Recently I had the chance to talk to the up and coming indie filmmaker Jason Croxall about his background and his new fantastic short film Retrograde!
Amber Topping: To start, can you talk a little bit about your background and how you became interested in film?
Jason Croxall: Ever since I can remember cameras have always fascinated me. I got my first camera when I was 8 years old and it just snow balled from there. I studied photography at university for three years and when I graduated I immediately began freelancing. This gave me a bit of free time here and there to do projects on the side. I now work for a video production company in Nottingham.
Do you find that having a background in photography has helped you to transition into filmmaking? Already having that artistic eye if you will…
Absolutely. I specialized in portrait photography in my early career and that gave me a great attention to detail for lighting. I think I have always had a natural ability to compose a nice image but it’s one thing to frame something well, it’s another thing to light it well and good lighting really is the difference between a nice shot and a beautiful shot. My approach on Retrograde was to make everything look as naturally lit as possible but that look can be hard to achieve! Strangely I think that if no one mentions any technical aspects and just enjoys the film, I have succeeded!
For those who aren’t familiar, what is your short film Retrograde about?
Retrograde is a film about loss and longing for what is gone. It tells the story of Will, a young man struggling with amnesia after being in an accident. He has lost all memory up until now and is attending therapy sessions upon medical recommendation. He meets Annabel who helps him search for his missing past but she has problems of her own to deal with.
Let’s talk about your writing process in writing the script. What inspired you to specifically write Retrograde at this point in your life?
I initially began writing it as a novel some time ago for no real reason. I had no hope or agenda for it, I just enjoyed the process. The story came quite easily to me but I never really finished it so I just set it aside. After a while and a couple of film projects under my belt, I started to look for something new. I went back to what I had written before and began to adapt it into a short film.
Was this a script you labored over, or did you find the story came pretty quickly?
Yes and no. The story came to me fairly easily but I was careful to try and avoid clichés. Trying to keep things fresh and original was the labor. There are a lot of other films and books that deal with memory loss and I wanted to avoid similarities. I had to make some big changes to convert it from a novel to a screenplay. Especially in terms of what was feasible from a low budget filmmaking perspective. I could only write what I could actually do.
One of the aspects I loved about Retrograde was the deep focus on characterization. The two lead characters, Will and Annabel were very three dimensional and well developed which can be hard to do in a short film. Can you talk about each of these characters? Perhaps give a little bit of insight behind them?
That’s tricky without giving too much away! I wanted the characters to be as real as possible. To deal with their problems in a real way.
Since his accident, Will has retreated into himself and isn’t actively looking for what he’s lost. He’s almost given up by the time we meet him and is just attending the therapy sessions because he feels there is nothing else to do.
Annabel is a bit different. Whereas Will can talk about his problem, she’s very much a closed book. Will and Annabel meet at the same therapy session but it is unclear why she is there. She does, however, take a chance on someone she feels drawn to. I think she see’s Will as the most interesting person in the room as he has no control over his memory loss. She is drawn to the mystery of it all.
How did you cast the two leads, Adam Horvath and Lara Hudless (who were both very good by the way)? Were they friends of yours? Or did you carry out any auditions?
I hadn’t met Adam or Lara prior to filming. I set up a casting call and did some digging around of my own. I eventually found them on casting websites where they had uploaded headshots and a show reel. I was very impressed with the two of them and after they read the script and said they would like to be a part of the project that was that! I was very lucky to get them as they surpassed every expectation I had. They really carry the film and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in those roles. I’d love to work with them again.
Do you have advice for other independent filmmakers who would like to make a short film but don’t know where to start?
I have a saying I often remind myself of when I am working on projects. ‘Content not kit.’ It’s all about the story. You can obsess over what lens you use or what super amazing camera you blew the entire budget on but start with the story and never lose sight of it. It’s the most important thing. I would also say that Retrograde had no budget whatsoever. You can make a film for free but you have to be realistic. Building a space ship set will cost you money. Filming in locations you know won’t. It doesn’t matter if you use your parent’s house to shoot in; it’s only you that knows, not the audience. Use what you can to get the best you can.
What movies, TV Shows or books particularly inspire or influence you?
That’s a tough question! I have so many! As a filmmaker, you look at all sorts of inspirations really. Music, film, books, art. My particular inspirations for Retrograde were probably a subconscious amalgamation of all sorts of mediums. You have favorite films and idols but you have to be careful not to replicate what’s already been done and create your own style.
What are your ultimate goals as a filmmaker?
I would love to direct a feature film one day. I love science fiction the most. Films like ‘Moon’ and ‘Sunshine,’ but also a good period piece as well like ‘Atonement’ or ‘Master and Commander.’ I loved the writing process on Retrograde so to continue writing would be great. I just want to keep making films though and get better at what I do really!
Do you have any other upcoming projects in the works?
Now I have had some time to relax since completing Retrograde I am keen to start a new project. I have a couple of good ideas floating around but you will have to wait and see!
What is the best way to follow you and your projects?
I am on facebook at www.facebook.com.jasoncroxall/film and twitter as @J_croxall. I also have a vimeo page where you can watch Retrograde and see my other films at www.vimeo.com/jasoncroxall
ABOUT Jason Croxall
“Jason grew up in Southwell, Nottinghamshire and went on to study photography at The University of Plymouth. Completing his degree he returned to the midlands and became a self employed photographer based in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Film had always been a passion of Jason’s and he soon made the transition into video production. His first short film ‘The Thunderbird’ was released online to positive responses. Spurred on by the passion he had for filmmaking, Jason began working full time in video production in Nottingham but still made time outside of his profession to make short films.”
“How can you miss what you don’t remember having?”
“Following an accident, a young man struggles with amnesia and the curse of searching for what is lost.
Written and directed by Jason Croxall, ‘Retrograde’ began production in Nottingham in April 2013 and was completed in February 2014. The film will be submitted to film festivals and screenings across the country.”
Will – Adam Horvath
Annabel – Lara Huddless
Richard – Steve Best
You can read my review of Retrograde HERE
Read my interview with Indie Author Jack Croxall of Tethers
Don’t miss this other interview as Author Jack Croxall Discusses New Short Story ‘X’
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