Blog by: Leon Chambers
What inspired you come up with the idea for the film?
ABOVE THE CLOUDS was the idea that just wouldn’t go away. The title came to me after taking off from a rainy London and staring out at bright blue skies for the entire flight, before landing in an equally rainy New York. I have always loved road movies and I read a review of a British film that said that problem with a road movie set in the UK, is that it’s never going to be a long journey. So I set upon the idea that if the journey was from the south of England to a remote Scottish Island, and the driver couldn’t use motorways as they didn’t have a full driving license, it would make it much more of a challenge. And the story grew out of that.
Why did you want to tell this story?
I wanted to tell an uplifting story that was more akin to a US Indie film, than the dark and downbeat films that are often produced on a budget in Britain.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
Like Charlie, I think we all wonder if this is it. Is this the life I am going to have? I’m not sure my eighteen-year-old self would imagine I’d be making films. But I always knew I wanted to do something creative and not a regular job. Though unlike Charlie my parents were always supportive and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
When I decided that I was going to produce the film myself on a tiny budget, we moved the beginning of the film out of London and to Margate, a southern seaside town. This added so much, as Charlie wanting to escape a gentle seaside town made more sense.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
Going ahead with the film! I nearly pulled the plug two weeks before production, as we were struggling to cast the part of Charlie. So I needed to decide if I was going to shut the whole thing down and lose the money that was already committed or go all-in and see this thing through. I’m glad to say thanks to Irene (casting director) coming on board, we did another round of auditions and when Naomi started to read, I just knew we had found her!
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
I always like to have everything in place. Tricky when working on a very limited budget and shooting a road movie in the UK with our weather. Although we did have to come up with some creative solutions to avoid the rain, we only lost one day to the weather. I really love the control of working on a set in a studio; it removes so many ‘what ifs?’ For the main shoot, we actually turned my house into a studio and shot seven different scenes on sets built in my living room. And for the final scenes where Charlie meets her father we shot those in a studio in London, which not only allowed us to have a wonderfully designed set, but the total control enabled us to work quickly, as Naomi was in the middle of a UK tour when we filmed those scenes and we had a limited window to get them shot!
What influenced the visual style of the film?
I certainly had films like Sideways and Little Miss Sunshine in mind when making the film. I wanted the look of the film to reflect the uplifting feel of the story, so we embraced the primary colours in nature with a bright yellow car at the centre of it.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
Making any kind of film is a risk and more so when it’s your own money and not a lot of it. I centred the production around my own home in order to save money, but that meant there was no escape for a number of weeks. Putting over two years of my life into making ABOVE THE CLOUDS, while still trying to pay the bills was certainly a risk to my health!
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screenwriting or film producing?
I made my first film because I decided I didn’t want to be someone who kept talking about making a movie and not actually doing it. I was either going to make a film or shut up. That first film was shot on a MiniDV camcorder with no crew and went on to win an award. So I’d say just find a way with whatever kit you can get your hands on and tell your story.
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