Tom Reynolds is one of the co-founders of Last ATAK Pictures, was the Director of Photography on LiMBO (which he also co-created the story of) and Autumn Heart and was an Executive Producer on LiMBO, Autumn Heart and Quondam. In the first of a week long series of interviews to celebrate lastatak.com's 3rd birthday we sat down with Tom to conduct his first interview, and asked him about his time making films with Last ATAK Pictures.
How did the story of LiMBO come about?
I can remember where we were ... in the canteen on College Rd, Andrew, Angie, Kati and me. I think we'd been bouncing a couple of ideas around, I think one of them was about setting the film in a waiting room, either for a doctors or something similar. It was then that it struck me how cool it'd be to use the waiting room as a metaphor for the veritable waiting room that limbo represents. As far as I remember the look on everyone's face was something like 'hey, that'd not a bad idea', quickly followed by someone taking my temperature to see if I was ill or something ... kidding.
Everything that Last ATAK Pictures has achieved stems from LiMBO, can you tell us what your intentions were with the film? In what way did you work to make it the best film possible?
Wow ... tricky one ... well it was the first film I'd ever worked on so I was going into it blind so to speak, therefore to make it the best film possible I made sure to leave myself open to the suggestions of the director and it was his vision that he wanted to bring to the screen. I've often thought that the cameraman is essentially the paintbrush for the director to paint the perfect film with ... and that's about as philosophical as I get these days.
One of the comments often made in reference to LiMBO is that the cast are of varying ages, what did you think of the casting? Who stood out to you the most?
Well I could say that it was the character of Angelica for her whiter than white clothing but I've got to say it was Darren's obsessive compulsive character. He nailed it so much and it was a great mark of achievement I thought that while we were filming him we were finding it immensely hard not to crack up.
What are you strongest memories of shooting LiMBO some three years ago?
Singing along to Iron Maidens 'Run to the Hills' on the way back from filming on Sunday ... but on a more serious note, it was the sense that even though this was our first film, we were aiming for a film that didn't have that student feel to it. We were going to be totally professional about this. That and driving Andy around in the wheelchair while we did the opening shot.
What is your favourite moment or scene in the film?
When Mr Smith accuses Mrs Sutton of being a tart. Every take of that produced a giggle from at least one person in the crew.
The film won a 'Highly Commended' award? How did you take the news? What was the award ceremony like?
I've always found it difficult to gage how people will react to something you've either created yourself or at least had a hand in; it's a very personal piece of work ... most things are when it comes to this business. Therefore it was deeply rewarding to have the film recognized in such a fashion and a very humbling experience. The ceremony itself was sandwichalicious, but also it was good to see what we'd been up against and what we had to look forward to in the third year when we viewed the winners of that years awards.
Following LiMBO you worked on Autumn Heart, how did the two productions differ?
The original brief was to make a 10 minute film so already you're looking at something twice as long as LiMBO. Looking back now, on what happened on both films, Autumn Heart feels like this almighty epic which came so close to being derailed (gettit?) due to some immense bad luck.
How did you want to challenge yourself making Autumn Heart, how were you pushed to make the film distinctly different to LiMBO?
Well the fact that during the winter season my back now aches more than usual is a testament to how much I was pushed ... no pain, no gain though as someone once said. I wanted to improve upon the camera work seen in LiMBO and for this to be achieved we used another camera that other groups wouldn't normally use ... the Sony VX1000 I think, that and the 'funky' lenses, so already we were pushing the visuals further along than those seen in LiMBO. I got the feeling I was being given a bit more free reign with the camera work too ... maybe that's just me though ... tricky question this ... there were a lot more complicated camera shots used, the one that springs to mind is the shot of Darren walking from the taxi to the train which is basically me walking backwards trusting that I remember the way enough so I don't hurt myself, although I did bang my funny bone ... funny though because I remember everyone scarpering when that happened.
The two stories are very different, as are the visuals, which did you find the more complicated to film?
Autumn Heart without a doubt. You're looking at an environment which was much harder to move about in compared to the rooms used in LiMBO. Space was a real issue sometimes, meaning I had to pull some wonderfully comic poses in order to get the best shot for a certain scene or precariously balance a tripod upon a table. Also, I'll never forget Mcjib ... that wonderful piece of kit which enabled us to do the perfect Emmerdale/League of Gentlemen opening to the film. The location itself threw up a lot of complications too, either through conspiring weather or missing train carriages.
Autumn Heart went one better than LiMBO by winning a 'best film' award, what was your reaction to the news?
I believe it was something like me punching the air followed by a full 5 minutes of break dancing on the kitchen floor. I think we all had a fair idea that this was one of the best films ever made and a true testament to all the work and effort that was put into it. I know a lot of blood, sweat and a fair amount of tears went into it and it shows.
LiMBO is still enjoyed by people that discover the film, and Autumn Heart continues to touch people with it's poignant message, what do you attribute the success of the films to?
The great minds who worked on the screenplay can claim credit to that success. It's a testament to them that these films are standing the test of time. Then again people take away different things from something they watch; someone could be touched by the story or inspired by the camera work. I think to be fair I attribute the success to everyone who worked on those films. I think everyone's aim in life is to be known or at least appreciated for something they've done ... so there.
You weren't directly involved in the filming of Quondam, how do you feel the film differs from LiMBO and Autumn Heart? Did you find the change in direction of the films a good choice?
I think as long as all parties involved are happy with the end result then all choices made are good ones, and if the public likes it too then that's the pay off ... hang on, that sounds like a politicians answer ... I thought the change was good. It showed that Last ATAK was capable of producing comedy, drama and something a little bit different ... that and the monster effects looked cool.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the future of Last ATAK Pictures?
Aside from world domination, the usual ... money, house in bahamas ... brazilian supermodel girlfriend ... ahem ... I hope that Last ATAK will capitalize on the good work that's been accomplished in the past; that it will never rest on it's laurels and will always seek to challenge peoples perceptions and concepts of the medium of film ... and if we make some money along the way then I'm not complaining. To be honest though, I hope that Last ATAK continues to have fun with what it does, and that it aspires to keep up the good work that's been done.