Film Curiosity sat down with Patrick Makin to chat about the adventures of his latest endeavour; his first feature film. Happy Birthday, Toby Simpson is a feel-good comedy and journey of self-discovery. Makin is an established script editor and screenplay writer and with this, he makes his move into the world of directing and producing.Firstly, congratulations on directing and producing your first feature film Happy Birthday, Toby Simpson.
Thanks! We just got five nominations for the British Independent Film Festival at the Empire, Leicester Square. It’s good to already have some nominations. There are so many festivals out there and it’s all very new to me but I shall learn!It’s so impressive that it’s your first film: you pulled it off so well.
Every single person I met who came on board was told by me that I had no experience making films, so that they would help me and I would listen to them. We all decided to cooperate. I think people came on board for that reason as this was a chance for artistic and creative freedom. I knew how to write but I’d never directed anything before, not even a short, so there was room to be listened to. Without them, the film wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t be here!The film is a true reflection of the creativity and artistic individuals you find in Bristol, where it was filmed. The story of Toby is an adventure to experience this creative, positive, and free way of life.
The whole thing was definitely an adventure. I wanted to do something different and while we were making it, the team involved were having a great time. Looking back on it I remember thinking, no matter what happens with this film, I will have had three weeks with these people where we’ve all had an amazing time. I think that still stands.We noticed you have some roles in the film yourself! Festival stoner and Toby’s father! How was it to be in front of the camera?
Well, it was needs must! There’s a scene where a stoner dances in the festival and takes off his shirt. That was my Alfred Hitchcock moment in front of the camera. We had people volunteering to do it but no one turned up. I had to do it myself and I was committed to dancing and taking my shirt off, but I did realise I was surrounded by families with small children! I also did the tannoy announcements in the festival, in a probably terrible Dorset accent. When there aren’t many people on a film, it’s all hands on deck.How did you find filming the festival scenes in the film?
We filmed at the End of the Road Festival in Wiltshire, and to make sure we didn’t encounter problems capturing copyright music (and to ensure crowds of drunk people were jumping in front of the camera) we arrived a week early. While the festival was being put up we did a lot of the filming with all the infrastructure up so a lot of the close-up dialogue is filmed before the festival started, and when it began we actually did the long shots but these were all filmed a week apart.
This was tricky as it makes things quite unplannable in the festival itself. We were really lucky with the weather, although filming outside makes consistent lighting conditions very difficult. It was great to be at the festival and we had complete access to everywhere, and the organisers were helpful.How would you describe the film's journey?
Long! The original idea for the whole film came about on a long car journey with my brother. He works in London but lives in Newbury and he had to travel to work on the train every day. He was doing this 9-5 suit and briefcase commute every day, except for three days a year he found himself surrounded by people going to Glastonbury.
Every year he’s thought “I could go to work…or I could carry on, on this train, and join all these people going to the festival, in my suit, with my briefcase and just see what happens!” So that was where the idea originated and that was four years ago. I wrote the film and eventually decided to produce and direct it myself. This might sound pretentious but there’s someone [Goethe] who said “there is boldness in beginning.” I think it’s about deciding to do something and just seeing where it takes you, but you have to make that decision to start.
On that positive note our interview drew to a close. Patrick Makin’s film will be making its way around the festival circuit, and just so you know, at the British Independent Film Festival 2017 the film won Best Feature Film, Best Leading Actor - Alexander Perkins and Best Music; it was also nominated for the British Lion Award, Best Actress - Edyta Budnik and Best Director. Incredible for Patrick Makin's first feature!