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Smari Gunn - 'Wheels' Director Q&A

We're immensely proud to be playing this genre-blending short, and winner of our VFF 'Best Comedy' award, as part of the festival. We caught up with director, Smari Gunn, to get his take on this delightful 6minute picture

VFF: Without wanting to spoil things for first time viewers, Wheels needs you to have a real grasp on two different genres: action/thriller & comedy. How does your approach as a director differ for both?

SG: Without spoiling too much I think I can say from the moment the idea of the twist came about I always felt that the thriller aspect was a tool to serve the comedy as well as disguising what the film is in my opinion: an experiment of audiences preconceived ideas about representation of characters in film. I think comedy comes more naturally to me as a director so my approach to the thriller/action part of the film was very much to create tension, and get the actors to play the scenario as a worst case scenario for someone who is home alone and there is an intruder in the house. I felt the more we could build on that, would allow for an even more pleasing comedy moment.

VFF: There’s a real range of music in the film, can you talk to us about your choices and what you were looking to achieve with them?

SG: The idea was always to have Joseph listening to a piece of classical music on his cassette player. I wanted a piece that could convey serene and calm, as well as something that could be considered almost ritualistic. Something that would give you the sense that he always listens to this song. We landed on Strauss's Blue Danube because it encapsulates both those things and I also enjoyed the nod to film history as the song has became almost more known for being the opening piece in 2001: A Space Odyssey. With the score we needed firstly to convey a tense thriller chapter for the film and then a comedic realisation moment. Dike Okoh, one of the producers and co-writers, wrote some of the music for the film and we supplemented that with pieces we felt fit the different chapters. There is one more piece of music that is sort of a wild card in there, to contrast characters/situation with music that you might not expect, and it creates a different dynamic in the film, breaks it up. We thought it would be funny to give Claire, who is waiting in the car, a signature song which would be a hardcore gangster rap, and we found this great song to do that and give her character an extra dimension.

VFF: You’ve gotten your hands on one hell of a location - is it the director’s own house?

SG: I wish this was my house, it's incredible. We were really lucky to get this location as producer and writer Gary Morecambe knows the lovely people who own this house near St Albans and they were so kind to let us film there for a few hours. It really was just a few hours as we started shooting around 4 in the afternoon and wrapped at 22.00. We tend to work pretty fast and that is credit to the team, The DOP Mark Kuczewski, producer Stephanie and the actors, Reece and Bruce who are real pro's.

You can catch Wheels at Close-Up Cinema, Shoreditch, Saturday 19 February 4-6pm, or as part of our Online Programme through Eventbrite until the end of the month.

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