GOD’S OWN COUNTRY DIRECTOR Francis Lee PRODUCERS Jack Tarling, Manon Ardisson WRITER Francis Lee KEY CAST Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones LOCATION Yorkshire FORMAT HD (Alexa) PRODUCTION COMPANIES Shudder Films, Magic Bear Productions, Inflammable Films PRODUCTION PARTNERS iFeatures, Creative England, BFI, Met Film, PW Pictures in – looking like the wind and rain and hills had affected him. He lost weight, because people in that world burn every calorie they consume. How did you find Alec Secareanu? Alec is a wonderful Romanian actor we cast in Bucharest. First off, he’s the most beautiful man alive. That really helped with the character of Gheorghe, whose essence is that he really cares about people and the world. Alec just embodied that. He and Josh had an instant chemistry, which helped us as they were going to have to do some quite difficult scenes together. But they were completely immersed in it. That’s incredibly important when it comes to the credibility of the script. Once we had the characters pinned down, we introduced them to their environment. From there, we worked through their routines: where do they keep the bread; what’s their favourite chair? It’s important that as their characters they understand the geography of the location. What was the biggest challenge on the shoot? I wanted to shoot chronologically which was very tough. I saw this emotional story as building blocks and every scene impacted on the next. I also wanted that seasonal change: from the end of winter to the beginning of spring. The six-week shoot was tight, but then at the end of week four Josh contracted a bug that was pretty horrific. I sat with him in A&E for eight hours as he was put on a drip. We shut down for a week while he recovered. That was very hard, to interrupt the flow, but he came back to work and as soon as we resumed he just nailed it. What about the rest of the cast? We have Gemma Jones, who plays Johnny’s grandmother Deirdre. She felt like a really interesting choice and was incredible to work with. When I was casting, I hadn’t seen her do anything like this and she nailed the character, who reminds me of a lot of women in my family that are caregivers, but who don’t show a great deal of surface emotion. The character’s very hard, but what she’s actually doing is giving a lot of love. That’s quite complex. Ian Hart plays Johnny’s dad. He’s fantastic, really giving and was very open to the whole process. He has to do something physically demanding. He did all this research and we worked very carefully on it. What are you obsessive about as a filmmaker? I’m obsessive about sound, right from the very inception of this project. It’s something I want to talk about and Francis Lee and Josh O’Connor on set Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu Francis Lee and Josh O’Connor on set integrate much earlier than it would naturally come in the process. It’s very stark, this world, and I’ve worked hard at building a soundscape rather than a score – working with all natural sounds. I live on a hill and to me the thing that’s constant is wind so I’ve worked carefully in building textures and wind sounds to evoke this world as I hear it. Sound is just as important to me as image. I also insisted that the costume designer could only get clothing from the place the characters would buy them, which is Keighley town centre. The challenges of working chronologically means they have to have lots of the same costumes. In a day we’d have snow, sun and rain. But when it came to each scene they’d have to be perfectly dressed to the occasion, in the same costume. Speak’s in Keighley were very good. It’s not that expensive. So you could spend £100 there and have so many clothes. Francis Lee and Gemma Jones on set What did you learn making the film? I’ve been incredibly lucky with my key creative collaborators. Joshua, my cinematographer, nailed the shoot. He worked the hardest I’ve seen anyone work. The film’s editor Chris Wyatt relocated to Yorkshire so we could cut it up there. I’d heard people say, ‘You make a film three times: you write it, shoot it and then you finally make it in the edit.’ I totally get that now. I managed to shoot everything in my script. There was a lot of choice as everything worked. But it was Chris who really held my hand and guided me towards making it a story. What do you hope people will take away from the film? I want the people who watch this to have an absolutely authentic depiction of the world as I see it. For me, this is a harsh landscape – a difficult world. It’s not this bucolic place featuring gambolling lambs. It’s a tough place to work and I hope people get some sense of it. Ultimately, it’s a universal love story and I hope everyone, in some way, can relate to that.
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