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DOGWOOD – in conversation with Steve Sale, by Livia Hartmann

We talked with the director Steve Sale about his selected first feature film Dogwood. With a stunning cinematography we wanted to discover more about the process of his most recent creation.


L.H. What is the essence of your film?

S.S. For me it is about escape. To live a more simpler existence.

I wanted the story to unfold naturally and was guided by what could be achieved without a budget and crew. There were many feelings about modern society, brexit, environmental issues, mental health, life and death that I wanted to portray in the film but ultimately didn’t know where it was going to end up. This of course was before Covid. The story continued to be shaped in editing. It is essentially a fictional documentary and for me it was a way of dealing with events in my life and the world at the time.

I’m lucky to have the most beautiful woodland on my doorstep, that was probably the biggest inspiration to begin with. I was inspired too by some anti fracking protests that were living in the woods near to me.


L.H. What elements do you believe we’re crucial to the development of the story?

S.S. When we started filming we worked with just a line ‘a man goes to live in the woods’, not with a script. This gave us a lot of freedom and we were able to develop the story organically whilst shooting.

I have a friend who is a talented poet and author, Alex Caird, and adding his beautiful poetry added another dimension to Martin.

I knew I wanted to add a voice over to the film, but as a sort of narrator, which I thought would be unusual and give the film a certain tone. I came across John Hill who has an amazing speaking voice, and he’s such a nice guy. I built a little voice over booth in his living room using a duvet and he recorded it there.


L.H. How was the filming process? What are the learnings and challenges you discovered?

S.S. Making no budget films has challenges on its own but I am quite used to shooting things solo.

Sometimes working with more than one actor on screen was a challenge as I was running around rolling two cameras, doing lighting and sound as well as concentrating on the performance, that was tricky.

It is very hard to find good actors and Joe (Martin) is very rare in that respect where he is a good actor and committed. Sometimes these two things rarely meet when looking for actors for a low budget film.

I do have a story about a badger but maybe that’s for another time.


L.H. What was your reaction when you saw your movie finished?

S.S. As I edited the film, I saw it many times, but I couldn’t really say my reaction was anything but relief when I finally finished it.


L.H. What kind of impact would you like to have on your audience?

S.S. I think the film can actually be portrayed in a few ways just like a song can be. I hope they like it, it’s not a film you should take your Nan to see, in fact I’ve banned my Mum from watching it.

At the time of making it I felt we had lost touch with nature but I think we have rediscovered it in lockdown.


L.H. In 5 years what would like to be your reaction when revisiting your movie?

S.S. I think in 5 years time I will either think it’s terrible or will be impressed with its freedom.

Steve Sale
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