Interview with Simon London, director of That Workman’s Arm
Sunday 6 March 2022, by ,
What motivated you to tell the story of these two characters? What did you want to explore through their relationship?
I was interested in telling a story about understanding. I wanted to bring two characters together who might see each other in a unique and forgiving way, even though they have been pitted against each other by a situation they didn’t create. It’s an exploration of human connection despite circumstance and the vulnerabilities we all have. I’m also really interested in the power of natural environments on how we relate to each other. The world is getting so angular and digitised, along with the financial systems, which all seem to be creating more divisions than genuine connections.
How did you cast the actors?
It was important to me that the actors approached the piece with great simplicity and truth. I wanted it to feel deeply embodied. I’ve known Matthew for a long time. He acted in a crazy live show I co-created which we toured internationally in 2013-2015. Following that we wrote and directed a short film together called The Calf, so we’ve really developed a great understanding of each other’s approach and sensibilities. I wrote this part with him in mind so I was thrilled when he agreed to do it. I’d been very aware of Donogh for a long time but we’d never worked together before. I approached her and she really made sense of the role. She embodied the core energies of the character in such a specific and natural way. Erroll and I were filming a television series together when I realised he would be the perfect person to join the trio. All three are great artists in my opinion. I was very lucky to work with them.
What types of subjects appeal to you as a filmmaker?
I’m fascinated by humanity in a timeless sort of way and how we are pulled away from ourselves by society and sometimes our own psychology. But it’s our essential humanity I’m drawn towards. Our deep, fundamental needs. It’s often the simplest human connection or kindness which moves me most deeply. The counter to that is the sometimes negative extremes we might go to in an attempt to fulfill those needs. That appeals too.
What are you looking to focus on in the near future?
That Workman’s Arm is the first film I have made on my own and was made for my application to film school – I’m doing an MA at The National Film & Television School in the UK for two years, so will be focusing on that until the beginning of 2023. I have just completed my first film at the school and will be making two more before I graduate. I am also negotiating the rights for a New Zealand historical novel which I would like to use as source material for a feature film in the next few years.
Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?
Taika Waititi’s film Two Cars, One Night (2009) introduced me properly to the whole concept of short films. I hadn’t really paid attention before that. It really moved me. The depth of pathos, humour, creativity and human respect reflected in that film just blew me away and opened up my imagination. I love it.
What’s your definition of a good film?
Something which I can lose myself in, which makes me think and feel and sparks a recognition of truth in me. A good film has depth and complexity and I’m a very visual person, so great cinematography is everything.