Today we’re asking some questions to Gage Oxley, the writer and director of the film ‘This World We Live In‘, which recently won our May 2017 award for FILM OF THE MONTH.
JL – Many congratulations on your fantastic project winning the ‘Film of the Month’ award at TMFF! The awards, nominations and positive reviews for ‘This World We Live In’ are rather plentiful and are constantly multiplying, how delighted are you for your achievement?
Gage – Thank you! It has been such an incredible and inspiring journey to hear such a positive response to something I feel so proud of; but it really is a testament to the cast and crew I had the pleasure of working alongside, who dedicated countless hours because they felt the story was as important to be told as I did.
The film was such a challenge to make for so many reasons, and it is a very personal and provocative film, so to hear such feedback is a relief – more for the sense that there are quite a lot of people out there who feel that this is a time fearless and uncompromising films should be made and shown.
JL – What inspired you to make this film and explore the topics which you did?
Gage – There were a lot of inspirations for me with throughout the creation of the story, particularly as Chemsex is something not particularly heard of outside of its community. With the stories I tell, I feel it very important to show a challenging subject, with accurate representation, and using film as a tool to forge discussions on taboo or difficult subjects with potentially vulnerable people or those who need support.
One of my main points of inspiration as a writer, however, was actually music. We worked with the brilliant Emma Bloodgood & Tilly Fallows for the soundtrack, listening to some of their past work definitely helped. The moment that sparked my interest in exploring Chems was after I saw the play “Five Guys Chillin'” at Edinburgh Fringe. It was so arresting and evocative, I knew it was a topic that had a place in film.
I do feel as a writer it’s very important to get inspiration from as many different artforms as possible, and hopefully that’s represented in this film.
JL – What was the biggest challenge behind the making of ‘This World We Live In’?
Gage – For me, working on such a limited budget is a huge challenge. We shot the film on just short of £500, which was hugely ambitious for what we created. Luckily, we have a real community of crew working on the production, it was such a brilliant team effort that everything went smoothly and we ended with a product that we all felt was representative of such a difficult issue, but also something we were all very proud to call our own.
Another major challenge as a director was working with Jack Parr (Joey) on such a raw and provocative character, along with the other characters we see. Every day and every scene brought a whole new area of directing, which was very exciting, and relieving to have such talented actors who I worked with.
JL – ‘This World We Live In’ is an uncompromising, unromanticised piece of filmmaking, which is admirable, as it is rather rare in this day and age. Is this a virtue which you constantly seek to uphold in your projects?
Gage – Thank you, I’m really pleased you think so! I do very much believe filmmakers and artists have a responsibility to brave new or difficult territories. I’d actually say that everyone should be able to create freely, and be a voice for those who are often voiceless. For me, I do believe that film is such a powerful tool to be a platform for someone who is struggling to raise any concerns and consequently get the help and support they need and deserve.
Equally, I think it is about raising awareness as well. Many people don’t know about chemsex, and just how vulnerable some of the people who engage with Chems are. Raising the profile of clinics like 56 Dean St is so important for us, to work with them on creating something we believe is an accurate portrayal of such a difficult subject is something we definitely embody at Oxygen Films, and will continue doing so.
JL – One of the main themes of your film is the mediating role of technology in sexuality. Do you think that with the growing prominence of technology and social media apps, this struggle to find oneself increases?
Gage – Definitely, and the worst thing is I am guilty of it. It’s so ingrained within general society, and while it has its benefits it can be incredible dangerous. Body image is a really prominent issue with the generation of technology, for women and men, and I do think there’s a definite danger of forging this perfect version of yourself online. We censor, decide, and manipulate what is attributed to our online persona – it can be harmless, but I find we can lead ourselves into this trap of being so self-conscious of our bodies and personalities. We tackle body image in the film, as well as the prevalence of a “lad culture” in the UK, which for young men who may be coming to terms with their sexuality is a major challenge.
Technology also plays a huge role in the involvement of Chems. Within just a few conversations on a gay dating app you are introduced to this world, it’s so easy to fall into it – and if you are already struggling with this self-consciousness, mixing it with an opportunity of numbing everything and being part of a community really is a dangerous concoction.
JL – What was your first experience as a film director?
Gage – I was eight when I first became interested in film from a filmmakers perspective – the city I’m from, Leeds, is where the first films were made by Louis Le Prince in 1888, so there was that history there which I think helps. I’d joined a group in my city, now called Mediafish run by Leeds Film.
Aside from all of the little clay-mations and family documentaries I made, the first film I really pushed myself with was called “The Enigma”, a 32-minute film I made with friends on absolutely nothing when I was about 14/15. That definitely sparked my passion for writing and directing, the same year I began work on my first feature-film. It’s quite nice to see some years later how I’ve adapted and developed, hopefully it’ll be the same in another five years!
JL – So you’ve been working on film projects for quite a while now. What was the most important takeaway or thing you have learned from your previous production?
Gage – The biggest learning curve for me is definitely the involvement of crew. There’s now a crew community working with me on projects, who are absolutely incredible. To have such a committed and passionate team of people, who are learning just as much as I am, creates an electric and inspiring journey alongside the creation of our films. One of the main parts of our sets is to hold a dynamic where crew can develop and learn as each new challenge presents itself, and to have a diverse team who all have the best interests of the film at heart is pivotal to the films’ production for me.
JL – Quentin Tarantino once said: “When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, ‘No, I went to films,’”. How well does this quote resonate with your own filmmaking career?
Gage – A very interesting quote, and one which does resonate with me. I made the choice not to go to university, and instead spend some of the money I’d saved on the biggest project I’ve ever done, “Beneath the Shadows”. It was hugely ambitious, and a project I’m still very proud of. The things I’ve learnt from these practical experiences, as well as my own research and readings, I believe is more beneficial than what I would learn from university.
When I’m asked this, I always do say that it’s a personal choice, and for me the academic route was one that I’m not too certain about just yet. I think there’s always time, and neither option outweighs the other – it’s entirely dependent on the person.
JL – What’s next for you, do you already have another project that you’d like to work on in the near future in mind?
Gage – Yes, “This World We Live In” is the first instalment of our short film series which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK for this year. We’re making a variety of inter-connecting short films with very different themes and genres each exploring a different story and challenge in the gay community.
We’re really excited to begin production very soon on “Pulse”, the second instalment, which is a one continuous take screendance film of the love of oneself, and the inner conflict of sexuality. We’re working with the insanely talented actor Sam Curry, and everyone is looking forward to a brand new challenge with this one!
JL – How can we and our readers stay up to date with any recent developments regarding ‘This World We Live In’, and any future work which you might be undertaking?
Gage – I’d definitely suggest following our social medias, where we will post every screening of This World We Live In, and any developments. We’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@TWWLIfilm). For all future works, make sure to check out Oxygen Films on social media, for some exclusive TWWLI content, future instalments, and even how to be involved in our projects! (@oxygenfilm)
Gage Oxley is a film director born on April 21, 1997 in Leeds, UK.