We interviewed Aeddan Sussex, the director behind Chopsticks!! His film won Best Film and Audience Choice at Fighting Spirit 2018. He is a brilliant filmmaker with a bright future, so we hope you enjoy getting to know the young Keanu doppelgänger.
Describe yourself in three fictional characters.
I’m thinking of like Dragon Ball Characters, that’s all I can think of. I’d say, this is gonna be really nerdy by the way, Sora from Kingdom Hearts, Lelouch from Code Geass and I’ll just say Sing from Kung Fu Hustle.
What sparked your interest in filmmaking?
Well ever since I was young I used to film like random little videos of my brothers. It was just random. It was just us messing around like beating each other up and stuff like that and ever since then I’ve always had an interest in filming stuff. It always kind of felt natural. I’d never felt alien to be picking up a camera and shooting with it and I really enjoyed doing it in High School. The first proper thing I did by myself was make this music video and even to this day I still really enjoy watching it. I think it kind of holds up. It’s a good way to express my own feelings in film and it’s a way I can show off my own kind of comedy and I have fun doing it as well, that’s one of the main draws to it. Like the whole process of writing to filming and even editing, the entire process is just fun to me. That’s kind of why I am so interested in it.
How do you describe your filmmaking style?
My filmmaking style well a lot of my stuff is genre, very genre oriented films, like I did a dark comedy musical before this. Like a lot of my work is homages to stuff I like, so I can borrow from welts of different genres of history of films and stuff like that and take all the best bits of what I like and make my own little spin to it.
Do you have tips and tricks for directing?
For directing. It definitely helps to know how to do a bit of everything, so I wouldn’t be here today if I also didn’t know how to edit and also act and also produce everything, like that just knowing what other people can do so you know what to expect of other people. I think that’s a really valuable skill in directing and so you’re not asking too much and you know what is actually possible from someone else.
How do you deal with stress during filming?
Dealing with stress is, oh I mean filmmaking is an incredibly stressful situation, so the best thing to do is just kind of have people to rely on. It’s like during Chopsticks!! I had my first A.D. and the D.O.P, we would always just kinda like look out for each other and while the whole crew really. It just made it such an easier time cause I knew I could trust people, where I knew I could rely on these people so it really helped with stress.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned about filmmaking at university?
The best lesson is really the experience of being at uni, because essentially you can learn everything you need to know from uni online, through courses and stuff like that, but what you can’t be taught is the experience of actually doing stuff, so I’m very lucky. I went to Middlesex University and I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with big groups in projects, there’s no risk involved, because it’s all just exercise and it’s just so you can learn for yourself and that was the most valuable thing I got from uni really.
What’s been the most proudest moment of your career?
Probably winning Fighting Spirit, the award for Best Film.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years time, hopefully accepting an Oscar up on the stage I’m kidding. I’m hoping to be doing more bigger scale things, having gone to Fighting Spirit I realised that doing action films and stuff like this is actually a route I could take, which I never really thought was an option before so, it’s been interesting. It’s kind of changed how I see myself in the future really.
Are there any actors you want to work with in the future?
I would love to work with Keanu Reeves, especially like John Wick, to do something like that with him would be pretty cool. Also my entire life I’ve been compared to looking like Young Keanu Reeves, like Bill and Ted, so it’d be interesting to actually work with him in the future.
Also Jackie Chan. I mean he’s just my hero, so you know to work with Jackie Chan would make my life. I wouldn’t need to work, make another film, if I could work with Jackie Chan.
What advice would you give for people who want to get into filmmaking?
For someone that hasn’t done filmmaking before, the best thing to do, I mean it’s very cliche but go out and do it. I mean even if it’s something tiny like running for a feature. There’s loads of places you can apply to or even just running post house or something as long as you can get your foot in the door and have a taste of what it’s like, you can kind of decide whether or not you like it, whether or not it’s the lifestyle for you, but I’m sure you can decide once you can actually get your foot in.
How do you think the film industry could improve?
Definitely more diversity in not only like directors, and crew, but also kind of like the cultures shown in films especially like in Hollywood. We need more Asian directors, Asian crew and everything like that. But I mean it’s been getting better with like Crazy Rich Asians, that being a box office smash hit. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities, so if we keep going in that direction, it's only going to be good.
What are your favourite kind of stories you write?
I usually love comedies. I always kinda make whatever I do a little bit funny, but I mean having written dramas before as well, it’s either one end or the other so, either a really funny comedy you can feel but if it’s a gut wrenching drama, I wanna make you feel really miserable at the end of it, so it’s when you want to abuse those emotions when watching films.
What is your writing process like?
It’s terrible. I usually won’t come up with an idea until about two months of thinking of something and then in the shower, or as I’m just about to go to bed, something hits me and that’s when I usually come up with all my ideas.
Are there any tips you would give when writing a script?
It is good to get feedback, but at the same time you know it’s your story you want to tell. Sometimes only you can tell that. Unless it’s something obvious, like it should be better if it’s changed. If it’s something you’re really really confident on and that’s why you want to tell the story then I think you should trust in yourself.
Do you listen to music when you write and if so what songs do you listen to?
