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Writer/Director Gary David Roberts on his Memories Lost to Sleep

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

I am delighted to be able to bring you an interview with Writer/Director Gary David Roberts who in 2017 co-wrote & directed his debut short film The Problemless Anonymous which won the Méliés d’Argent prize for Best European Fantasy Short Film. I caught up with Gary to discuss his latest project Memories Lost to Sleep and to find out how he created this visual masterpiece and what’s next on his creative journey.

You’ve created absolutely bucket loads of content, tell us about yourself Gary.

I’m a writer and director based in London. I started out in music videos before moving on to work on commercials and narrative films for brands such as BBC, Google, San Miguel, Samsung and Canal+.

You've said that the idea for Memories Lost to Sleep came from the fear of memory loss and British folklore, why did you want to tell these stories?

It felt the right thing to make at the time. I was offered a grant to create something and in that period of my life I was thinking a lot about memory loss and trying to come to terms with that being something that’s a natural process. The result of trying to express that emotion is this short film.

I was also interested in experimenting with different media to see what would come out of it, which led me to collaborate with Lomography and their Lomokino. I then shared the Lomokino camera with my DOP Alick Cotterill and Production Designer Mimi Winsor who each had a couple of films and the camera for a couple of weeks. We all took turns capturing moments and creating memories from our real lives that would then become our actor's (Robyn Rainsford) memories forming in her dreams. Memories Lost to Sleep is a very different film to my previous short The Problemless Anonymous but I took the opportunity to create something disparate.

I loved the VFX in the film, especially how all the memories come together at night and play around with each other, that was just beautiful. Gianluca Pizzaia did such a wonderful job creating such a visceral experience. Did he work from a storyboard for this piece or did you give him free rein from the script detail?

Thank you. Gianluca did an amazing job. We did have a storyboard and concept art to give him a north star to work towards before commencing anything. As with most things, elements evolved over production, some things were too difficult, and we had to adapt it. It’s taught me a lot about working in that VFX world, I don’t want to go back in a hurry.

How long did it take to complete all the VFX in this film?

Probably from the first test to the last possible patch fix, it took around 8-9 months. Gianluca did 90% of it himself with some friends helping out at different stages. He works full time at Double Negative in Vancouver, and started the project here in London, then moved and finished it in Canada. So, we had to slot it around life.

What came first the VFX or the music because they complement each other so well?

We had a first pass render for everything before composers Michael Baker, Ed Martin and Andrew Stuart-Buttle did the music. They are in a band and at the time they all lived together, so it was possible for us to all sit down and they could play and react to what I showed them on screen. Michael had a piano motif pre-written that he’d wanted to use for something, he sent that to me early on and it resonated with me. From there the guys all sat in a room and started working out what movements could work and how it could shift from scene to scene. They did an amazing job.

Here’s a little making of soundtrack film:

As a filmmaker how important are short films when first starting out as a Writer/Director?

I think they’re helpful, I personally use short films as a place to experiment. I want to try to create things I’ve never seen before. I haven’t really done that thing I know some people do when they write/make a short, to make a long form version based on it. Memories Lost to Sleep is definitely not a proof-of-concept for a feature, but my next short film might be. I try to keep that freedom with each thing I make.

Tell us about your next project.

I have two things written that are ready to shoot, both are more in line with the tone of my first short film, The Problemless Anonymous. I’m also developing a couple of new ideas with Samuel Barber who I co-wrote Problemless with.

Any advice for new writer/directors coming up in the industry?

Don’t over analyse.


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