Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace are a directing team collectively known as thirtytwo. Their past projects include the documentaries No Distance Left to Run and Shut Up and Play the Hits, as well as collaborating with The Mill on a number of commercials such as Camelot ‘Giving', Kronenburg ‘Slow Music’ and KFC ‘Stairs’; but their most recent endeavor involved working with The Mill on 'Story of the Gun: Before the Dawn of the Apes (Year 10)', part of an online series commissioned by 20th Century Fox to partner the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
The ‘Before the Dawn of the Apes’ trilogy of short films fills in the backstory for the ten years between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. When a viral pandemic with no known cure sweeps the globe, only humans immune to 'Simian Flu' survived. Those who remained witnessed the chaos and destruction of society as we know it. 'The Gun' charts the devastation by tracing the journey of a shotgun, from owner to owner, in a world torn apart by the virus.
We caught up with Dylan and Will to find out what makes them creatively tick and how they got involved in such a huge sci-fi franchise.
How did you get together as a directing duo?
We met at university in Liverpool and bonded over a shared love of movies. We also did our final year’s project together - a documentary short about a community of transcendental meditators in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. After that we started a production company, and through a complete lack of business acumen, ended up employing our friends full time and languishing in corporate video hell for a few years in order to pay our wage bill. After we had run out of new ways to shoot people sitting at computers, we had a drastic rethink. We sold up and moved down to London to do what we really wanted to do without the stress of having to run a business. We signed to Pulse Films just as they were starting and grew with the company.
Who are your influences and inspiration?
Each other. Not really. I guess it changes all the time. There's all the obvious directors that directors like (Scorsese, Kubrick, Winner) but we generally find inspiration all over the place in loads of movies and good stories. Vague I know, but I wouldn't say there's one particular director or body of work that's THE influence or inspiration, it's more of a cumulative thing. There's inspiring stuff in bad movies and lame stuff in really good movies, so I think just watching as many as possible is really inspiring.
What are the benefits of directing in a collaborative way?
You can sneak off for a cigarette a bit more easily. You take it in turns to make tea when writing treatments which is a more time efficient process than solo directors enjoy. You have someone to bounce ideas off. I guess it's good to have each other’s backs but it’s also good to have someone to disagree with you when you go off on a bad tangent. We met a couple of older documentarians at a film festival once and when we asked them what they did, they answered by saying "We are a filmmaker". We're not quite at that stage yet. Thankfully.
Tell us more about ‘The Gun’ and the role it plays in the build up to Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.
It was a brief from Fox and Vice to create one of three films that would bridge the gap between Rise and Dawn. There's a ten year gap between the two movies during which humanity is ravished by the 'Simian Flu' virus that escapes the laboratory at the end of the first movie. The brief was to create a short that bridged that gap and showed what happened to human characters during that time. The budget was fairly limited and the stipulation was that no apes were to appear. It was much more about what was happening in the world away from the apes.
Our idea was to span the years by following a useful item (a gun) through the hands of various owners as the world goes from bad to worse. It was loosely inspired by the old James Stewart Western Winchester '73. It was a fairly ambitious idea for the money and the time we had (four weeks from brief to delivery), but we were able to pull it together somehow. We got an incredible cast and locations, the standout being Brad Carter, the crazed conspiracy theorist, whom we had seen recently in True Detective. It was a pleasure to work with him.
Are you big Science Fiction fans?
I guess so, amongst other genres. We grew up post Star Wars and ET so it was a big part of childhood. If we had to pick some favourite sci-fi, we'd probably jump straight to John Carpenter. We're both huge fans of The Thing and They Live (and Rowdy Roddy Piper movies in general) but The Thing is the one that really stands out. There's just something about the Antarctic setting and the paranoia of it. I remember seeing Terminator as a kid and being absolutely blown away by that too, and renting Robocop multiple times from our local video store (who were pretty lax about handing 18 certificates to kids.)
A lot of our favourite sci-fi films seem to have a real world element (Star Wars excepted) rather than the space opera of Star Trek. We like movies that bring those ideas into a real world context I guess. The other common theme is that they are all mega violent! So violent sci-fi from the 80s would be a more succinct answer!
There’s been so much buzz around this film and about 'The Gun' – how does it feel to be part of such a huge franchise?
It's been great to play a small role in this franchise. It was really exciting, but also daunting, to play with the mythology of something that people really care about. We didn't want to upset any fanboys, but the brief of just dealing with human survivors meant there wasn't too much we could meddle with. In the end, our approach was just to forget about the apes and make a film that was exciting to watch.
There's a couple of little nods to the originals in there such as a dashboard ornament of the statue of liberty that eventually gets covered over with trash and the initials carved into the gun are the same as Charlton Heston’s in the original; but ultimately we tried to make something that could work as a stand alone story as well.
What role did The Mill play in the final result?
The Mill were amazing and played an important role in the film. There were a number of effects shots that the team did a fantastic job on and James Bamford did an incredible job on the grade. We've worked with James a number of times and were really pleased that he was available and excited to work on this with us. We wanted a cinematic look that enhanced the natural tones and textures of our locations. We were really pleased with the results and the way James pushed it.
See more of thirtytwo’s work here and watch the full film below: