Alan King’s thriller Wild Will begins with the titular Will being brought into police custody. He was found covered in blood, standing alone on a street and gazing up at the moon. It’s unclear exactly what has happened but for those of us with a penchant for the uncanny, it’s easy to develop a few conclusions. King’s film is a brilliant stroke of minimalist filmmaking. Created entirely in his kitchen, prior to lockdown we might add, Wild Will is tense, innovative and a fresh take on some classic horror tropes. Watch the trailer and read our interview with King below on the inspiration behind his ferocious tale.
What inspired the idea for Wild Will?
To be honest, nothing specifically inspired the film. It was probably a combination of things coming together. Firstly, I was looking for a project I could shoot in my apartment by myself and the human struggle between chaos and control is a theme of which I am interested in, so it developed from there. The actual premise is very simple, a mild-mannered guy in a police interview room who subsequently wreaks havoc. That’s it really, quite simple. I think the real excitement for me as a filmmaker with this project began to grow not so much from the narrative premise but from the concepts I could explore in the execution of this narrative.
So, it was conceived alongside how you would shoot it?
Yes, I had a pretty clear vision of the basic narrative from the start, the big exciting and scary challenge, was how to deliver this story on film with the limitations I had in place (the main one being that I was shooting the film alone in my kitchen by myself). So, I needed to explore alternative ways to tell the story involving less conventional filmmaking techniques. Subsequently the frequency of visual statements throughout the project were significantly reduced and the audio took a greater precedence within the film’s narrative. This took shape with the camera remaining predominantly only on the one-character William Page, myself, with audio for the two police officers, who are only heard off-screen, recorded later in post-production. So, armed with my camera, tripod, boom, mic and stand I set about shooting the film in my kitchen, solo.
Did you draw upon any films or filmmakers when developing the style?
I’m a big fan of all the masters Kubrick, Lynch, Thomas Anderson, Scorsese, Bergman, I could go on forever, as I reckon they all influence and inform my work in some shape or form. But perhaps Hitchcock’s black and white films are the works from which Wild Will has the strongest affinity, particularly Psycho. Ironically the blowfly in Wild Will which features so predominantly in the film’s narrative, happened upon me purely by chance. During filming one day, I noticed a fly in its last stages of life and just on a whim, decided to film it. It was only later that night, that I made the Norman Bates ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’ connection and decided to integrate the fly narrative into Wild Will’s story line with greater depth. I love the cinematic style of so many of the classic black and white films, Lord of The Flies, Rashomon, Psycho, The Seventh Seal. They bring back memories of my childhood and like an old record player crackling, I find there is something incredibly soothing and grounding about the imperfections that lie within the soundscapes and visuals of these old films. Yet when these soothing black and white visuals and soundscapes are coupled with an incredibly violent on-screen narrative as was the case with Psycho I think it makes for a really interesting contradiction. Beautiful and horrifying at the same time. I hope Wild Will also manages to capture in some way this juxtaposition between beauty and horror.
Given its minimalistic nature, were you ever concerned about whether audiences would respond how you intended?
When I’m making a film, I usually try and avoid asking myself this question, I prefer to stay focused on the job at hand and get what I need to get done from an artistic point of view. But after, when you’re sitting in the audience at the film’s screening, for sure you always want the audience to be with you for the journey, that’s why I make films. With Wild Will, I knew I had sort of really broken away from the conventional film structures, so yeah, nerves were high at the first few screenings. But truth be told, the film’s done, it’s out of your hands at that point, so at the end of the day, what’s the point of worrying?
I think that’s a great approach! How have you found the audience response so far?
With this one, I do think there has been something in its DNA that has resonated with a lot of people and it’s been bloody lovely! I’ve been overwhelmed with folks who have approached me directly saying they loved the film and it has really stayed with them. This means more to me than anything. To think this little psychological thriller, I shot all by myself in my kitchen has made an impact with someone, I’ve never meet, on the other side of the world, to the point that they would take the time reach out to me to tell me that. Filmmaking doesn’t get better than that!
And how has the pandemic affected the film’s festival run and your filmmaking in general?
I got very lucky with the timing, in that following Wild Will’s world premiere in the Lab Competition at Clermont Ferrand early last year, we got in a solid twelve month festival run before Covid hit. The film got to screen at some really great events in their uninterrupted form like Tampere, Brisbane, Wales Horror, Festival Tous Courts and Tallinn Black Nights. As everyone knows 2020 has been bloody tough and my hat goes off to all the festivals that have still found a way to get their event up this year. It’s bloody inspiring, whether it be as an online event or a re-structured live event. Wild Will has been fortunate enough to screen at many of these 2020 re-structured festivals, and although they are so different to how they were last year, I am prouder as a filmmaker to be a part of these events this year than ever before, because in a cinematic sense, we are all in the trench’s together, surviving and I will never forget that. As to how it will affect my future work as a filmmaker, I’m fortunate to a degree, in that I feel I have a working model in place, that can be called upon, if needed in the Covid future – shooting solo in closed locations, performing multiple roles. It’s nice to have that up my sleeve.
That brings us to my last question, what’re you working on next?
I’ve just completed post production on a twelve min short titled No Harm In Dreaming it is a psychological thriller and the second film, following Wild Will, in a planned trilogy of stand-alone shorts exploring the human wrestle between chaos and control. It follows a married couple whose tranquil lives are engulfed by a dark event and examines the relationship between dreams and reality. I had a small crew and another actress on screen with me for this one, so I lashed out! Fortunately, principal photography was completed earlier this year before lockdowns took effect in Victoria. I’m also planning to transfer my short filmmaking practices and narrative enquires into the feature length format in the near future and have a couple of scripts close to shooting stage.
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