An ageing Knacker, responsible for the disposal of dying horses, must face his own mortality and in doing so, entrust responsibility to the next generation.
Interview with Writer/Director Tom Shrapnel
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you. I grew up in rural England and always had family pets. One of these was a horse that had lived with my family for most of my life. When I was in my late 20s our ageing horse fell ill and the difficult decision was made to put her down. I was shocked to find that the quickest and most humane way to do this with an animal of this size was by pistol. When the day came two Knackers (those responsible for the human disposal of horses and live stock) turned up at our house.
I was struck by their sensitivity and professionalism, but also by their appearance. These weren’t Vets, but working class men, men we’d spent their entire lives carrying out this difficult task. I wanted to explore these characters and their trade which, in a modernised world, has remained largely unchanged. Later that year my grandparents passed away in quick succession. These two events then merged into the character of Ron and his story started to evolve.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The Knackerman is a meditation on old age, something that affects each and everyone of us. There’s a beauty to age - a texture that often gets glossed over. I want the audience to feel those textures, to emote with them and to come away with a sense of meaning.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I try to make all my themes universal. I only really start to unearth the personal themes once the film has been made and I’m watching it with an audience. Then I can disconnect with the process of making, and start experiencing it through the audiences eyes. Obviously the story came from a deeply personal place, but the themes of time, old age and death are universal.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I wrote the first draft nearly 10 years ago. The first draft focused more on Ron’s character, but as time went on I became interested in the idea of legacy - what we leave behind, and the fact that Ron has no one to hand down the responsibility of his trade to. That’s when the character of Paul emerged.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The film has won a handful of awards including the Director’s Choice Award at Taos Shortz, a Special Mention at Bermuda International Film Festival and Best Cinematography at the Oxford International Film Festival. Director Mike Leigh also saw the film and wrote me a personal email to say how much he liked it, which was a very proud moment. Most importantly audiences seem to really emote with the story, which for me, is better than any praise or accolade.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Films, both long and short, are so fast paced these days that I’ve been surprised that a film of this pace has managed to find such a wide audience internationally. I think today's audiences are searching for more meaning from a cinematic experience, rather than just spectacle.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I hope that the film will reach an even wider audience and that other festivals might give us the chance to screen the film with them.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We’ve already had interest from Sales Agents but some reviews would be very helpful to amplifying the film’s message, as well as more festival exposure.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
This isn’t a film that shouts. It resonates, hopefully long after the credits roll. For me all a film maker can ask for is that their work connects with an audience. And hope we get an opportunity to do it again.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
I guess the question of pistol euthanasia with horses is always going to be a conversation starter.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I’m currently working on my first feature which is in it’s early stages of development.
Interview: August 2017
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Film Title: The Knackerman
Length: 18 mins
Director: Tom Shrapnel
Producer: Rebecca Wolff
Writer: Tom Shrapnel
Key cast: Donald Sumpter, Adam Long
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
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Funders: Creative England
Made in association with: BFI Network