Interview with APRIL 2024 Winner: Charlie Painter

Springtime often brings a sense of renewal and excitement, making it an ideal season for compelling war dramas. For our April spotlight, we’re thrilled to highlight ‘Operation Dynamo‘, our FILM OF THE MONTH winner, a film that’s been making waves at other festivals too. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with its director, Charlie Parker, who shared insights about the film’s journey and success. Inspired by a family story from WWII, Charlie crafted a narrative that’s both intimate and powerful.

JL: Congratulations, Charlie, for the great achievement! How has Operation Dynamo been performing at festivals so far?

CP: Thank you! The feedback has been incredible so far, we’ve just had another win for Best War Film, and it means so much to me that everyone’s hard work is being recognised!

JL: How did you come across this story to tell?

CP: So the story is my Great Uncle’s, passed down to me by my Grandpa. As soon as he told me, I knew it was a story I needed to tell. I found the simple act of bravery and sacrifice so moving, to know that even amidst one of the largest conflicts in history, these individual stories really matter. There must be an untold number of these heroic acts which will be lost forever unless passed on, and in the same way that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honours those who gave their lives but were never found or identified, I hope this film does the same.

JL: Many WWII films operate on a grand scale, but we really liked the more personal setting here. How did you manage that, while keeping the drama at high levels in the same time?

CP: I always wanted to film Dynamo in a verité style, letting us feel that we are on the beach with them, rather than looking on from afar. I operated almost exclusively from the shoulder, handheld, freeing the actors to move as they wished, progressing the story with the strength of their performance alone. I wanted to give the viewer the feeling of actually being trapped on that beach, by never allowing the escape of a wide vista or aerial drone shot. My aim was that these two characters would be allegory for every act of bravery and sacrifice that enabled the Miracle of Dunkirk.

JL: One of the highlights is the dynamic between the protagonists – how important was it to get this right?

CP: I’m so glad that their chemistry comes across so well in the final film. From the start I thought it was important to audition the two actors together, as their interpersonal chemistry was so pivotal. But past the initial casting, (which I knew 10 seconds after they started their audition) the credit belongs entirely to George, Nico, and the editor, Ellie Hague. She took the foundation of their fantastic performances and weaved them together in a way that was technically precise, but comes across as wholly natural.

JL: And one of the accompanying forces of the personal drama of the characters is Harry Wilson’s score. How happy are you with how it complements your film?

CP: Harry has this incredible instinct for story. We sat together in Abbey Road Studios to watch the film and create the initial musical outline, and in each moment he understood exactly what I was trying to convey, converting my ramblings into a wonderful score where every note feels intentional, soulful and elevates the visuals and performances in a way I could’ve never imagined.

JL: George Rowlands won our Best Actor award for his incredible performance. Have you worked with him before?

CP: I’d never worked with George before, but the moment he started his audition I knew he was something special. He was perfect for the role, and an absolute joy to work with. George and Nico brought such incredible dedication and passion – getting up at 4am and rolling around in sand and sea, just so they’re costumes looked dirty enough. Their instincts for story were utterly fantastic. On many occasions they’d come to me with an idea to change or tweak a line – or to remove one entirely – as they felt they could achieve the same impact with their performances alone. And without fail, they were right every time.

JL: What would you say was the highlight for you as a director in the entire process?

CP: It’s so hard to choose a favourite moment, but I think I would have to say shooting the scene by the water’s edge – mainly because it enabled George and Nico to go beyond what was written on the page, and bring their own ideas and acting sensibilities to fully embody their characters. Using the verité style led to some incredible unscripted moments, and after a particularly good take – where they managed to communicate what could’ve been pages worth of dialogue in a simple look – I was so moved that I shouted out to the crew that ‘this is the most fun I’ve ever had’.

JL: Any new projects you’re already working on?

CP: I think like a lot of filmmakers I’ve got a list as long as my arm of ideas – and I’m just waiting until that next one really grabs me! Although I have got a few exciting projects coming up soon that I’m DP’ing. I really like working as both a DP and a Director/DP, as I get even more of a chance to focus on my craft when I only have one role, and working with other directors gives me insight into how they work, and new ideas I can take forward.

JL: Thanks for your time, Charlie. We hope to see more of your work soon!

CP: Thank you too, I can’t wait to get cracking on the next project!



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