Exhale is the first short film from Mill New York Creative
Director, Dan Williams.
The film is a visual and emotional representation of someone's
final journey between life and death. Each chapter symbolises
a separate moment of that process; a movement towards the light,
the last physical kicks, an outpouring of love, a release of fear,
and a final acceptance.
Dan Williams explains "I wanted to take a big idea and try and
distill it down into a series of simple and arresting images. My
main aim was to create something beautiful and resonant, imagery
that will linger in the mind. It's purposefully abstract so that
the audience can take what they want from it, drawing their own
conclusions and interpretations. Things in life aren't generally
spelled out, and I don't think they should be in art either. To me
it's the subjective nature of the film that is it's real
He continues, "When I came up with Exhale, I was looking at Tumblr
sites a lot and was struck by how much dark imagery people were
putting into their blogs. Death seemed to be far from the taboo
subject matter I initially felt it was, and this gave me the
confidence to follow through my vision."
Dan also talks about some of the key challenges made with the
creative and production support of the Mill New York.
"I was fortunate to have the support of my producer Zu Alkadiri,
who was with me throughout the entire journey. As this was our
first film together, we had no template to follow, so every stage
of the process felt like a jump into the unknown. All we knew was
that we didn't want to compromise at any juncture. I spent a long
time creating the treatment and this enabled me to attract a lot of
very skilled crew and talent who kindly gave their time and
services for next to nothing."
He adds: "The characters represent different elements of the
human psyche. It's important that you connect with each one
immediately so the casting became integral to the success of the
piece. We scoured New York for the right talent and found them from
a variety of sources. Two were models, one was a dancer/actress and
for the old man it was his first professional engagement. I was
particularly pleased with the honesty of his performance."
"I've been working in post -production for a long time now, so the
levels of finishing you see in Exhale derives from my experience as
a Flame artist and the high-bar of craftsmanship that the Mill is
renowned for. I had a great team behind me, and we worked
tirelessly to polish each vignette. All the backgrounds were
created in Flame or CGI using generated and natural textures. I was
extremely lucky to have the creative support and the access to
technology that the Mill has given me, it's been a real labour of
love and I'm very happy that so many people have come on the ride
"Sound design also played a crucial role in creating the mood and
tone of the film and was composed by the very talented guys at
Black Iris. The soundscape they created lent a very edgy and
contemporary quality to the piece. They went for sparseness and
discordant themes rather than melodic ones, which works perfectly
against richness of the visuals."
Dan concludes, "Hopefully I've made something unique and
affecting. I can see it living equally well as an installation,
online and at festivals. I want to continue making these personal
films alongside my more commercial work and can't wait to start the