I Don't Want To Share Your Love is the newest release from Nottingham-based A9 Films - Sofia Jones speaks to its screenwriter and director, Alfie Rowley-Stone, all about it…
Alfie Rowley-Stone began A9 Films to put himself on camera, and subsequently created Time Keeps Ticking and What Have I Become - films he both directed and starred in. But, also interested in the filmmaking process in its own right, I Don’t Want To Share Your Love sees Alfie focus solely on his work behind the camera.
As soon as the film begins, we understand the dynamic, and it is a familiar one: a young couple spend a summer’s day together at the lake; Dan Poacher as Ozzy and Izzy Johnson as Emilia do a superb job as a couple in love - not gushy, not overwrought, but real.
The film’s setting only adds to this sense of believability, and is one Nottingham locals will recognise. A beautiful lake is surrounded by trees, greenery, and massive pylons: we’re in Hoveringham. The surroundings appear to reflect a feeling between them - they are the only two people in the world, and we watch as they slowly fill up their day.
Their flirting is a little juvenile, as they race one another in the water and play truth or dare. It feels as though, at times, we are being intentionally distracted by the film. Although they talk with ease and seem to enjoy their day, there is a feeling that something lies just beneath the surface. What is it that is being left unsaid?
As the film unfolds, we realise that tomorrow is a big day for them, because Ozzy is going away. We understand, then, that it is not us being distracted, but rather that they have been distracting themselves.
The sparsity of dialogue gives depth to the short, but when given a single watch, there are perhaps moments that are lost in translation. Yet there is an easy fix: just like we hope for a reunion between Ozzy and Emilia, we should return to I Don't Want To Share Your Love and watch it again and again.
You started by focusing on relationships in your film Time Keeps Ticking, and then to a story-led plot in What Have I Become. Now, it seems you’re focusing on relationships again. What was the choice behind that?
The first two I wrote as random stories. I just wanted to start writing and put myself on camera to have showreel content. I wrote the films, but it wasn't like I was in love with that type of film. Whereas with this one, I wanted to write the type of film I like to watch - European romance. I took influence from those European films where nothing really happens; they're very slow and there’s no dramatic story to them. It's about having characters that you like, or characters that you want to watch. Obviously, you have to have some kind of jeopardy in there to make a short film entertaining, but I’ll happily watch films where they just lie about all day.
Are there any films you’re thinking of in particular?
La Piscine is one that comes to mind. I also watched a film called Y tu mamá también and there’s a beach scene towards the end of that film where the setting is nice - it could have been around that time that I had the idea. Although I was speaking to my mate in the pub after we showed it, and he said it reminded him of Call Me by Your Name - and that film is slow, you feel the heat.
I wanted it to feel like they were really a couple that had been together for years - and the actors did it perfectly
In your first film, you said that you used a handheld camera to make us feel like one of the friendship group. How did your filming direction change in this film?
The more I make films, the more I love the close shots. You have to have the wide shots for builders and in the edit - technically, you always need the wider shots - but my favourite ones are always the close ones, because you can see everything, in terms of the character’s face.
Are there any moments you wish had, or hadn’t, been in the final cut?
When I watch it back now, there are lines I don't like. But I spoke to my friend Scott, who runs 4AM Pictures, and he was surprised how much of the film I’d used and didn’t have to cut out. To be honest, it all pretty much went in, bar like thirty seconds. I read it, and I read it, and I read it, and I changed it all myself. After the auditions and I had all the actors, we had a couple of read-throughs and then I changed it again. So then, by the time we’re filming, naturally I know I like it already.
When writing lines with a couple that is already established, it is really hard to make it entertaining, but also real. I had to think of little funny things, like the truth or dare. I wanted them to be a relatable couple, but then at the same time, it’s a film I want people to want to watch. So tying things into conversations was the hardest thing by far, and making it feel genuine - not cliché, but also nice to watch.
What was the process when finding actors?
I put auditions out and a fair few people applied. It was weird being the person doing auditions, because normally I’m the one on the other side. I did the first round and got it down to eight - I think it started in the high thirties. It was lovely to know that people were just up for acting; they hadn’t even read the script. For the second round, what I did was - because I don’t have the budget to book a room all day - I had them all on Zoom and everyone just had to wait in the break-out room and I had to do chemistry tests with each person.
The chemistry needed to be right, because in the film you can really tell they’re good together. It’s my script, but it doesn’t feel like I made it. When I write the words, generally they’re okay, but I don’t like how they sound, then they say them out loud and it brings it all to life and I like it. They were so real, I wanted it to feel like they were really a couple that had been together for years - and Dan and Izzy did it perfectly.
What is next for you?
These films are totally self-funded, just because I love it. I want to try and get funding for the next one, and to get more people involved to make it a more polished project. At the minute I film everything in one day, because that’s what I can afford to do, we’re restricted by locations, but the next idea I have, it’s got scope to be lovely and in loads of different places. I’m not going to restrict myself to just Notts, but you better believe I’m flying the flag.
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