When I’m writing dialogue I usually can’t listen to anything with English lyrics in otherwise I end up getting distracted and start typing in the lyrics that I’m listening to, so I listen to a lot of soundtracks, movie soundtracks especially or video game soundtracks, especially things that fit the mood of the scene I’m writing. That’s definitely helped a lot.
Do you have any helpful tips for editing?
I mean editing is very hard to pick up. I guess go with whatever goes with the pacing of your film. Even if you’ve got everything, if you’ve filmed loads of stuff to a scene, if you don’t need those elements, you don’t need to show every shot you’ve filmed. You’ve just got to make that conscious call to cut certain things and that can be hard. In the end it’ll save the project. I had to cut a lot of things from Chopsticks!! Because they just weren’t necessary, so you know look out for deleted scenes.
What’s your favourite part about editing?
It can be very therapeutic as well as stressful, but when you get into the groove of things you just zone out and you just get in this process of cutting. And or like sound design and stuff like that. It can be really relaxing if you just zone out and go with it.
What was your process of editing Chopsticks?
The process was an absolute nightmare, because it technically took us like almost a year to finish the whole project just, because I don’t have a computer that I can edit on at home. When I finished a majority of the edit that was at uni and once I graduated I no longer had access to those computers, so I had to work on it after hours at work. I remember we had a clutch deadline, one time trying to submit to a festival and it resulted in I’d essentially edit. I’d like wake up at like 4 am, sneak into the uni’s editing suites and I’d prepare like, I used to stick a bit of card on the door, so it wouldn’t lock me out cause at the weekends you couldn’t get into that room, so I would kind of like hijack my way in there from about 5 am until 11, go home, sleep, come back do the same thing for like two weeks straight. Yeah it was a gruelling process.
How did you come up with the idea for Chopsticks?
Well I always had this story of a brother fighting his sister. That’s always been a thing that I always thought was a cool concept and then the real story just came from my love of Stephen Chow films, so I took a lot of inspiration from Kung Fu Hustle and stuff like that, but the story itself I just wanted to do a martial arts thing and the story was just something I always had in the back of my mind, but I never really put it onto paper and fleshed it out until now.
What’s your favourite part of Chopsticks?
My favourite part. Probably that’s a very hard decision because there’s so many scenes I love in it. I really like the final fight. I think Alan the choreographer he did such an amazing job. Like the process of doing that was like I would go home, research like all my favourite fight scenes, cut together like a two hour clip, send it to him, then we’d mix and match and we’d talk about like oh this move is cool, let’s put this here and stuff like that. Then he came up with this whole routine with the sheath like flinging it around. And I really don’t think anyone else could pull off those moves, like Shinji, the guy that plays Fang, the way that he flips a sheath around, I don’t know many other people who could do it, that perfectly. The whole film was a big happy accident, all of the fight scenes that we did, so I think that’s my favourite scene.
What was the most challenging part about working on Chopsticks?
Definitely the timeframes that we had. Every location we had from about 7-5 most days, because they would open at 5 but that meant we had to be out by 4 and every day I think we went over schedule by a little bit, which always pushed it to the most we could, because if we missed any of the days or if filming was shut down on any of the days I don’t think the film would have been finished, because it was the schedule was that tight.
How did you do the casting for Chopsticks?
Casting was all pretty much done through Linda, the main actress. She was the first person that I got in touch with and I thought well a film like this it would great if the actors, they all know each other. It would make the whole process a lot easier, so on set everyone was already friends with each other. It made the whole process a lot easier. Plus she really helped me out. I would do whole casting sheets and give her photos of people, like you know I need a character that looks like this or someone who could play this role. She would just give me lists of people. I would go through that. Essentially she was like the casting agent for me.
How did you want audiences to feel when they watched the film?
I just want people to enjoy it, like really that’s my main ambition for making it. I think there’s a lot of different themes in the film, that anyone can kind of pull from, whether or not if they’re disturbed by like the action at the end and stuff like that or they find it really funny, or it sticks with them because it feels like something else that they know. As long as they enjoyed it, that’s my job done. That’s what I really wanted to do.
What are your hopes for the future of Chopsticks?
My hopes for the future is well I mean, things are already kind of starting to get in the process, but it would be great if it was turned into either a series or a film. But maybe not for a while, like at this point I want to take a break from the whole story and give it a few years, then maybe come back to it and do something big with it.
How has Fighting Spirit Film Festival impacted your career?
I mean massively, like ever since going to the festival I didn’t realise there were that many people out there making short film action shorts, so it really opened up my eyes to the whole world and it made me realise that maybe I do have a future in this like kind of genre, in this career direction. The amount of people I’ve also met at the festival and since then has been amazing and yeah it’s given me a lot of opportunities and opened up my future quite a lot.
What is your favourite part about Fighting Spirit Film Festival?
I think just meeting everyone there, because it’s one of the loveliest communities I’ve ever met before. Everyone there is so lovely and everyone there is kind of on the same side so everyone’s there to help each other out, to collab with people and everything like that. It’s such a welcoming, lovely, fun experience.
We hope you enjoyed the interview. If you want to see more of Aeddan and keep up to date with him, make sure to follow him on Instagram.