Skeletons

Skeletons

By Nick Whitfield

Synopsis

Experience this award-winning, off-beat tale of a mismatched pair of traveling salesmen in the business of literally cleaning out skeletons from closets. Together, Davis and Bennett wander in and out of strangers' lives performing ‘The Procedure’ and expose people's innermost secrets behind their doors of lies. However, when the duo arrive at a remote family home, they face a challenge unlike anything they've seen before. Can they finish the job or will they remain trapped in the closet, perpetually haunted by their own skeletons?

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

SKELETONS is a comedy of ideas and emotions. Comedy is a fundamental tool for me, my default setting. I see an audience’s laugh as the door it passes through to enter into the world of the characters. An audience that is laughing is an audience that is alert, open-minded, ready to engage with characters and follow them wherever they might go. But it’s not an end in itself. Once the audience is on side, that’s where the ideas and emotions come in. This is what works on me as an audience member anyway, and it’s my instinctive approach as a filmmaker.

STORY:

The starting point for this film was the central double act created in my short film Skeletons - a kind of surreal Laurel & Hardy played by Ed Gaughan and Andrew Buckley. The first question a filmmaker asks themselves is
“Who do I want, who do I need to see on the screen?” Making the short film with these actors confirmed that the answer for me at that moment was, emphatically, “these two guys.” Added to that, the crazy procedure the characters of David and Bennett carry out was conceived in the short and obviously had much more to offer. I loved the idea of a ‘lo-fi sci-fi’ film and felt the original idea gave me an ideal frame for a comic story. It was clearly also an opportunity to explore a world that is sometimes hyper-real, and therefore full of unusual cinematic potential. Equally important, the elements of secrecy, lies, loss and revelation had the potential to deliver a real emotional kick. The idea was warmly embraced by the producers of the feature, and with their invaluable help in the development of the script, I set about pushing this idea as far as I could take it.

PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE LOOK:

The continual challenge for a filmmaker is to make the invisible, interior life of his characters somehow visible. Skeletons does this explicitly by entering memories, thoughts, and these different realities the story throws up have made the visual challenge for myself and the DP, Zac Nicholson, very absorbing and enjoyable. Every single location was chosen and photographed with the characters’ inner lives in mind. So Davis and Bennett, bold travelers through the psyche, make their way across a broad, somewhat harsh landscape. Davis, a man trapped in the emotions of his past, lives in a grounded boat, miles from the water, with no chance of sailing away. Jane, haunted by an unresolved story, never leaves her crumbling house/prison except to literally dig up the past in the surrounding woods.

One of my favorite films is Clint Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN, and the way that film is photographed is a benchmark for me. The camera doesn’t ever want to be admired, never does anything but tell the story, and yet the film is as visually stunning as it is gripping in its narrative. What I have tried to do at every turn in SKELETONS is to adhere to this simple, pure approach, trusting that the expansive characters and their sometimes crazy stories, allow us plenty of room for a journey that is visually arresting and, above all, completely cinematic. The task of capturing the images was made much easier by the brilliant work of the production designer, James Lapsley, who really embraced my idea of a real yet timeless world for our characters to inhabit. His strict control of what was or was not allowed on set in terms of color, era and aesthetic, meant that his modest budget reaped remarkable results on screen.

SOUND AND MUSIC:

Joakim Sundstrom has created an elegant soundscape, that, similar to the visuals, finds the extraordinary in the ordinary, and then really pushes the envelope when things get surreal. Music plays a vital role in the film too. I’ve always been attracted to the haunting music of Eastern Europe and my brother, Simon Whitfield, has worked with me in developing this theme through my short films. The score for SKELETONS was developed through the edit, organically, so as to feed the pictures and vice versa. I like music to work as an upfront element rather than as anonymous underscore, designed merely to smooth the cuts and tweak the odd emotion. This score has been written with this boldness in the
forefront of our minds. I am delighted the film has a score that is so singular and characterful, yet so in tune with the film. Your collaborators are everything when you are making a film. I am a lucky man indeed to have made SKELETONS with this team, along with Ed and Andrew and the incomparable supporting cast of Paprika Steen, Jason Isaacs and Tuppence Middleton.

- Nick Whitfield
United Kingdom 94 minutes 2010 English
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Keywords
Awards
  • Michael Powell Award: Best New British Film (Winner) - 2010 Edinburgh International Film Festival (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
  • Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer (Nominated) - 2011 BAFTA Awards (London, United Kingdom)
Festivals
  • Anaheim International Film Festival 2010 (Anaheim, United States)
  • Aspen Filmfest 2010 (Aspen, United States)
  • CPH - PIX International Film Festival 2010 (Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010 (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
  • Goteburg Film Festival 2010 (Goteburg, Sweden)
  • Rotterdam International Film Festival 2010 (Rotterdam, Netherlands)
  • SXSW Film Festival 2010 (Austin, United States)
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Reviews

  • 80.0/5 Stars.

People are there, and then they're not

by Alyssa on Jun 15th, 2011
Skeletons is the very interesting story of a pair of two strange salesmen, Bennet and Davis who have a somewhat unusual job. They have the ability to look into people’s closets and pull out their deepest darkest secrets. Throughout the movie they use this talent as a job to help people who are questioning anything and everything, while the duo struggle to keep their personal lives separate from their work. When they are hired by a woman Jane to help find her husband who disappeared 8 years ago, they begin to encounter a series of very strange situations that question their abilities, and the emotional strain that comes along with the job.
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