Hello Robert, thanks for talking to us. Congratulations on the online release of The Insecurities of Dill, which screened at Exit 6 Film Festival 2018. While this is definitely a film you don’t want to spoil, what’s it about and where did the idea come from? Thank you so much! It’s been lovely to catch up. Well, how do I sum up The Insecurities of Dill? To me it’s essentially a tale about overcoming anxiety and learning to find self-confidence. Dill is filled with doubts about his self and is almost scared to think about his unhappiness.
You’re right that it’s a tricky one to talk about without giving away part of what makes it unique, so I guess I’ll just urge the readers of this chat that it’s not as philosophical and serious as it seems in my description.
It’s got lols. Did I say lols? Please never let me say lols again.
How did you go about funding the film and how did it all come together?
The film sprung into life initially as a self-funded project between my brand, Top Hat Films, and that of my producer, Adam Gregory Smith.
Once we had shot and edited the project, we applied for a funding grant from the amazing Genera in order to cover the cost of completion and festival/marketing costs.
We are incredibly honoured have been awarded one of the monthly grant opportunities Genera offers. With this, we were able to push forward with gusto. It was a great reminder that sometimes you need to trust in your project and put forward your passion for it. A lot of the time, this enthusiasm and self-belief will allow collaborators to share that trust in you.
Going into this project, I knew that I wanted to knuckle down and get it made before I considered whether it was a good idea or not. I wasn’t going to let a thing like common sense get in my way! With that in mind, I decided to turn to a trio of actors that I knew were amazing to work with.
James Naylor and Jamie Askill were both involved in my web series Dole, and had both blown me away with their character work. Both extremely fun and easy to work with too which goes such a long way with me.
I had not personally worked with Sophie before this project, but my producer, Adam Gregory Smith had. Sure enough, with our first meeting it became clear she would be perfect for making the character likeable.
In fairness, the fact that all three of them jumped at the chance to make the film, given its plot meant the absolute world to me. They had a lot of trust in me.
There are some animated elements in the film. What planning had to go into the live action filming to accommodate those during filming and in post-production?
It was important for me to make sure we got the animated elements right from the off. I had no intention of just going for it without being sure of what was the best approach and giving our poor animator tonnes more to do in post.
So we researched before starting with animators and DoP’s with experience of shooting with animation being added in post in mind. This allowed us to be efficient with our day on set and ultimately allowed our animator Steven Scott to do what he’s best at. What were the biggest lessons you took from telling a story with a mix of animation and live action, and is it something you would be keen to do again?
I’ve always been fascinated by animation. In fact, I initially dreamed of solely being a cartoonist when I was young. I remember seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit as a kid and my mind being well and truly blown.
As for mixing the mediums again, I’m always open to it but have definite plans to create an animated series that are more my focus at the moment. The Insecurities of Dill and my debut feature 4:00am, allowed me to embrace my love of drawing again and re-ignite the dream of having my own cartoon on TV.
If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice before the project began, what would it be?
To explore the cheapest options first when it comes to the film’s key prop! After our producer diligently bought dozens of options, it was a Poundland option that was perfect for the job! Sorry Adam.
I had a lot of worries about letting myself run with the idea in the first place in honesty. I guess my ultimate advice to pre-Dill Rob would be to take big leaps of faith with your ideas and to make things that you love, if others love it too then that’s a bonus! As previously mentioned, you joined us with the film at Exit 6 Film Festival 2018, and many other festivals besides, what has it been like to be in the room with audiences when the full story reveals itself?
It’s a solid mixture of anxiety and glee. All that is going through my head is “I hope it works” and I pretty much hold my breath until it’s done and when it does land, it’s hard not to grin like a naughty schoolboy.
I think that’s the secret magic of filmmaking, right? Taking something from brain nugget to something that (for better or worse) creates an emotion in people. All of my favourite films allowed me to make sense of stuff whizzing through my brain, or process it by taking me somewhere else for 90 minutes. It’s the laughs, tears, and scares along the way that make it all worthwhile so getting to see an audience connect with something I’ve made is a massive honour.
How did you go about choosing the best way for you to release the film online?
For us, we’ve decided to launch the film on Vimeo first in order to attempt to be chosen as a Staff Pick. We have already been fortunate enough to be selected by Film Shortage as their Daily Pick so we're keeping our fingers crossed.
I mean, that's honour enough, but to be a Vimeo Staff Pick as well would blow my mind and I’m already doing that thing of telling myself it won’t happen to soften the disappointment if it doesn’t. Then again, I do the same thing when I apply for anything and we've ended up in 25 festivals globally and been selected by Film Shortage so who knows! What can we expect to see from you next?
Hopefully a lot more! I’m currently taking a momentary step-back from directing to focus on building a slate of different scripted projects. I have two short scripts I am looking to produce once it is safe to do so again after the current pandemic.
Toast is a live-action short that deals with heartache and loss in a way that feels like a spiritual successor to Dill. Bulb is a drama that I am looking to direct as a fully animated project. It deals with themes of love and the lengths people will go to protect themselves from potential rejection.
On top of that I am working on building a cartoon series for children and am dragging myself through the first draft process on two feature scripts. One of which is a road trip movie set around the turn of the millennium and the other uses the caravan holidays I went on as a kid as the foundation for a unique coming-of-age story.
Phew. Just going other all that has made me knackered!
You can follow Robert on Twitter: @TrottWroteThis