David Storr

25-year-old David Storr is the 2002 winner of the Nike Young Directors’ Award. His three-minute film “Every Night I Go Running” picked up the award in front of an audience of 300 at The National Film Theatre in London on 8th October 2002. The auspicious panel of judges who deemed David’s film the best from a total of 3 finalists, included amongst others, British Olympic Gold medallist Denise Lewis, director Gurinder Chada (“Bend it Like Beckham”) and the actor James Fox.

David’s route to success in this competition was meteoric, after gaining a degree in graphic design; he completed a short but intensive film course at the New York Film School (an accolade that unfortunately came with a large financial burden which, David informs me he is still paying off!). This experience increased David’s’ hunger for filmmaking whilst equipping him with many of the skills that are essential for working creatively in the industry, and he set about looking for ways to spotlight and develop his knowledge and passion. He subsequently produced a treatment for a three-minute drama dealing with the subject of sport for the Nike Young Directors Award scheme. His work was selected and placed on a shortlist with the work of two other finalists, where upon Nike awarded £7000 to each finalist with the intention of turning their written work into films. The result was three superbly put together short films, from which David’s emerged the winner.

David hopes his success will be a springboard to bigger and brighter things and he is currently thinking up new ideas and looking around for other projects whilst working as a freelance graphic designer for Sky Television.

David happily agreed to answer a few of our questions on Monday 28th October 2002:

Future Movies: What inspired the film. Where did the idea come from?

David Storr: I wanted to recreate the spontaneity of sport but also to address the perception of sport from the mind of one who is disabled or incapacitated. I once broke my ankle and I tried to re-invoke the feelings that I was experiencing at the time surrounding the physical inability to undertake sporting activity. I was also influenced by something the actor Christopher Reeve said: “I go to play sport in my mind”, I wanted to concentrate on this without being in any way negative about disability.

FM: How did you get involved in the Nike Young Director Award and what made you enter the competition?

DS: Whilst doing some freelance Graphics work I saw advertisement for the award in the periodical “Creative Review”. I was always interested in getting into filmmaking through short film competitions so I decided to go for it. I had previously entered the Tower Hamlets Film Project, where you have to submit both a script and a detailed budgeting plan. With the Nike award you only had to submit an initial treatment, the script was developed when you made it into the second stage.

FM: was this your first attempt at filmmaking?

DS: No, I had done bits and pieces before, most notably at the New York Film Academy, where I learnt a lot. There I produced a number of short scripts and turned them into films, so I felt ready to start submitting my ideas to filmmaking competitions.

FM: Did you find it difficult to get your thoughts and ideas down on paper and subsequently did you find it hard to then transfer them to the screen?

DS: At the Film Academy I had found that the process of trying to describe action was interesting and challenging, this was increased by the fact that the film contained no actual dialogue. The hardest part of the whole process was probably in trying to work towards the twist in the tale at the end. You need to provide a build in the middle that rises as the ending approaches. We did this by presenting the runner with a number of challenges that he has to overcome physically in the different locations (such as where he hurdles an old stone wall) during the course of the story, to provide the necessary meat in the body of the piece.

FM: How much did your original idea develop or change as you went into production, were any details omitted or introduced?

DS: Bits and pieces were omitted mostly for logistical reasons. For example I had a scene in mind where the runner breaks into a clearing of flowers, but we simply couldn’t find a location that was suitable. As an alternative my Director of Photographer suggested we do a shot that made it into the final film where the runner runs along a narrow path enclosed by a dark forest. On location your shot log does go out of the window. In the early stages you have ideas in your mind and some stay in the final piece (such as the wall jumping scene) but due to practical problems, some do not, for example some shots I had in mind of the runner passing through the City of London had to be removed. It is best to be as flexible on location as you can, remember your key shots that accurately tell the story, but be flexible in between. Luckily I had a very good DP who contributed a lot of valuable input, and we shot a lot of coverage on location to cover our backs.

FM: What format was your film shot on?

DS: Nike stipulated that it had to be a digital format so we shot it on Digi-Beta. Again the DP was fantastic, he made the most of the medium by using filters to enhance the visual effects. Also the playback facility of shooting on tape ensured that we could check our footage everyday

FM: Was the three-minute maximum running time as stipulated by the competition ever a hindrance?

DS: Not really, I am used to working in Graphics where you create spots that run for 3 or 5 seconds so 3 minutes felt like a lot. The rough cut we did came to a running time somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes and we had to cut it down. There were things didn’t want to lose but I had to force myself to, my editor was really helpful in selecting the parts to omit. I enjoyed the way that in 3 minutes you can be really concise about what you want to say.

