One of the highlights of day two of Lift-Off was Found, a truly fantastic thriller about a man who spent ten years searching for his kidnapped daughter. I had the privilege of interviewing director Richard Hughes about his film, if you would like to read a review of this short before progressing to the interview click here
What makes the short worthy of even more praise is the fact the story is entirely original and not adapted from a book or real life events. “We took inspiration from films like Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners and Man on Fire” he told me. “Dave Christian and I actually wrote the film back in 2015, whilst on a road trip through Montana in the United States”.
Going through the process of turning their idea into the finished product, they found the whole process raised very few issues. “We were confident in our script and found it was flowing well with the actors. As a result, we are able to shoot the film without any changes.” The shoot was not without its problems though as he went on, “it was touch and go during the final scene when the house was set on fire. With wild winds on the way, the Fire Brigade we close to shutting down the filmset which would’ve resulted in a totally different ending to the script”.
Hughes demonstrates his fantastic ability to control tension throughout the film with it being a large factor in making it so gripping. He takes inspiration from directors such as the Coen Brothers and Denis Villeneuve who seem to have a deep understanding of tension. “A technique they have mastered is to introduce it during silence. This technique, along with visuals to play out tension and suspense is a film craft that I want to execute.”
Alongside tension, Hughes also has great cinematographic skill extending past this short and covering all of his projects. “I think I’m a very visual director. I loved photography from a young age and always have a camera by my side. I love exploring the technique of ‘Mise en Scene’, or hidden meanings that may or may not be visible to everyone in the audience but can sway a viewers mind subliminally through framing, props and wardrobe. It can be powerful and used with boundaries.”
Away from the craft of the film, the cast deserves high praise for their performances. I asked if they two lead actors Richard Cawthorne and Shane Connor shared the vision or whether there were bumps along the way. “They did share the vision, both were extremely passionate about the film” he said. “In particular I learnt a lot about directing performance with the lead Richard Cawthorne. He used a method approach, which is basically when an actor aspires complete emotional identification with the part.” This, while a new experience for Hughes, lead to a great partnership. “Although emotionally taxing, we definitely connected on another level through the shoot. It felt as though we were inside our own intimate bubble, allowing us to break down his character’s motivations without influence.”
In a look to the future, I asked what film he would make, given free range and budget. “As a young child I was obsessed with cowboys and pirates. I have always had a dream to make a gutsy pirate film with no frills and true grit. An honest, dark and disturbing portrayal of how these fascinating barbarians rule the seas.” For now though he is working on transitioning from short to feature film. “We have dreams of one day turning this film into a feature length. Currently we have a two feature scripts and we’re pursuing both. The other film is a modern day pirate film ‘Friday Freedom'”. His dream of a pirate film may not be out of reach.
Finally, I ended by asking his top five films of all time and unsurprisingly the Coen Brothers and Villeneuve both feature in the form of No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski and Sicario. The rest of the top five is made up of Leon and The Truman Show.