Thanks to Edinburgh International Film Festival I had the opportunity to interview Leeshon Alexander and Antony Petrou. Leeshon wrote the screenplay and acted in the film We Are Monster. Antony was the Director of the Film We Are Monster.
Was this the kind of film that you had in mind to start as a Director?
Antony: Yeah, I studied Art at Saint Martins, I did an Art Degree so I regard myself as an Artist so I wanted to make something that was artistic and stylish. When we spoke about it, when we found the subject matter and it was in a prison I didn’t want it to be a typical prison drama. I wanted to make it feel warmer, uncomfortably warmer, it’s why I chose all the orange colours and I wanted to avoid all the greys and the blues. Sometimes I think clichés work but I didn’t want to have stereotypical inmates and guards.
I made those changes early on, I think it shows stylistically in the film. From very early on we discussed those aspects and that influenced your writing I guess.
Leeshon: We didn’t want this typical rowdiness that goes on between them. There was animosity, we are aware from the facts that there was animosity. It’s not like all these prison dramas where its relentlessly the same thing you see. I love some of those movies but what is the point of making something that may be another version of another film?
Whereas this was something, I guess there hasn’t been that many prison dramas where the prison guards are just downtrodden. You don’t have that one typical nasty scrooge who’s going to be after them. It was a conscious choice.
Antony: I do like watching all those movies and I did watch certain parts for influence but I wanted to make my own type of prison drama. It’s not even a prison is it? Young offenders film.
Leeshon: I think it kind of lends itself to being unashamedly art house. You know it’s very much a festival film, it’s not a multiplex prison drama blockbuster.
When you wrote the screenplay for We Are Monster, was it your intention that the inner voice would have a physical form?
Leeshon: Yeah, I think essentially we would’ve struggled for a narrative without that. From all the research we did for the psychology of someone with a personality disorder, it made sense to me and to the people that I spoke to that an alter ego can exist to provide some kind of rational for that outer-body then to actually operate.
It makes it a much more interesting film because otherwise you’d have this guy who didn’t speak wondering around the whole time. It’s great but it would only be a twenty minute movie and I think you would get sick of it after a while. You’ve got to think to some extent, you’ve got to keep people somehow engaged. You know, it’s hard enough as it is, that’s why the movie is only 85 minutes with just two people talking.
So yeah it needed to have a physical representation. It’s something that me and Tony spoke about very early on, that we needed someone who was convincing and charming enough to not only convince Stewart but you also got sucked into what they are saying. You end up pulling yourself back and say no I don’t want to be a part of that. You know they’ve got to have some kind of element of charm, even if it’s an evil charm.
Having acted and written screenplays, would you ever consider Directing if given the chance?
Leeshon: I think at some point Tony and I might co-direct something together. I don’t think I’d like the responsibility if I’m going to act in something. I like writing and I’ve written a lot of scripts. There are certain things that Tony does that I would never think of in terms of style, score, colouring, music…everything, which are so important in the edit.
I don’t think I’ve got the patience for it, even when writing my scripts I’m like get them out. I’m trying to finish them because I just don’t want to sit there writing for six months like some people can do.
I also write because I want to create roles, interesting roles. In this world, acting is a hard game and to get good parts in. But if you’ve got some ideas for good roles yourself then why not create them? Especially if they are based on true stories, which is really interesting to get into and the best way to do it. I think we will do another film together.
The Answer is No, I don’t think I want to direct.
When you wrote the screening for We Are Monster, did you intend to be in it?
Leeshon: Oh yeah yeah yeah. I wrote it for me. I know I look nothing like him (Robert in We Are Monster): blue contact lenses, scrubbing my skin for six weeks with exfoliating scrub, practising a Northern accent, losing weight, shaving my body, getting white, I grew a beard because the skin under the beard gets much paler, dying the hair, cutting it short and a henna tattoo.
But that’s acting otherwise you’d be playing different versions of yourself, which gets boring.
We Are Monster had its World Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival on 20th June 2014 but you can still catch the third screening on 29th June 2014 at 8.30pm at Cineworld.You can purchase tickets online by visiting http://www.edfilmfest.org.uk/films/2014/we-are-monster