Conceived during a time where the world was battling lockdowns, Emma Miranda Moore’s short drama Run is a small-time story with great emotional depth. It’s about a boy named Charlie who dreams of growing up to be strong enough to confront his confrontational, bullying brother Solomon. One day, during some outdoors exercise, Charlie meets Lisa, a local neighbour in whom he finds a kindred spirit. Their relationship is the core of the film and it’s through Lisa that Charlie is able to fully face his future. Moore directs her short film with close precision, centring her shots around her actors emotive performances. It’s this approach that grounds the film in a compelling realism and allows us to see the world purely through Charlie’s perspective. DN is proud to Premiere Run on our pages today and joined Moore for conversation where she breaks down the practical conversations the story was born out of, the process of rehearsing with Scooter Crick and Maddy Hill, who play Charlie and Lisa, and the realist yet cinematic textures of Run’s cinematography.
What was the inception of Run as a filmmaking project?
Run was a film that was born out of its casting really, a really pragmatic approach driven by an unusual moment. Everything had closed for the first lockdown and it felt very scary in terms of filmmaking (as well as everything else). I was worried nothing would ever go again! Originally I had another short in mind for that moment but that was going to be impossible in the circumstances so I began to think about what I had access to and what would be possible. I thought about making something small in production scale but big in terms of story and emotion. Maybe two people was best. Which actors could I get? I started to make pairs in my mind. I’d worked with Scooter on a couple of projects before, a micro short called Lit that won DepicT! and a dance short in which he was the youngest of a large group of teens. I think he was just nine when we did that one. Those were both ensemble pieces but I was pretty confident I could bring him to the forefront and let him hold the space. Maddy is someone I’d wanted to work with for ages, but I hadn’t been able to offer her the right project. I felt like they would make a good pairing.
It’s a story that concerns Charlie’s relationship with masculinity. What drew you to that as the central narrative?
I started to play around with ideas for story. I always have a few conceptual ideas tucked away at any one time so I unpacked a few and walked them round the room. One of these was the idea of masculinity and what it is to grow up and be a ‘man’. I had read an article about young kids who were intensely training to get bigger muscles, before their bodies were ready and that was on my pinboard. I grew up in an all female household and now I’m raising two young men so toxic masculinity was a real draw for me. I have usually written from a very female perspective character wise and I wanted to bring out both sides here so that went in the mix. I always love an underdog story, I mean who doesn’t, right? But that felt like it could work here. And lastly the idea of home, something we were all experiencing a little bit too much of in that moment, what happens if instead of a sanctuary it’s a place you need to escape from? That’s a horror trope I guess really but I thought maybe it could work in a drama too.
How did you prepare Scooter and Maddy for the shoot? Do you have a particular process when working with actors?
It was really important to me to give both actors enough meat to work with. Although we only see the world from Charlie’s perspective, Lisa needed to have a full backstory and layers to play with too. I toyed with the idea of going into her house too and seeing the neighbours’ viewpoints from both sides but ultimately it felt stronger to stick with the kid’s perspective. There was a story advantage to seeing everything through a child’s eye lens too, it meant we could keep it completely on a level of only showing what he sees and experiences, letting the audience fill in the blanks. Lisa is being abused and there is no world in which I want to show women getting hit on screen. We’ve had enough of that filmed forever I think, I don’t think it ever needs doing again.
We did have some violent scenes for Scooter though. His brother Solomon in the film is played by his real brother, Ossie Crick. He’s a trained dancer so movement sequences were something he was really familiar with. That helped a lot with plotting those set pieces as it was literally “right your hand here, then turn” and I was very conscious that I didn’t want anyone actually losing their temper off getting hurt at all. We had clear ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ to shooting those scenes and the boys would hug before we started and when we finished.
Because it’s such a performance-centric short, with quite challenging scenes as you mentioned, were you able to build in any rehearse time?
