With the pace of modern life moving at a speed which often feels impossible to keep up with, many of us are guilty of viewing those less able to adjust to the times with a mixture of amusement and frustration. In her directorial debut ANOTHER TIME, with Paul Elena Saurel – who joined us last year to discuss her hilarious self-deprecating role in Simon K Matthews’ Behind the Mask – has deftly created a comedy documentary series which encapsulates the hilarity of bridging the intergenerational divide, with a charming grace far too often missing from conversations which touch on the polarising topics of the day. It’s a series which is refreshingly respectful to its main subject, and Saurel’s father, Paul as he gamely engages with the contemporary concepts presented to him in a titillating gameshow style word association format, replete with scintillating animated on screen graphics. The end result is a fantastically well put together mini series which DN is thrilled to be premiering the first episode titled Gender & Identity on our pages today. We also took the opportunity to speak to Saurel about her desire to capture her father as he embraces a new stage in his life while she navigated the challenges of making the move into the director’s chair for this debut project.
How did a “white privileged male over the age of 60” who also happens to be your father become the subject of your series?
Initially the jump off inspirations came from a Nowness series, My Home and Tig Notaro’s lighthearted YouTube show Under A Rock. I wanted to combine beautiful imagery with game show humour and after recently losing my mother, I wanted to immortalise my elderly father. It all began as a means of recording him: his style, charm, wisdom, quirks and inappropriate sense of humour. I also wanted to push him out of his comfort zone and see how he would adapt (hoping that it would make for hilarious content).
I wanted to bring about an inter-generational exchange on polarising topics in a way that was lighthearted and educational for both of us.
I presented Paul with the idea, he was totally confused. At this stage he still didn’t fully understand what I did for a living or how films were made so needless to say he took a little convincing but eventually he gave in and was a very good sport about communicating his concerns, “Please don’t use my full name I don’t want to be a movie star”. So, it had to be done in a way that would be fun and respectful of him. We have a huge age gap. He’s literally a dinosaur! Our perspectives on things are very different and I wanted to bring about an inter-generational exchange on polarising topics in a way that was lighthearted and educational for both of us. Especially at a time when there’s a great deal of polarisation, someone like Paul would probably not get many opportunities to be schooled by Siri.
Paul comes across fabulously and so comfortable in front of the camera, was that immediate?
I KNOW RIGHT!? Surprisingly, yes! I was blown away at how comfortable and natural my father was in front of the camera. It did help that he’s a bit of a show off, but he must have had some secret media training or something because he was so at ease.
How was the directorial process working with someone as close to you as your father?
Surprisingly fun and easy. I was worried he’d get bored, frustrated or tired with the filming process but he was such a good sport. I think he really enjoyed it and it gave insight into what my job in front of the camera is like. It also, in a cheesy way, was a lovely father daughter bonding experience for me.
We squeezed in some rogue gorilla footage of Paul inside and outside the apartment between the talking head stuff.
You’ve got a firm background as an actor, comedienne, writer and producer but what hurdles did you face being a first time director and how did you go about mastering the technical aspects of that new role?
Having been in the entertainment industry for a while, being on set and collaborating on projects with friends meant that I kind of already knew what directing and producing entailed. However, delegating and communicating my ‘vision’ with no hesitation was a hurdle. It’s never been down to me before. I struggled with being confident in my decisions and what I wanted (angles, set up, lighting, frames and the more technical stuff). I was so lucky that everyone who collaborated and helped me make this series was crazy talented and kind.
Pre-production probably took roughly a month. I somehow secured a DOP, Fionn Guilfoyle and my friend Natasha Farrar who helped me structure/finesse the concept, themes, questions, and games. I planned out a schedule/shot list that worked with and around Paul’s busy schedule. It was quite packed as we aimed to film the entire four episodes over a weekend. So, once we’d set a date Natasha, Fionn and I flew to Madrid to film Paul in his element.
We had minimal equipment. We shot on a Fs7 with old Nikon primes. Had an aperture light with a softbox (mostly used natural light). A basic sound kit, a couple of hard drives and Mac laptops est Voila! We did a recce of the apartment Friday eve, filmed Saturday and Sunday. Each day was dedicated to two separate episodes which were strategically staged in different areas of the apartment to reflect the theme. We squeezed in some rogue gorilla footage of Paul inside and outside the apartment between the talking head stuff. Because this was my first time directing something on my own Natasha and Fionn had to be super patient with me.
The post production took ages. Pretty much a year before all four episodes were done. I worked with very talented film students/graduates Ben Watson on the edit/animation/graphics and Sam Cousins on the sound design. Without the animation/graphics and sound design the series would not be what it is. I believe it compliments the footage beautifully and enhances Paul’s witty side commentary. It brings it to life! It was very much a collaborative effort between myself and Ben who’s a wiz kid in creating typography and graphics and has a great instinct for comedic timing. Sam Doyle came in and composed jingles based on the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Paul’s chosen theme tunes) in different styles that would match each episode.
Without the animation/graphics and sound design the series would not be what it is. I believe it compliments the footage beautifully and enhances Paul’s witty side commentary.
Can I ask what the following episodes are going to be about?
Episode 1 is the one you’re sharing which is about Gender & Identity. Paul gives us an insight into his own identity and gender “male”. He learns about current gender pronouns and how to apply them. Imparts some wisdom on the importance of adaptability in old age. As well as push ups.
Episode 2 focuses on Love & Dating. Paul tells us about his romantic life “widowerhood”, tips on how to have a successful romantic relationship “separate bathrooms” and his experience of dating in the 1950s. As the new hot batchelor in town Paul gets acquainted with what modern dating looks like by scrolling through the apps.
Episode 3 is Politics & Current Affairs (my favourites). Paul gives us an idea of what his political campaign might look like… “something to do with the word consensus”. He talks about the importance of breakfast and the dangers of polarisation. He learns valuable motivational speak and PC vocabulary from DJ Khaled and his new best friend Siri.
Episode 4 is all about Pop Culture. Paul tells us all about good music, good movies and good old fashioned entertainment from a simpler time with sappy endings, “unless they were war movies”… We introduce him to the ugly reality of reality TV and talk about how to get your five minutes of fame. Turns out it’s pretty easy.
What are you working on next?
What is next? That is a good question… Acting-wise I’ve just wrapped on the new season of HBO’s Industry and I’m auditioning hoping to secure new work. Directing and writing-wise I’ve been developing some new personal projects that I would love to direct in the near future. They’re narrative films rather than documentaries which would be a very exciting new challenge. I’m also in the pre production stage of a friend’s indie psychological horror feature, called Locations. Hoping we will be able to make it next summer. Directing and making ANOTHER TIME, With Paul was such an enjoyable experience. It made me realise that I am capable of directing, that I really enjoy it and would love to keep collaborating and making more films.