Kate Shenton | SEND IN THE CLOWNS

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Kate Shenton is known as the director of On Tender Hooks, a documentary about body suspension groups. She attended FrightFest this year to present her new short, Send in The Clowns, a mockumentary about a quiet and unassuming man whose life ambition is to dress as a clown in order to terrify onlookers.

STARBURST: Can you give us an overview of Send in the Clowns?
Kate Shenton: It’s a mockumentary about David, whose life ambition is to dress up as a scary clown and terrorise pedestrians. He considers this his art and he’s given everything up to fulfil his dream and the documentary follows the people in his life and it’s his views of the world. I consider it a tragic comedy. It’s a funny film but deep down it’s a very sad film because his life’s not great. 

How did you go about casting him?
I always cast people I’ve known on a personal level that I’ve worked with before or that I get to know and see their work and because of that I tend to write roles for people, so with Send in the Clowns all the roles were written for the cast. It’s just easier to write in my head when I know how they’re gonna perform it and how they’re going to say it with comic timing. I could write the dialogue to that. The casting was decided before the script was written.

How do you work with actors? You have a lot of tonal shifts in the piece.
I work very closely with my actors. I’m more of a performance director. I always write dialogue and I’m very into how much fun you can have with discussion and because of that I try and keep the cinematography simple and the camera focused on the actor. It always depends on what the actor needs. I will always with all actors have the character discussion. We’ll go into the history of the character where we go in to where they’ve gone to school, their penis size etc. because all of these little details create a person. A lot of work went into getting those performances nailed.

The central character is such a sweet little guy. How did you work on the section in which he swears for the first time?
There’s always going to be a little bit of me that seeps into everything and my work always has a lot of swearing. There is a dark side to David. His ambition is to be a scary clown and to scare people. Some people find him quite creepy, some people find him very loveable. Jack, the cinematographer, always made the eyes look a little bit dead like there was no glint or sparkle. Even though the comedy is quite light, it’s a dark film about being a creative. I kind of wrote the film because I nearly gave up on filmmaking and my way of handling negative emotion is to put it into something creative. And it was sort of addressing a frustration of constantly working in crap jobs and wondering is anyone even appreciating this, but completely pursuing this dream to the point it is completely irrational. The clown is basically in my head; me and how at that time I was feeling about my own creativity…

At one point David tries something new on a street and someone else comes into frame but doesn’t stay in the narrative. Was that on purpose?
It was filmed in the neighbourhood I used to live. I like that because I’d just gone from making a documentary and it felt like it was a stepping stone to get back into fiction. It’s like a dry, crappy documentary that’s on Channel 4 like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding that has that very bleak outlook. I think a lot of mockumentaries try and be too glossy.

Do you think it’s like a psychological condemnation of the depths he’s gone to?
I think it all links to the creative process and that once you get deep into it there is this irrational determination to keep doing it because there is a thrill to it. I think there’s a slight form of madness. Even though no one appreciates it, he thinks he’s an artist and is just going to keep going anyway.

And probably we all should.

You can find out more about Kate Shenton at her website.


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