We had a little bit of rehearsal in real life before we shot. It was outside but good to have that time and let the actors find some moments in the script together. Maddy noted that neither Charlie nor Lisa are very vocal people but that their connection comes from something else that they recognise in each other. We left space for that and had a play with some subtext and so on. Scooter gave Maddy a little card and present which helped them bond I think!
I thought about making something small in production scale but big in terms of story and emotion.
I worked with Miranda Harcourt as a rehearsal coach for Run. She’s absolutely brilliant, especially with younger performers and I’ve worked with her again since. Everything in prep was remote, including the coaching but actually it helped Scooter a lot I think being able to see the screen as he and I worked with Miranda together. He could see the edge of his ‘vista’ and know what he was showing to the audience but also that his actual world could be bigger.
Were you able to do any other aspects of the production remotely?
Other things were harder to do remotely. Production design and costume was all over Zoom and that was fun and games. Both Sofia Stocco and Jo Thompson were amazing and had so many ideas that really came from character and storytelling. I think everyone on the team, which was tiny by design, was really pleased to be involved with making something, even if it was in a slightly unorthodox way! I was watching YouTube videos of how to do bruises because we weren’t allowed a make up artist and Maddy and I practised together to get that right.
In terms of the camerawork, Run has a kind of realist yet cinematic look to it. Could you talk about working with your DP to establish that visual tone?
My DP was Charles Mori who I’ve worked with a few times before on shorts and commercial projects. He’s a lovely man and I felt like it was important to have good male energy on set. He was great with Scooter and he understands how I like things to be shot. Before I was a director I was a fashion photographer so I really know how I want things to be framed. Charles was one of the first DPs I teamed up with when I moved career as his work looked a lot like my fashion pictures. It’s realism but with some polish on it. I also love a little cutaway to details, those small things that bring you into the intimate world of a character. Charles gets that. I didn’t want any wides for this film at all apart from the last shot, just close and mids. There were a couple of moments where Charles and Producer Sarah Beardsall were like “…are you sure you don’t want the coverage?” and I was very strongly like, “no let’s move on.” because I knew if I had it I’d be tempted to dilute that vision of staying on a very human scale throughout.
Did that selective approach allow the shoot to progress quicker too?
My Producer Sarah was brilliant all the way through, from helping me with the story to dealing with the logistics of Covid. It actually all came together really quickly, I think spurred on by panic! That’s not such a bad motivation sometimes. She read the first version of the script and succinctly said “yeah, it needs one more beat.” She was totally right. I loved having that support and can’t wait to work with her again on something else. She’s really tenacious about getting the right thing too. We needed quite specific music for this film and some of it needed clearing up front so that Scooter could learn it. There were a couple of weeks of Sarah sending me various grime artists on the daily that we both found pretty funny as it was not really our area of expertise. We learned as we went, I really love what we chose and think all the music adds so much to the story.
How challenging was it get the PJ Harvey song?
We swung clearance from PJ Harvey in post and that was a proper double fisted knee slide moment for me. I’m a huge fan and I knew that track was perfect but it was all Sarah that made it happen.
It’s realism but with some polish on it.
Who did you work with on the edit? What was that portion of the production process like?
When it came to the edit I worked with Roberta Bononi and we are known for doing everything we can together. We’ve worked on shorts and commercials and done a lot of festival time so there’s plenty of history there. We have a lot of shorthand in the way we communicate because we’ve spent a lot of hours in each other’s company so even though some of the edit was remote it was OK as the trust is in place. For someone as control freaky as me, that’s a real plus. Roberta is amazing with music too and I wanted those hard edges on the needle drops so we were able to really push into that and enjoy it.
What have you been up to since making Run?
Since Run I’ve made another short which is out at festivals and doing well, it’s called Jackson. I’m writing my first feature and loving doing it. It’s a very different process to shorts but I’m here for it. It’s about a group of teens so I’m staying in a slightly YA mood for the moment – I love working with young people so that’s a bonus! I’d love to direct something about grown up women too so I’m keeping my eyes peeled for scripts or TV that might be a good fit, plus shooting some commercials. I’m just always pleased to be working really, slightly too busy is my happy space.