FM: How much creative control did you retain over the film, and how much technical assistance was available to you?

DS: My major creative input was obviously the initial idea, and also the structure. On the actual shoot I became heavily involved in the logistical demands of the production, which I discovered bogged me down a little bit at times. It was really hard work and at times gruelling, and in the future, with the advantage of hindsight, I would push that away to concentrate more on thinking about the film more closely. However, the shooting experience was a real challenge. I would have welcomed more shooting time too, getting everything shot in the allotted time scale put us under a lot of pressure!

FM: What worked really well in “Every Night I Go Running” was the way in which sport as a vehicle to express a more meaningful and poignant message – was this your intention all along?

DS: Well, the intention from the beginning was always to firstly highlight the disabled experience and to focus on the emotions of sport and what you can get out of it. I saw running as a pure sport (no teams are involved), which works really well in the cinema. It has a cinematic history in films such as “Forrest Gump” and “The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner”, and it holds a great potential for storytelling.

FM: Many of the shots and cuts in your film are extremely professional in terms of quality. For example the smoothly edited sequence where the runner hurdles’ the stone wall – Did you have a clear idea of how the shots and sequences would link together at the outset or did you concentrate on the story and hope that the more technical elements would fall into place later?

DS: I concentrated more on the overall approach, working to get all the scenes to fit together, trying to achieve a grand, sweeping feel. Our cameraman was superb and he sat on a quad bike to obtain many of the moving shots of the runner, it turned out to be an ideal way of shooting these scenes and we got a lot of good coverage from different angles. We toyed with using a steady cam, but the quad bike turned out to be just as effective and was easier to use. The DP was really good at making the whole thing look epic and we tried to capture some beautiful shots of the scenery, especially on location in Wales. The whole idea was to transport people to another place and I think we achieved this.

FM: Did you use storyboards?

DS: Yes, in the early stages, and I had them with me on the set. But you never know exactly what you might shoot on the day so you can’t adhere to them precisely. They work well as a shot log and to retain the original visual ideas in your mind. I had previous experience of making storyboards in my graphic work.

FM: You resisted adding music to the film, was there a particular reason for this?

DS: Music has its place in film, but I believe that many films are over scored, and you can be really clever and subtle with sound design. We made the voice-over more prominent and enhanced the atmospheric noise with builds and rumbles through the forest and the city streets; these effects really put you in the runners’ environment. The tracklayer collected a lot of sounds for us and the sound mixer was really helpful in making suggestions about what would work and what wouldn’t.

FM: Who are your favourite filmmakers and did they influence your creative processes in your production?

DS: I love the visual aspects and the surreal nature of David Lynch’s work. I also admire Ridley Scott, he shoots in a very visual way and he has a background in design. Wim Wenders too, he shoots some gorgeous shots and Michael Haneke; his films (such as “Code Unknown”) always make you think.

FM: What did you think of the second and third placed entries?

DS: Well, I was just very surprised to win! “The Fan” (second place) was very slick and cut really well. “Emulsion” (third place) was beautifully shot and conveyed an effective mood and atmosphere. It was good to see the films and talk to the guys about what they did at the end of the process, because we saw nothing of each other throughout the shooting.

FM: What did you learn from the experience?

DS: I got a taste of all the filmmaking elements, such as the designing, the editing and the sound engineering. It was great to learn things from people with a lot of industry experience. I also learnt that filmmaking is hard, all-consuming work that sets you on a steep learning curve that is ultimately rewarding, especially when you see your finished film. I can’t wait to move onto the next project now.

FM: Has you career taken off since winning the award?

DS: Not really at the moment. I am still putting this film out there, and trying to build up a showreel, the press coverage is all very helpful in eventually allowing me to step up to directing other things. I would like to move into music videos and commercials in the near future.

FM: Have you any other ideas for short films that you would like to develop?

DS: I have a couple of ideas here and there, and I often go back to old ideas to flesh them out to see if they will work. I try to keep writing all the time and maybe one day I will get round to starting that elusive feature script

FM: Finally, Do you have any advice for young filmmakers?

DS: Stick at it. If you are passionate and really want to do it there are a lot of competitions out there to enter and a lot of opportunities to exploit. Get out there and do it and learn, and keep at it despite the knock backs. There are a lot of new toys to play around with, such as Digital Film, so get your hands on them. If you have got the talent the world is your oyster!

Read the review: Every Night I Go Running

Thanks to David for his time, and to Rob Lowe of Freud Communications for making the whole interview possible

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