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netribution > features > interview with toby meakins and simon allen

After stumbling upon an abandoned wheelchair, a deaf girl discovers the astonishing secret of The Magic Mile. Struggling to comprehend the unfamiliar world in which she finds herself, she picks up the trail of the wheelchair‚s owner. When she finds him, she discovers that miracles have their limits.
The Magic Mile
is an extremely touching and slightly disturbing mythical short film by a group of very promising young filmmakers called The Faith Film Company. The film was among eight diverse shorts of great quality at the Kodak Short Film Showcase in Spring, and it stood out as one of the most concise and profound of the bunch. I certainly couldn't forget it and when, on account few stiff drinks, I bumped into the crew after the screening and spent the whole time answering questions about Netribution - my time now.

| by tom fogg|
| photos courtesy of the faith film company|
| in london |

Firstly, can you tell me about the team behind the movie?
Toby Meakins: I produced and directed it. The DP was Steve Albins and the Sound Recordist was Ned Hards.

Simon Allen: I wrote the story and screenplay. I also provided the footprints that you see in the finished film.

Toby: Yeah but the boots and socks were mine.

How did you meet?
Toby: I met Steve and Ned on a low budget feature film but Simon and I met at University.

Simon: Was it the first or second day?

Toby: I can’t remember but it started with me saying "If you write me a script I’ll go and shoot it." and you saying "Yeah, alright."

Is this your first film together?
Simon: No but if I ever speak about our first film together Toby will have me killed in the most bloody and horrific manner.

Toby: That’s right.

Simon: We made a few good things before this though — a video monologue called Frank’s Way which was rejected by Meridian for breaking every ITC regulation. I’m quite proud of that.

Toby: And we made a 16mm short called Before which played at The Greenwich Film Festival.

Can you give us a brief history of The Magic Mile as a project?
Toby: I really admire the short stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez — he has an uncanny ability to perfectly match the length of the story with its content. I wanted to make a film that would do the same.

Simon: So we put some ideas down. This was one of them.

Toby: We took the ideas to our investor who picked this one out.

Can you tell us a little about the production itself? What was the budget, how long was the shoot and what did you shoot on?
Toby: The original budget was around 5,000 and the shoot was supposed to last for 3 days but, because of a storm, we had to come back a month later for another 2 days. We shot on Super 16 Arri III. When I had it in the can, I went back to the investor who was so impressed that she gave me another 5,000 for the print and other expenses.

Who is this investor?
Toby: She's a lady who had expressed interest in investing in us for quite a long time. When we eventually approached her with a serious business plan, she made the decision to help finance it.

There are clear themes concerning fear, understanding and acceptance of disability within the film, who informed you of these issues? Or why did you feel you needed to express them?
Toby: Before this, we made a short called Lev which featured a deaf character, so a lot of the research came from that. The central premise of this film was: Is it better to know what you are missing or to never know? Some of our research revealed that profoundly deaf people have actually refused cochlear implants because they are happy with the way they are. I was fascinated by that.

Simon: The two characters respond to the mile in very different ways. The deaf girl accepts and enjoys it as a gift, making the most of it while it lasts. The guy never accepts that it won’t last forever, which is why he heads out to sea at the end.

Toby: We’d always seen him as someone who could once walk. Someone who was probably involved in a crippling accident. That explains his resentment and bitterness.

Simon: The film is about a collision and compromise between these two attitudes: accepting disability and not accepting it. He compromises at the end by asking for her help because he realises that he will be in trouble if the mile doesn’t extend that far.

You obviously had fun with sound, tell us how you achieved those effects for the audience?

Toby: This was always going to be one of those films that relied heavily on the sound to convey and carry the story. Because of that, I talked as much to the sound man during filming as I did to the DP. I think a lot of people neglect the sound when they are making a film and it is a big mistake. This way, the sound designer had the material to make it work rather than having to spend months creating artificial effects and samples in the studio. The sound has an authentic, natural feel. It was designed by a guy called Dan Weir and brilliantly mixed by James Hart.

Simon: I think the score is fantastic. It resonates in the mind long after you’ve seen the film.

Toby: It does. The score was written by Josh Hills. He wrote about ten pieces for it. In the end I asked him to take a fragment of one theme and expand it.

It is a very concise piece, ideal as a short in that you were not over spoilt for content.

Simon: We went down to the location in Camber and spent an afternoon on the beach walking and talking the story through.

Toby: It became apparent that we needed to keep it as simple as possible. What we came up with that day is pretty much what we shot.

How has the film fared so far?
Simon: It played at the Kodak Short Film Showcase at the beginning of April and was well received.

Toby: It was then picked up by the Short Film Bureau who are acting as the sales agent. It has been shown at the Genesis Cinema as part of a Peeping Tom’s event. It has also been selected by the South West Media Development Agency for their Short Circuit Cinema programme and it'll be doing the festival rounds in the UK.

Have you managed to get it regularly screened anywhere?
Toby: The Short Circuit Cinema programme means that it could play in 17 cinemas in the South West region in front of feature films.

What are your plans now and where do you see yourselves 5 years?
Toby: We’re working on our next short It Might be Sky. I’m looking to do it on 35mm with The Magic Mile team.

Simon: I’m ploughing through a third draft of my feature script. After that I’ll be finishing my novel which has been sitting around in a half-scribbled state since last Summer.

Toby: After It Might be Sky, I want to do one more short, then move into features.

Simon: Amen.

For more information on The Magic Mile or to contact the Faith Film Company email:

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