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Live for Films talks to Kevin Nash – director of Waking David


Waking David is an independent feature length drama-thriller created through an improvisation process that was inspired by the works of Mike Leigh.
The film tells the story of Scarlett, an American psychologist, who – during a lecture tour of England – decides to look up Amy, her half-sister, and find out about her father who died 10 years earlier. She is surprised to encounter a family that won’t communicate with her, or each other, about the past. Just when Amy starts to open up about their father, the family creates a wall of secrecy and lies surrounding his death. As Scarlett delves further into the truth, she starts to realize the danger of asking too many questions…

Waking David is currently in post-production has just launched a crowd-funding campaign to help raise the remainder of the budget required to finish the film. Making a movie is no easy feat, but with the accessibility of crowd funding and the vast reach of the internet, there is a fantastic opportunity to fund unique projects like this – but the filmmakers need as much support as possible to make it a success.


I caught up with the director of Waking David, Kevin Nash, to find out more about the Kickstarter, as well as improv and the influence of Mike Leigh, and which movie monster he would like to be killed by.



Hi Kevin. I’m Alan from Live for Films. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions from us today. First off, what is Waking David about?

At one level, it’s a mystery about the death of a loving father and husband ten years before the film begins. On another level, it’s about how a family is torn apart by lies, secrets and a total breakdown in communication.

Scarlett, a successful American health psychologist, passes through London for a conference. Yet her goal is to meet Amy, her hitherto unknown half-sister, and to find out about their father, David, who died 10 years earlier – and whom she’d never met. She spends the weekend with Amy and Amy’s mother, Julie. Scarlett soon finds that she is less than welcome in Julie’s household and that there is a wall of silence about David. Even so, during the course of the weekend, the relationship between Amy and Scarlett softens and they begin to accept each other. Amy starts to open up about David, revealing a caring father and husband. However, the same night, during dinner with the whole family, serious doubts are cast on the image of David that Amy had conveyed to Scarlett. As the evening progresses, Scarlett digs deeper. When the truth is finally revealed, it shatters the stability of the family, causing all of the family and Scarlett to reassess their relationship to one another.

What was the inspiration for the film?

I have always been drawn to the work of the playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He also explored themes of alienation through lies and miscommunication. As the story started to evolve through the improvisation process, it became clear to me that there were a lot of common elements in what Ibsen wrote over a century ago and what we are trying to convey in Waking David. Once that connection had been established, I felt we had a clear theme for the film and I wanted to find a way to show that those same problems of communication are as valid today as they were in Ibsen’s time – more so, because the easy access of so many forms of online information and social media has had such a damaging effect on how people communicate.

Tell me about the influence of Mike Leigh’s work on the project.

My original plan was to create a whole film script purely from improvisation in the same manner as Mike Leigh. This proved over-ambitious and impractical but we took elements of his process and adapted them for Waking David. So, for example, the actors created their own characters long before we had a story and they based those characters on people they knew or on a combination of people they knew. Then we discussed a scenario in which these characters could meet in a dramatic way. From this a loose form of scenario was developed. And then we returned to the improv process, using improvisation to create the dialogue for each scene in the scenario. The dialogue was recorded and transcribed into a fully formed script. As with Mike Leigh’s films, there was little actual on-set improvisation.

How does improvisation affect the work of a director – does it make your like easier or harder?

For me, personally, it is both. It’s easier because I don’t consider myself a scriptwriter and so improvisation is the only way I know to create an original script. It is harder because it’s a long process. From start to finish (not including the time the actors spent on creating their characters) we worked for about 18 months on the script, almost right up to the shoot. You have to work in stages – first the characters, then the synopsis, then the improv sessions, and then transcribing, editing, re-editing the dialogue and then having more improv sessions to pick up elements of the story that are incomplete.

What is your directorial style? How do you approach your visuals, and what is your method of directing actors?

Stylistically, I work really closely with my DP, Lukas. We don’t have a set approach to visuals. They all depend on the meaning, context and themes of the film. In this case, we used numerous visual references from Michael Winterbottom to the painter, Lucian Freud. Probably the strongest visual influence was Winterbottom’s film, Wonderland.

For directing, I rely heavily on the rehearsal and script analysis process that went on for months before we shot. I feel the actors and I should be ready to go as soon as the shoot starts (especially in this case as we had a very short shooting schedule – only 15 days). On set, I allocated what some directors might consider a disproportionate amount of time to rehearsal. Before each scene, I would get the actors together on the set and have them walk the scene in their own way – find their own blocking. I found this organic way of working creates a much more natural and interesting dramatic impact, rather than the conventional setups of most films. I then make adjustments as necessary to make everything work.

Tell me about the cast of Waking David. How did you go about assembling them? How did you know they would be able to handle the improv? Did there have to be a tremendous amount of rehearsal?

Two of the main actors, Harriet Madeley and Kristy Bruce, came to me as part of an improv workshop I ran at Queen Mary University of London. Shane Bruce, Kristy’s mother, then joined us. We found the other three actors through auditions after we completed the synopsis. The story started with three characters but as the story evolved we ended up with six. There were a lot of rehearsals and improv sessions but the actors were all very experienced at improv work. I would always want to work with actors who have improv experience because it allows so much flexibility in approach to characters and story.

How far along is the film at the moment, and what will the crowd funding money be going towards?

Nearly done. We have to finish sound work and color grading, so that and the final sound mix and DCP, and then we’re finished.

What “perks” are there to backing the film?

They range from “Thank you” to full Associate Producer credit, depending on the amount. In between, there are: thank you mentions in the credits, signed images from the film, digital downloads of the film and DVDs, one of the props from the film, and an invite to the after-party.

Nice. How can people get involved and help out?

Mainly, we want to build a support base for the film, so the more people can look at our Facebook page and follow us there and on Twitter, watch the great promo video that Luke made for us on Kickstarter and then keep spreading the word about the film.

Thanks. I have two last questions for you: If you could remake any film, which one would it back and why?

Probably the Alfonso Cuarón version of Great Expectations. I consider it one of the greatest books in English literature but it has still to be adapted properly for a contemporary setting. This version was over the top and had little to do with the deep themes of class that lie at the heart of the book.

And if you could be killed by any movie monster, which one would it be? And what would your last words be?

Probably Dracula. Last words: “anicca, anicca, anicca”.

Thank you for your time, and good luck with the film.


To help Kevin complete Waking David check out the film’s Kickstarter page, and be sure to find and follow the film on facebook and twitter: @waking_david.


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