Your movie Kandahar
Break - in a few words, what is it about?
A mine clearance engineer working in Afghanistan in 1999 (so before
9-11) falls foul of the Taliban government in Kandahar and must
escape the country. It's an adventure movie.
to my information, you have been to Afghanistan some years before making Kandahar
Break - so to what extent did that trip inspire your movie, and
what do you find so fascinating about the place to begin with?
first trip there totally inspired the move. I loved Afghanistan when
I went there in 2002, I found it to be an enthralling, epic and
ancient place, and when the opportunity came up to make a low budget
film in 2007, I decided to set it there and film it in Balochistan in
Pakistan, which is very similar. On my 2002 trip there was some
trouble in Kabul and we had to leave the city, but there were no flights
out, so we had to go overland through the Khyber pass into Pakistan. This
experience led me to think that a movie - "escape from
Afghanistan"-type concept - might be interesting.
sources of inspiration when writing Kandahar
Just the adventure movies I grew up watching
- Raiders of the Lost Arc and such like. I also wanted to inject a
political element into the film as well, having seen films like Syriana. I have a deep and burning interest in geo-political affairs and
it often rubs off in my work.
As far as I know, Kandahar
Break was shot on the Afghan-Pakistan border, and has the
distinction of being the first western film having been shot there. So
what can you tell us about the region, and why shoot a movie in what's
according to all reports a rather dangerous area in the first place?
hindsight, with the security situation being so fragile, it was not a
good thing to do, and I wouldn't do it again. I'm a much more responsible,
mature producer now and wouldn't go somewhere like that again to shoot a
film. But I have to say the place was wonderful and the people were
incredibly friendly. And it's a real mix of ethnicities and languages
- you're mixing with Pashtuns and Balochi's and Hazara's (descendants of
the Mongols), and I learnt a lot about the ongoing political dilemmas
there. It's also a beautiful area - stark desert, mountains and very hot.
But it's very dangerous and we had to have a lot of security. The danger causes
an extra stress which on top of all the other stresses when making a
film just adds to the pressure. Looking back it was an incredible
experience, a total adventure - lots of guns, desert, adrenaline. But
at the time I was also very stressed and it was a tough shoot -
so mixed memories.
can you tell us about the actual shoot, and the trials and tribulations of
shooting in a region as unstable as yours?
I've ever done. Everyday was like walking through treacle - 50
degree heat and a ton of problems constantly slowing us down and putting
us behind. There were guns everywhere, and at times I wondered what I'd gotten
myself into. But the crew were excellent (both UK and Pakistani locals)
and we gradually became a fast, efficient unit. There were constant,
hourly compromises, which was frustrating, but I realised we were getting
through the material and actually making a film that was working. The
locals were very nice and welcoming, and the landscape and production
design was great, but many of the problems we encountered were due to the
heat, the sand, the time-keeping of our drivers, security, and our
kit also broke down a couple of times due to the heat.
Shaun Dooley, David Whitney
You of course
have to talk about your directorial approach to your subject at hand for a
Storyboards are essential for me, although I sometimes
deviate from them on set when the shit hits the fan and you have to
improvise and change things to speed up.Then its just a case of
ensuring that you grab the essence of the scene - its importance, its
relevance and meaning to the story, when you shoot it.
What can you tell us about your cast, and how
easy/hard was it to get actors to shoot in the Afghan-Pakistan border
Shaun Dooley is a well known character actor in the
UK, and I sent him the script and appealed to his sense of adventure. He
was fantastic, both as an actor and a captain on set. For the Afghans we
cast local actors from Quetta, where there is a TV studio making drama,
and they are good actors but not used to working at our pace, so we had
some issues there, but overall I was very pleased with them.
What can you tell us about audience and critical
reception of your movie?
It was mixed. We had some great
reviews, like in the Huffington Post, but also some poor ones, which is to
be expected. To be honest, after what we had gone through to get the movie
made, I was just glad that we actually finished the film - that it didn't
collapse, and so to actually have critics reviewing a film that had been
released was quite a miracle.
As far as I know, prior to (and
since, if I'm not mistaken) Kandahar
Break you've worked mainly for television and on shorts - so what
can you tell us about your other filmwork?
I've done a lot
of TV commercials and corporate films, but shorts and drama are, I think,
my forte and since the film came out I have made more short films.
projects you'd like to share?
I'm currently attached to a
few features - all in the financing stage, some with cast attached and
part financed already. Making the next feature, it's important that there
is more money and I have more time.
What got you into
filmmaking to begin with, and how did you learn the trade?
love telling stories, and being creative. I also love the film life.
I've worked in factories and done mundane office jobs. I worked in a
factory for months breaking up chip boards and part of a
submarine, and then I worked in a sandblasting factory in Bolton,
where I come from. It was boring and I was depressed, hating every
minute of it and dreading going to work. Being a director is invigorating
and I love going to work everyday.
would you describe yourself as a director?
That's why I want bigger budgets and more time, so I can become more
demanding and get it how I want it more of the time.
who inspire you?
Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, John McTiernan, Fincher, Spielberg,
Coppola, Alexander Payne, Tony Scott, Terence Malick.
I'm not just a fan of their films, I really study their films -
the shots, the style, the camera movement (or lack of movement in
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
my favourites and not necessarily films that I think are the best, but are
my faves for personal reasons: Raiders of the Lost Arc and Predator. But I
do have my art-house side as well, and I love going to film festivals and
watching smaller independent films and European Cinema. I saw an
Austrian film called Michael at the Bratislava Film Festival
and it was one of the best films I'd seen that year. Bullhead,
a Belgian film that I saw at a film fest last year, was a film
that really inspired me. I didn't like The White Ribbon though.
and of course, films you really deplore?
None really. I'm
open to anything.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
for the interview!