After winning a BAFTA for BBC drama 'Poldark' and having directed many successful advertising campaigns , Mill+ Director William McGregor has just completed his debut feature film ‘Gwen’.
'Gwen' is a thriller starring Eleanor Worthington-Cox and Maxine Peake. The film portrays a young girl who struggles with her mother’s mysterious illness, her father's absence and a group of angry villagers threatening to take her farm, she must find the strength to guide her family through the darkness.
We caught up with William to talk about the inspiration for 'Gwen', his filmmaking process and more;
How did you end up Directing a feature?
It was a long road, starting with a shot film that caught the attention of producer Hilary Bevan Jones in 2009 at a student film festival. The BFI came on board soon after, and we spent 8 years in development.
Can you give us a brief synopsis?
It’s an anticapitalist folk story set in Snowdonia during the Industrial Revolution.
Where did the idea/ inspiration/ story come from?
A mix of my fascination with folklore and the wild landscape of Snowdonia.
What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process?
Filmmaking is an inch by inch process, and is often described as like climbing a mountain. But if your actually climbing a mountain and clawing inch by inch through mud then that can make the process much harder. The elements and landscape definitely added their own challenges. But also enhanced the film no end. It wouldn’t be the same if we had shot it in a comfortable studio.
Which character do you feel closest to and why?
Gwen, we see the story through her eyes, I think her relationship with her family and her coming of age is a very universal story we can all relate too. But I also relate a lot to the young boy who should have stood up to the community and helped Gwen, but just stood by and watched the horror’s unfold.
How important was the casting process?
Casting is everything. It’s one of the most important jobs as a director, getting the right cast. And I was very lucky on Gwen to be working with such a fantastic cast. I owe a lot of the success of the film to the cast.
Highlight of the process?
Hearing my characters read out aloud for the first time in rehearsals. After spending so long with them in my head it was very special to see them come alive for the first time.
Were there any drastic changes to the story whilst shooting? Alternative endings?
When I write and direct its very different to working in commercials or even shooting drama, I can be much more malleable and I like to let things evolve on set. Always keeping an eye on a better way of doing a scene. So there where quite a few small changes, from where scenes where set to tweaking dialogue. I enjoy working that way. We would even find new scenes on set when we had time. The dream like scene of Gwen in the chapel was completely improvised on the day.
How will your experience on a feature change the way you work on short form?
I think you learn from everything you do, earning a greater understanding of your own taste and interest. I feel more confident in my own voice after making my first feature film. And I’d love to bring that individual style to my commercials even more in the future.
How do you see the role of a Director in 2019 working in multiple fields?
I don’t see myself as working across three different industries, no matter what I do I’m just directing and telling a story. This year I have directed commercials, a massive TV drama for HBO and will be releasing my first feature film. But I don’t see these as separate things, I just love directing and telling stories.
Funniest on-set story?
There’s some great behind the scenes stills of Eleanor and Maxine wearing their keep warms, which had hoods with teddy bear ears on them. Which is a funny sight when matched with period costume. Its the small things that keep you going.
Gwen is released in cinemas on 19th July 2019.
View William’s Commercial Reel here.