STARBURST: What inspired you to write and direct Parts?
Naqqash Khalid: I was interested in exploring how emerging actors can be treated, the dehumanisation and objectification of certain casting rooms and casting calls. The film looks at the industry through a nightmarish and outsider gaze. When I was casting I talked to a lot of working actors about their experiences of auditioning which informed my approach. For me, Parts is a modern fairy tale and a visual and narrative exploration of anxiety, specifically the anxiety of a young actor starting out.
It was a very ambitious production for a first film - how did you finance it?
Financing any film is difficult. Considering this was my first, and not the easiest sell, I decided to save up, self-finance, and figure it out for myself. I saved for a year and worked three jobs to make it. In the end, I was able to shoot for 1-day, which covered access to equipment and principal cast and crew. I had 12 hours of production to shoot the entire script. It was a tight shoot - I had one or two takes to get each scene. Prior to shooting, I had a three-day rehearsal period that allowed me to build a short-hand with the actors - they knew exactly what I wanted and I was able to build the characters with them which was important to me.
At times it feels impossible being a working-class director, from trying to get your film made to the inflated festival submission fees, there is no denying that film has become an elitist form, but the solution isn’t to complain, it’s all about seeing your obstacles as creative challenges. I appreciated every hour I had on set, every minute I had with the actors and crew. You learn so much when you’re under that pressure, it informs your process. You have to be over-prepared.
How did the film go down at festivals?
Watching people watch the film is fascinating. The film is ambiguous and everyone has their own interpretation of it, so it’s been amazing to hear what people think, to get that immediate feedback, and to interact with audiences at screenings.
Where can people see Parts now it’s done its festival run?
It will be online this summer. I’m finishing some minor edits at the moment. It’s difficult to know when to stop sometimes. I have just released a clip that encapsulates the tone of the film, the audition scene, that’s viewable online . That particular scene also forms the basis for my next project.
You won the Young Filmmaker Award at the 2016 STARBURST Film Festival - and much deserved - we like to think it’s been helpful for you - was it?
STARBURST was the first festival I screened at and my first audience - so the award feels very special. The entire team was so supportive, even after the festival, it really means a lot to have that. It’s different from other festivals, there is a sense that the people programming and volunteering love what they do and are driven by their passion - there is no division between the audience and those who run the festival.
With shorts, there's a lot of noise, there are so many fighting for attention, the award and festival provided me with a platform for people to see the work, and it garnered a lot of attention for the project.
Tell us about your latest project…
I’m making a no-budget feature film. It’s about a graduate who moves back home after University and struggles to find his place. It’s a hyperreal exploration of the struggles of your early 20s in the digital age. The film is set in the present, the now, this moment we’re living in, in the age of Brexit and Trump. There’s a constant feeling of threat, and everyone, at some level, is feeling it. What’s going on in the world on a macro scale, I’m interested in exploring that on a micro scale, through character. The film is improvised. I’ve written a scene-by-scene outline, but I’m not writing any fixed dialogue. Everyone has their own grammar, everyone uses language in a very specific way, I want to capture that for this project - I want to keep the fluidity of how people talk. The acting style is naturalistic and documentary-like in a film that is far from that. There’s an in-built juxtaposition between two contrasting styles which I’m excited about. It’s exploring the tone I set in Parts, but on a larger scale, beyond 5 minutes.
I’m casting and crewing now and hoping to shoot in late August. The film is designed to be shot in eight days with a skeleton crew; it’s part of the production style. It’s very contained.
Check out the audition scene from Parts and read our review here: