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Q&A with Oliver Nias, dir. of The Return at Raindance London

Tuesday 6 October 2015, by Abla Kandalaft

Director Oliver Nias’s first feature The Return premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in London, where it was nominated for Best UK Feature.

A sober, atmospheric atmospheric psychological thriller, the black and white production is an impressive first film and augurs well for Oliver’s next projects...

How would you describe the genre of the film? Where did the idea come from?

The Return is a psychological thriller about a small time criminal who screws up a heist and has to deal with the consequences. We really wanted to take the audience on a dizzying journey into the mind of a man during his darkest hour. We wanted to explore what happens to a good man in a tight corner and replicate the sensation of what it’s like to be caught on the wrong side of a lie.

Why black and white and 35 mm?

Atmosphere and practicality. I always saw The Return as a black and white film because it was a great way to transport the audience while using everyday locations. It was important to make familiar, street-level London just that little bit unfamiliar. Black and white helped heighten the narrative. It also tips the hat to the film noir tradition which we are indebted to.

We chose 35mm because it delivered the right atmosphere for a psychological thriller. We shot really quite tightly so it didn’t impact our budget. In fact, due to the quality of cast and crew we could attract - and everyone’s subsequent focus - film was actually cheaper than digital for us. The Return shot digitally would have cost us more. If your shooting ratio is spare then film needn’t be expensive.

How did you get the cast and crew together?

For a lot of the cast and crew, this was their first feature, which was great because we were all in the same boat. And most of them were friends. The Return was the result of work and effort on the part of tireless and talented friends. I owe them a lot. It was the only was the film could get made.

As a first feature, how did you produce and fund it?

I produced The Return out of necessity. I was 26 when we shot the film and no one was going to give me the time or money to shoot it. And I don’t blame them. When it came to it, pre-production was just three of us with mobile phones, laptops and a car for scouting. The rest was just juggling and jig-saw puzzling. I have been running a production company for several years so it was just an extension of that work on both operational and budgetary fronts.

Tell us a bit more about the soundtrack?

The soundtrack should be listened to while watching the film. That’s what the brilliant composer Richard Canavan worked hard at - placement, subtlety, the inner world of the characters. The score accompanies the images. The soundtrack speaks for itself.

What’s your background in filmmaking?

I started shooting music videos when I was at university studying English Literature. There weren’t that many hours of lectures so I just carried on directing throughout the three years and didn’t stop when I left. I shot all sorts of videos over a couple of years and worked on finding a way to make a high concept, low budget film. That’s where The Return came from.

What’s on the cards for you now?

There’s a film I’m working on about a brand new type of criminal. I’ve become quite interested in rivalry recently…

Cryptic... Click here for more on Oliver Nias’s work and The Return at

Any message or comments?

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