative side and how you share a distinct vision… for instance, do you storyboard?
That is such a wonderful compliment, thank you. Both shorts were with different cinematographers, The Gatekeeper was with James Medcraft — an amazing guy whose technical ability is mind-blowing — I had done a music video with him prior to shooting the short and found that he didn’t really need a storyboard, even if I would prefer one. Instead, we used a detailed shot list and some simple guides set by myself. With My Dreams Have Been Dark of Late, it was a different process — even though the cinematographer Korsshan Schlauer and I had been friends for years — we never actually worked together until this short which I storyboarded entirely. This was mostly to understand the VFX and edit, so I did away with the detailed shot list, but kept that as guidelines, then adjusted the storyboard with a short rehearsal in the morning. This helped retain the essence of what I needed for the visual language and edit but also made sure Korsshan’s talent and choices shone through. In both cases (and with all my collaborators) I try to trust them completely.
Location seems an important character in your films. How long do you take to explore?
A long time. It's difficult to compromise on a specific vision you have but unless someone dumps a load of cash in your lap you have to. Once I have my heart set on a concept of somewhere I become a bit obsessive. I believe areas are important in my everyday life; we’ve all had those moments of indescribable atmosphere, it’s just a matter of boiling them down. The last two films involved a lot of negotiating with protected areas and listed buildings, which can be a headache, but to me, it’s as important as casting.
Is there an attempt here to see where you can take ‘folk horror’?
I love folk horror. I used to be a part of the folk horror cinema club at Genesis Cinema years ago until we ran out of films to watch. To answer your question: yes, absolutely. I think it can be taken anywhere.
My Dreams Have Been Dark Of Late will be screened as part of FrightFest's Short Film Showcase on Monday 24th August, 6.30pm.