When you are a pending film graduate, there is a lot of pressure around making your final year project. It's the film that you are going to show your prospective employers in the hopes of acquiring your dream job. It's possibly the last time you are going to have professional equipment at your disposal to do whatever you like with, and the last time you get to make something with a crew that is working towards a grade and not a wage. Dylan Whitty talked to us about his interesting, narratively unorthodox final year project, Everything Ends In Suburbia.
Everything Ends In Suburbia is about, "a young suburban dweller named Jed who loses himself in his fantasy about running away with his next-door neighbour." The film touches on a number of themes from life as a suburban: obsession; angst; sexual discovery; and repression.
Whitty took a lot from his life experience when creating this film. "I was infatuated with someone on my road when I was a kid, and I had a dream about running away with them." Writing from personal experience meant that he was able to capture a deeply personal film, which Whitty considers his best work to-date.
The film is set within the main character's dream-like state of mind, and allows the audience to make up their own mind about the film. "Someone said that they think he is stuck in purgatory." Although Whitty didn't want to subvert his audience's own imagination, he told us his take on the film: "the whole idea with the script is that he had actually died. While watching TV, he had suffered an aneurysm and the sequence where the camera moves towards him and things start to get very strange and weird, and it seems like he has fallen asleep, he has actually died."
Whitty talked about his interest with clichés in the film: "I really like the idea of using a cliché and subverting them. In a way that [David] Lynch does, I love that narrative technique and playing with audience's expectations. The film is all quite a cliché, but I like taking that and putting my own little spin on it." The film does not avoid clichés; it embraces them and recreates them in a way that is original to Whitty.
Because of this, we asked about the difference from the first draft to the shooting draft of the script. Whitty talked about the first draft having an entirely different ending, where Jed is revealed to be an anti-hero and his repression was due to a horrible thing he has committed. After a re-read, Whitty decided to re-write the script, keeping with the same themes and character; "it was like an organic process, it becomes something completely different."
One of the most interesting discoveries about the film's production is revealed in the credit reel. Whitty is named as the Writer, Director, Cinematographer and the Editor of the film. Each of these roles requires a huge amount of attention, so we asked him about making this decision, to effectively go it alone creatively.
"Whenever I write the script, this is why I never feel the need for a cinematographer. Whenever I write the screenplay, I write it in such a way that the shots are insinuated." Keeping the creative control of the film meant that Whitty was able to create the film he wanted. Being such a personal script to Whitty, he felt that handing off any of the creativity to someone else, that he was not 100% sure understood his creative direction, would be damaging to the film.
He also spoke honestly about sections of the film he still was not happy with. "The airplane scene where Jed is talking about his childhood, and there is the sound of airplanes in the sky, was just a bit too shaky for my liking, and he is out of focus. I could have done with some sort of stabiliser."
The film is shot predominantly at night using a limited amount of equipment. "We found that a lot of the time using equipment just limited us, which is strange considering it's supposed to make things easier." With this open mind to his production, Whitty was able to create a feeling of imminence and loneliness by using dimly lit locations and street lamps.
The street lamps are so prominent in the film, they become one of its defining characteristics to the point where it features in the opening shot. "I like honing in on very certain alien aspects of domestic life and the streets, so you'll notice the opening shot of Everything Ends is a street light, and you can hear the buzz of the street light." Doing this allowed an object, the street lamp, to tonally represent the film to the audience from the get-go.
Whitty is now working on more short films and a feature film script. He hopes that this film will be a stepping stone for his career in filmmaking. Everything Ends In Suburbia is being screened at METAL’s monthly film event at Edge Hill Station (Platform 3) in Liverpool on July 21st if you'd like to see it!