DCM’s Cinematic Storytelling With Ben Wheatley

I may be biased but I think that Digital Cinema Media’s (DCM) Storytelling session at Advertising Week Europe is becoming one of the annual four-day event’s must-see moments.

Over the last few years, we’ve played host to some of the UK’s best film-makers, including Dexter Fletcher and Gurinder Chadha and this year we were delighted to welcome Ben Wheatley.

In less than a decade, Ben has established himself as one of the most distinctive filmmakers in the UK, first through genre films that balance cruel humour with even crueller violence (Kill List, Sightseers) and then an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s apparently unfilmable novel, High-Rise. His most recent film, Free Fire, had his most high profile cast yet (Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy) and was the coveted closing night film of the 2016 London Film Festival.

Ben’s a treat to interview too. His answers are direct, often funny, as you’d expect, and he’s great at telling a story (storytelling, see?). I assumed, possibly incorrectly, that not all of the Advertising Week audience would be familiar with Ben’s film work, so it wouldn’t be too wise to go into depth about any one of his films and keep the talk focused more on his creative process and how he brings stories to screen. This led to a breezy 40-minute chat that was certainly one of the highlights of my, admittedly limited, career as an interviewer.

Ben’s also known for shooting at unusual speed, with Down Terrace, his debut, shot in just eight days

While there are no shocking revelations in Ben’s creative process, it’s comforting to hear someone so prolific and with such a high-quality output talk about the simplicity of developing an idea and putting a project together. It’s also fascinating to hear about the professional dynamic between Ben and one of his key collaborators, Amy Jump, who has written many of his projects, edits them as well and is also married to Ben. Their long-standing creative partnership is becoming one of the most impressive in the UK film industry.

Ben also discusses why he enjoys working with comedians, such as regular collaborator Michael Smiley, a man who first became known to the public as raving bicycle courier Tyres in Spaced. Ben’s also known for shooting at unusual speed, with Down Terrace, his debut, shot in just eight days. For anyone, like me, who will do anything except the one creative thing I’d love to do, it was inspiring and mildly chastening to hear about someone who has managed to avoid serial procrastinating.

If, like I do, you get untold pleasure from a scene cut to a great piece of music, you might like to hear how Ben comes to his striking music choices, such as the use of Portishead’s ABBA cover, SOS, in 2015’s High-Rise, and Soft Cell’s classic Tainted Love over the opening credits of 2012’s Sightseers. Ben also gave us a sneak insight into his next project, intriguingly and mischievously titled Colin You Anus, which he shot in just 11 days earlier this year.

Being on-stage with Ben was a real thrill and I hope it was as fun to watch as it was to take part in. With Dexter, Gurinder and now Ben, we’re making it quite tough for ourselves in securing an equally as impressive guest for next year’s Advertising Week Europe, but we’ll worry about that in 10 months time or so.

For now, you can watch the chat with Ben on the Advertising Week Europe website, or listen to it as part of this month’s DCM podcast.

Tom Linay

Head of Film at Digital Cinema Media
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