An Interview with Director, Tom Paton
Writer/director Tom Paton is one of the brightest rising stars in British cinema, thanks to movies such as Pandorica, Redwood, Black Site and The Ascent. He talks to @Roger Crow about his Yorkshire-made sci-fi adventure G-Loc; making an audience empathise with a CG stick figure, and plans for the future…
Hi Tom. How did you get started in the movies?
My route into the industry is a bit unconventional. I never went to university, so I’m entirely self taught. I was working in Cyprus as a holiday rep. I’d always wanted to get into film, and I came up with this idea that I was going to teach myself how to operate cameras and make videos for tour operators. Eventually that became nightclub promos; convincing DJs that they should be involved in this YouTube thing that was going on. So I started making videos for some big name music DJs; that turned into music videos, and that became commercials, and then in 2015… I’d written a script set in the Midlands where I come from originally. It’s quite close to my heart – a Midlands-set horror movie.
And presumably that had to be as commercial as possible?
I’ve always approached film making from a business perspective where “I’ve got to pay my rent this month”, so I wrote this script Pandorica and pulled together 50 grand, and we went and shot this thing in 10 days. We took it out to the market and it did really well. Off the back of that I ended up in Poland and shot Redwood, and then it’s just been moving forward every year.
“I have no interest in arthouse stuff”
You’re like the UK’s answer to low budget movie legend Roger Corman.
That’s the model I wanna be. He was completely in charge of his entire process.
I enjoyed G-Loc, which you shot in Bubwith. There’s more to it than just a sci-fi adventure, not least because of the way the story is told.
It was very much there from the beginning: two timelines running against each other. The kind of science fiction I like is where you can just enjoy it and have a beer on a Friday night, but there’s other stuff under the hood as well. I’m a big Battlestar Galactica fan, and one of the interesting things for me was: “Okay, if I’m gonna address the subject of immigration, I can’t come at it from a point of view that’s realistic”. Instead I kind of just flipped it on it’s head. I thought: ‘How would I like it?’ And that’s the approach I had to Bran as a character. But it came together really quickly.
Getting True Blood star Stephen Moyer as Bran was a bonus.
I love Stephen Moyer. We’ve become such good friends since then. He’s one of these guys you have to have on set. He’s always got my back and if he has any input, it’s always worth listening to.
“Can I still get tears out of an audience?”
I like the fact Edison, the stick figure avatar, starts out as an exposition device, but there is far more to it.
Thanks man. There no secret that I make commercial movies. I have no interest in arthouse stuff at all and I think there’s this expectation as a filmmaker in the indie scene you’re supposed to love that. You’re supposed to want to make a BFI hit. I can’t stand them. But there’s a thing in my head: “Can I still get tears out of an audience?” And then it became this perverse thing: “Do you think I can get people to cry over a stick man?” (Laughs).
And Edison is such a wonderfully simple design.
It was funny because in the script it said: ’He’s a blue CGI stick man’. And on the set everyone was going: “So what will Edison look like?” I said: “Like a blue stick man!” (laughs). All the way up to VFX and the design guys at Viridian (York-based special effects company) were like: “What about this design?” And I said: “Just a blue stick man. That’s all it is!”
And your next movie is the military action thriller 400 Bullets?
Yes. We made G-Loc, and after that another investor saw what I did, they said: “I’ll just build you your own studio”. So we built this studio in Coventry and made 400 Bullets. We handled all the sales and all the distribution.
I look forward to it, and thanks for your time.
‘G-Loc’ is out now on iTunes and is streaming on Amazon Prime
‘400 Bullets’ is released later in 2021