John Walters may best be recognized as the Station Master in Autumn Heart, but as a talented graphic designer he created the final poster design for the film and worked on the Limited Edition Autumn Heart DVD.
In his first interview about his relationship with Last ATAK Pictures, we caught up with John to find out his memories of making Autumn Heart and some secrets about his future return to Last ATAK Pictures.
John, you are a designer by trade, yet your first connection with Last ATAK Pictures came by way of you acting in Autumn Heart as the Station Master. How did this come about? Had you seen LiMBO before you came to work on AH?
I had made this unusual break due to my close friendship with Michael Buxton, his girlfriend Kati had been involved with LiMBO as had he with the DVD menu design. Through viewing this short film I had come across an interesting bunch of people, a lot of dedication and an extreme amount of talent. I'm not sure exactly how I was given the part but I remember being asked if I would read the script and certain lines which were connected with the Station Master.
The Autumn Heart shoot became quite fraught with delays, traveling and a quick schedule. How did you find working on the film?
I'm sure people did not think this at the time, I thought that all the trouble that came with that production introduced a quiet determination from everyone involved. It showed in the film, all the hard work and team effort seemed to have installed a backbone and a great deal of strength. As for myself it was a real hoot, I wanted to have a bit of fun and it turned out to be so much more, I met new and interesting people with a passion for film making. Very exciting times and one I'll never forget.
What are you strongest memories of the shoot?
That damned fucking Hat! I still have the scars. On a serious note, i think it would have to be when everything came crashing down and things could not be any worse, there was a belief that film should and would be made.
What was your reaction to seeing the finished film? Did it meet, miss or exceed your expectations? Was it different to how you imagined it would look?
Certainly exceeded my expectations, very impressed and on the night of the showing a lot of pride and admiration for all involved.
The film went on to win a 'Best Film' award, what do you attribute the success of the film to?
Focused direction, and a great story. We all have stories to tell, this one turned out to be a film with a strong storyline, if you don't have a good story to work with there's no point.
You were involved with some of the Autumn Heart publicity design and also worked with Michael Buxton and Andrew Davidson on the original Limited Edition DVD. What did you hope to achieve and what did you find interesting working on the project?
Most of all I wanted to work with people who I had a great deal of respect for, as well as being friends I gained a professional appreciation for both Michael and Andrew. I think the end product was a professional and worthwhile one, ultimately I think we gained a lot from each other and it served to benefit the Film and DVD.
You attended the premiere of Quondam in March 2004, having had nothing to do with the production, and with the film being so very different to Autumn Heart, what did you think of the film? Was there anything in particular that really struck you about the film?
The Title? It was a strange film, however intriguing and peculiar which for the production team must have been one of excitement. To make a film like this I'm sure was a lot of fun and a huge learning curve, Darren is a superb actor and carried of a very difficult role with ease. I think the film showed a great deal of growth and a willingness to experiment which in this industry I think is the key to great film making.
Since completing your work on Autumn Heart, have you followed the continuing work of Last ATAK Pictures online at lastatak.com? What one aspect of the site do you think is the strongest?
Only until recently I'm afraid, however the site has more than made up for it. I think that is what has made the site, the maximum amount of information when you have been away for a while you can still come back and catch up with everything. A great deal of communication for the public and professionals alike.
You've recently returned to work with Last ATAK Pictures on a pitch for a new short film, creating storyboards and some production art, can you talk a little about how you got involved in the project?
I received a phone call from Andrew (Davidson), he wanted me to produce some storyboards for a script which he had developed, so immediately I said yes, I read the script that night and a few days later got work with what I could see as being a great story, and one that I wanted to be involved in.
What's the story about? What element of the story did you find compelling and want to explore yourself?
Its about a man who is in a war, he is the sole survivor of a friendship in a very unforgiving world. A wounded soldier with a fractured mind that is then met with sweet innocence, in the shape of a little girl. The barrier of what is real and what is not has been shattered and she is the only link to reality, a reality that he may or may not be ready for. A very strong story of scale and distortion, visually from my perspective, this is what I found compelling. The girl, the man, the world they are in and a measure of what is certain, what is not and the blurry line in between.
What do you hope to achieve with the project to see it through to production? What's the film's strong point?
The idea of conception is to try and understand its potential, this story has it in abundance and my aim is to realize that and my potential for the benefit of the production. You have to look towards Last ATAK Pictures' history and the strong sense of belief in the story and what it has to offer, an obvious case of discovery and creativity that shows the beauty of what we do with our lives, and how we still have choices when the world around you changes, barriers of language and ignorance don't always get in the way of life to ultimately lead you to a place that you will never understand until you're there. This is a chance to show what young British film makers can do in a country where we have the talent and the dedication to create our own films, I think that whoever puts money behind this production, and they will, will see exactly what British film makers can deliver.