Did you shoot in any particular order? How long did you have?
We decided to shoot in story order, which if I could I would do every time. I think it’s hard filming out of sequence, for me anyway. The progression in tone and mood from scene to scene is so difficult to get right and shooting in order makes it a lot easier. I also think it is fantastic for the actors and helps performance no end. Life doesn’t happen out of sequence and so it makes sense that when you try to recreate life, it doesn’t either. Of course producers and assistant directors think you are little crazy for even suggesting it. We had 16 days to make the film.
Was the story always going to be told from Russell’s perspective, or were you at any point considering coming in to the couple through Glen, or giving equal screen-time to their time apart?
I knew that the story should come from Russell’s point of view. It really is about the impact Glen has on him. I also wanted Glen to remain as somewhat of an enigma—for example we only hint at his background and most of what we do hear comes from his friends and not him. I was fascinated about a character like him who is determined to know all about other people and their backgrounds but does not want to be defined by his own. Saying all that we did actually shot some scenes back in Glen’s house with him alone but even as I was shooting them I knew they were unlikely to make the cut. I do think though they will make an interesting DVD extra. We will certainly get to know a little bit more about Glen’s life but they scenes are interesting rather than essential.
One of my favorite things that this movie does is show how political outspokenness is a privilege of class. Russell and Glen have very different standards for what constitutes an ostentatious display of gayness—unsurprisingly, Russell, who grew up in foster care and hangs out with his married working-class friends, is less comfortable than Glen, whose parents owned VHS tapes of E.M. Forster adaptations, who wears a graphic-print t-shirt that says “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” (!), is an artist who runs with a young, single, attractive crowd… but neither has a completely filled-in backstory. How much did you fill in about each character as you were writing?
Even though a lot of the background work I did on the characters did not make it to the screen it is an essential part of the writing process. Our personalities, our politics, our philosophies do not exist in a vacuum, they develop because from our histories, from the events in our lives. All of what has happened to these guys in the past has a direct effect on how they live in the present, and how they interact with each other. We seem to live in a strange world where people forget that. People seem to think that you make decisions based on the present not on the past. To me that is clearly not the case and so it was vital to me that I understood the backgrounds of Russell and Glen before I could come to terms with how they behave during the life of the story. I think once you really get to grips with who these people are via their backstories it opens up everything—you know what their apartment should look like, what their clothes should be, what films they like, what music, their politics, their views on relationships. All come from their backstory.