#SHORTVIEW: “The Driving Seat”, by Phil Lowe

Synopsis:

One Saturday morning, a middle aged couple decide to make love in their car in the driveway to put a spark back in their marriage – only to find it has rather the opposite effect.


GLIMPSES OF LIFE


> Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

There’s a very specific story about how I got the idea: there’s a fringe theatre here in the United Kingdom called “theatre 503”, and they do a very creative scheme for writers: when they have an in-house production, if you are a writer, you can get a cheap ticket, provided that, after seeing the play, you write a 10 minute script in about 5 days in response to what you saw.

So, one time, I went to see a play in which two people were having sex in a car – and when I came to write my response, I imagined a couple in the audience that might have got into a discussion in their way home, saying things like “we never had sex in a car, maybe we should try it out”. But when I sat down and wrote the script, I realized that it wouldn’t work for the stage – so I thought, maybe it could work for the screen.

> The couple in your film comes off as a very natural representation. How did you achieve this?

I wanted them to be a couple that a lot of people could relate to – and in fact, there’s an interesting thing, in that Janie, the lead actress, one of the things that she liked about the script was that people might actually find it helpful as a way to talk about their marriage, you know, for people that might have been married for a long time. We ended up having quite long conversations about what we were saying about relationships, and my own wife often says that people forget that you have to work in a relationship, you can’t get complacent.

So one of the things that I wanted to focus on was that, in this couple, there’s a need to think about what each one is contributing to each other – things like, what I am doing well, what could I make better, etc. Every relationship is different, and tension is to be expected, and of course, there’s always things that people may dislike about each other – but when you’re in a relationship, you have to find a point of connection, and that’s what I tried to do in the film.

> The themes and concerns of older couples are pretty unusual in cinema – especially regarding their sexuality. Why do you think that may be the case?

I think, historically, the biggest age group to go to the cinema has always been the 15 to 25 age group, and that’s a group who’s not really that interested in seeing old people having sex, haha. In fact, I don’t know if you know this movie, “Something’s Gotta Give”, by Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, where two older characters fall in love and have a relationship. Anyway, there’s a scene in which this older couple are in bed together, and my 14-year-old daughter came into the room and said: “ugh, old people kissing”.

Nowadays, however, the overwhelming presence of this age group is declining in the cinema halls, and we’re seeing that, conversely, the age groups of people in their 50’s and 60’s are increasing. So I think there is an opportunity to have a more honest portrayal of the relationship of older people, and there may even be an audience for that. But I certainly expect a lot of people to get tense at the mere idea of it, haha.

> This is your debut as a director, having worked as a novelist and radio scriptwriter for some time. Why did you decide to get into short films?

First of all, I think that as a writer, it’s a very useful calling card. If I meet a development executive, or a producer, at some networking event, it’s much easier to tell them “could you watch this 10-minute short film in your coffee break?” than to say “could you read this 90-page script?”. So I think that, if you come up with a short film that works well, it opens a lot of doors – and for me, it has done so. I’ve managed to close some longer scripts thanks to it.

But there’s also the fact that, originally, when I was in school I wanted to make films – and there is a long story about why I never ended up doing it, but this was a chance for me to actually go back and do what I originally wanted to do, which was to direct my own material.

> And lastly, being an outsider that made the jump into the arena – what do you think about the possibilities of the short film as a medium?

My main concern regarding short films is that it’s so easy to make one now, that it’s become a quite saturated market – so people try to make their material stand out. And what bothers me a lot is that, with a lot of short films, they are made by people who are directors first and writers second, and you can tell: you watch a lot of short films that look fantastic, but that are completely devoid of any story. You can tell that the writing is lacking in strength, and it’s very sad, because what makes a film memorable is usually the story, and not the visuals.

I think that with short films, you have to work even harder than in full-length ones, in order to make them work. The stories that seem to work best in short films are those that only give you glimpses, small episodes, into the life of their subjects. Self-containment is very important – in a short film, you don’t really have the possibility to go through a long journey, but you can spend all of your time inside a character’s head, or do many other things that you could not do in a longer movie. I see a lot of movie that focus their efforts into really big, amazing narrative twists – but sometimes, it’s enough to show the people something, to be “impressionistic”, so to speak, and let them think about what they just saw.


At the time of the interview, Phil was thinking of exploring the future of the characters in “The Driving Seat” through a full-length movie, while also finishing a script for another feature that could not be disclosed yet.