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"You're in complete creative control": Josh Thornton-Allan on his new short

Fuck The Honeymoon, screening at this year's Manchester International Film Festival, follows an unusual first date - a couples counselling session. Director Josh Thornton-Allan told us more.

Fuck the honeymoon film still

Still from Fuck The Honeymoon.

As a part of the shorts section of the Manchester Film Festival, the London-based director Josh Thornton-Allan will present his film, Fuck The Honeymoon.

On an “alternative first date,” Nathan decides to surprise Lizzie by taking her to a couples counselling session. His hope is that if they are forced to confront their flaws, foibles and personal hang-ups early on then they might come to the realisation that the best way to make a relationship work is to skip the dating altogether. Needless to say, it’s not a romantic departure point.

Josh is known for Exit Chip (2015) and June (2021), as well as several music videos and campaigns for big companies. I started off by asked Josh where the inspiration for Fuck The Honeymoon came from.

“It came from a conversation with my brother actually, who told me a very similar sort of story about someone who actually did something like this. So we were just talking about that, and talking about it being a very kind of unique idea and the concept just grew out of that. We started playing around with that concept over drinks and I started writing the script shortly after that.”

With a small budget and a very short shooting time, does the pre-planning for each shot become so intense as to drive you up the wall?

Not really. With limited time on short films there has to be a lot of pre planning. It was very important on something like this, a comedy, to make sure the actors had time to experiment and have a lot of fun with it. So that was what was really nice about this. We shot it over two days and it was a multi-camera setup, so we just allowed ourselves to have as much time to make it as fun as we possibly could. Hopefully that’s reflected in the film itself.

How much is your script locked down? Do you invite actors to come up with suggestions?

I write my own script, so generally they're pretty locked down. However, on this one there were big sections where we left it open for improv, such as the montage argument scene that takes place about halfway through.

I had parts written out and then on the day, we had two great actors who were who were great at improv and just blurted some crazy stuff out. I wish I could fit it all in, but I couldn't. I would throw out ideas as we were shooting, you know, just funny words. Outside of that we stuck to the strip to the script, but there was a lot of playing around with some of the comedic elements.

With face-to-face meetings pretty much suspended for last two years with Covid, how did go about casting?

I work in music videos, commercials as well, and the film industry was quite quick to respond and set up a lot of measures. Problem solving is what film makers do, isn't it?

So very early on, there was a lot of governing bodies in film that made sure that people could continue in a safe manner. That continued to castings and it was just about following certain safety measures, such as having a limited amount of people in rooms. Of course, it made it a lot more difficult and you couldn't see as many people, but luckily by that stage of the pandemic there were a lot of safety measures in place and a lot of people knew exactly what needed to be done.

It was challenging, but there's nothing that filmmakers aren't used to. I think you just have to adjust to them. Most people had done Covid shoots before and so we were able to have a fairly normal shoot, which was quite nice.

What other festivals will Fuck The Honeymoon be appearing at?

It's been in London Film Week, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (York). Manchester International Film Festival will be the next one. After that, there's a one in LA.

Going across to LA. That's a nice one.

Yeah, just to do that one. It's kind of screening everywhere. And then I'm hoping by the end of this year, once it’s done its festival run, I’ll find a home for it online somewhere.

Do you find it's becoming increasingly hard to find a budget to make shorts by yourself and other independent filmmakers?

I think, definitely since when I started the amount of funding, especially government funding, has been massively reduced. And I think that the funding that is there now is, rightly so, for stories that don't often get told, or for people who don't get the opportunity to make films.

I don't think there is the funding like there was, but at the same time I think filmmaking has changed. You're more able now to literally get a group of friends, get a camera and just sort of, you know, start working on it. But it's always a challenge and I think it relies on a lot of good faith from people working together as a team. I think getting a good team around you, with other filmmakers who are passionate about the work you do, is super important to make the short happen.

Is moving to a longer format on the horizon or is your preference to stay with shorts?

I'm definitely looking to move into longer format. I’m currently looking for narrative representation and looking to move into TV directing. At the moment I’m developing a feature film script, which I had the opportunity to pitch to someone at StudioCanal, which has been amazing. So definitely. I’ve just done Fuck the Honeymoon. I've got another short out now, [in] June. And I'll probably do some more to stop me going completely crazy. But I think looking forward, it's definitely onto features or directing in TV.

I know you've mentioned you've shot a few music videos for the likes of Emily Burns and others. They seem to be more of a collaborative affair, with the people on the shoot actually contributing and making things up on the go. Is making music videos a more fun affair, or does each particular setting have equally pleasurable but different rewards?

I really enjoy, especially with comedy, working with actors and dialogue. So doing music videos is kind of the complete opposite of that, but it does allow you to do some pretty weird and wonderful things that you wouldn't necessarily do in a short film.

The most recent kind of weird thing that I did was building a giant sun as a piece of set design. So those things offer up new challenges and they're also a great way to develop and flex your filmmaking muscle, and push you into uncomfortable zones. I really enjoy both for very different reasons.

The nice thing about short films is that you're in complete creative control, which is a blessing and sometimes a curse. That's really the main difference with music videos; it's much more collaborative. You've got to make sure that the artists, the label are all happy with the vision that you're presenting. It’s just another challenge.

If you're moving into more mainstream TV, and with the relentless march of TV productions led by Netflix, do you think cinema will become a niche market for only for people who seek refuge from CGI?

I think cinema is different now and I think that it depends on the kind of films that you want to make. For example, the feature I'm working on is a romcom and they seem to be finding a great home on online streaming platforms. It does seem that big blockbusters nowadays... that they're not drawing in the people that they have done.

But I think that it's just changing and people have to keep up with what people’s appetites are for these things. I think there's still an appetite, it’s just that the way people are consuming media is completely changing.

Do you have a title for your feature film or is that still under wraps?

It's still just a work in progress at the moment. It's called Offline, and it's a romantic comedy about two people who meet when the internet is down.

Which I hope contains plenty of comedy...

Yeah, yeah. It's quite easy to poke fun at the internet, surprisingly!

Learn more

Fuck The Honeymoon is screening on Friday 18th March, 8pm at the Odeon Great Northern.

Manchester International Film Festival runs from 12th to 20th March 2022.

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