As a writer, director, and producer, Jason Joseph is a triple threat. An Englishman who got his start in the advertising industry and worked for a few years in the United Arab Emirates, Jason has always been drawn to film and the stories they tell. He has helped to produce quite a few short films, including Mtume Gant’s 2015 short, titled Spit, that have been screened by various film festivals around the world.
The Windsor Paradox is Jason Joseph’s short film directorial debut. The film is about a man whose indecisions fuel his journey and leads him down a path that ultimately takes unexpected turns.
Jason was kind enough to speak with me about his short film, the idea behind it, and what his experience was like as a first-time director. You can read the full interview, as well as watch the trailer for The Windsor Paradox, below.
You’ve worked on and produced other films that have been picked up for film festivals. What spurred your decision to write and direct your own film?
I think I’ve always, always–like most film fans and filmmakers–I’ve always wanted to make a movie. And I think what really pushed me to do it was the sense of time. It seemed to be going and there was no real reason not to go and do it. I had this idea for a script floating around in my mind for quite some time. I’d written it a few years ago and I purposely wrote the script to be made without too much difficulty. A simple storyline and a simple structure in terms of location and minimum [number]of actors. It was just a time when it had to be done and got to a point where I said, “I have to do it.” It was a case of finally finding the courage to believe that I could do this thing and go out and do it. And thankfully it got made without too much grief and I’m excited to do the next one.
What inspired the idea for the film? What was your thought process behind it?
It’s funny because the idea for the film came about while I was trying to think of a story for another film. And I was kind of stuck, getting frustrated in terms of what to write for the scene and I had different ideas kind of pinging around in my mind. I just couldn’t decide what ideas to put down on the page. I was going back and forth and getting myself into a quagmire of indecision and frustration. Weirdly from that, the idea just kind of popped into my head. In a way, [the idea for the film]did come from frustration, but in the end it turned out to be a good thing. And I never did finish the original idea I was working on [laughs], but it was a good thing at the end of the day.
What was this experience like for you as a first-time short film director? What was the energy like on set? How did you prepare?
There was a bit of preparation, about three months of pre-production. Before that, I wasn’t very heavily into social media, but my wife was like, “Facebook is where you can find filmmakers and other people who can help you make this film,” so I was getting into that more heavily. Freaking out about how I was going to do it, finding my producer, finding the crew, and going back over the script, making sure I was happy with it and keeping my indecision at bay and not talking myself out of doing it.
And then it came to shooting and it went really smoothly actually. Spent a lot of time casting my crew as much as I did the film and making sure I had people who were obviously good at what they were going to do, but who also understood that this was a small budget, small thing, my first time as a filmmaker, even though I’d been directing in my head for so many years. I kept it light and relaxed. I’m generally an introverted person, but on the film set I had a slightly different approach. I was definitely a bit more active and tried to be a bit more positive and engaging. It was only a two-day shoot, it should have been three now that I think about it. But there were no issues, no drama. Everything went really, really well. As my first experience, I have to say it was a really good one.
The Windsor Paradox deals a lot with indecision and the internal struggles we face when trying to make choices. But it got really dark in the end too. When you conceived the idea for the film, was that always the ending you had envisioned for the character?
Yeah. When I was writing, it did start out as this sort of absurd story and it just got more exaggerated. It’s just this guy who’s caught between what he wants to do and I wanted to exaggerate that and heighten those feelings that we have. And then writing it, it turned down the right street and it’s kind of strange, but I just kept going with it because that’s what was coming from my mind. At first I was like, “This has gone a bit dark,” but when I was writing it, I couldn’t envision it going any other way, so I just went with it and didn’t question it too much. I knew it was going to be a dark comedy and I’m an Englishman as well, so I have that sense of humor in me anyway. But yeah, when it went that way on the page and in my mind, I definitely just went with it and thought, “I’m just gonna let it be what it is.” I always saw it as a bit absurd as well and not something to be taken so seriously or literally. I just wanted to exaggerate that and run with it. In my head it’s a bit funny, but I can see how some people might think it’s strange.
It’s the music and the actors expressions and body language that really move the film. What fueled your decision to not have any dialogue in the movie?
I wrote three [films]and they were all sort of twisty and absurdist, dark comedy. But I noticed they all didn’t have dialogue. And I think it came from a practical kind of thing. Less dialogue made it easier to make these kinds of forms. But I also wanted to make something cinematic and tell a story and just try to use the camera, use good acting, and a simple story to visually represent the theme or idea. And I found that a bit of a challenge actually. I’ve watched a lot of other short films before I made mine and some of them do get a bit talky and I thought, “You know what, I’m gonna do something a bit different, I’m gonna do something without dialogue.” I was trying to tell an old-fashioned story with sound, music, art direction, and just suggestion and theme and see how it went. So it was a bit practical, but also inspired by the work of Alfred Hitchcock and Brian de Palma and basically trying to tell a story in an interesting way.
The music remained happy and a bit whimsical throughout even as the man is getting more and more desperate for a decision to be made. How closely did you work with the music composer?
In a sense, the music is the dialogue and does a lot of the heavy lifting. The composer, Michele Gelmini, he did a fantastic job and I really did lean on him to help me with it. Interestingly, when I sent him references to what kind of music I like, I did send him some tunes from Inside No. 9, which is a British anthology dark comedy series. And I sent him references to Tim and Eric [Awesome Show], which are crazy American, sort of twisted dark comedy shows. There was this kind of whimsical, but not slapstick, kind of music. I definitely didn’t want it to go that way, but it had this whimsical feel just to upset the darkness [of the film]. If the music was too comedic or too heavy, the tone of the film might’ve been a bit off. So it was important that the music provide the right kind of balance. It had a kind of upbeat vibe to it, but as it gets towards the end, it does hint at somewhat of a darker ending. I was hoping the tone of the music would put the audience in the frameset of something that was funny and a bit absurd, but ultimately when it does take that turn, I just wanted the jolt with the audience like, “Oh, it’s gonna go there.” The music does that at the end and I’m really happy with the music. It really brought everything to life.
I also liked the use of color. The entire apartment was largely gray and black and the only bright colors in the film are the red and blue of the ties.
I’m glad you noticed the production design because the apartment, or 90% of the apartment, is as you see it: the white and the gray and the clean lines and look. We added the color on top with the ties and through the vase, the blue and red candles, and the blue trousers. It’s sort of like color was the antagonist of the film that was pulling him out of his sense of normalcy. There was color and it upset the rhythm and the pace of the story in terms of the character’s journey. Whenever we saw the ties, there was a piano cue and that combines with the production design and the color. So I’m glad you noticed that.
What are the plans for the film? Will you be submitting it to any film festivals?
Yeah. The idea now is to put it out into the world in a bigger way and just see how it does. It’ll be interesting to see, if it gets accepted into any of them, what category they’ll put it in. Will it be a comedy? A drama? A horror movie? [laughs]It’s interesting to see the feedback of what the festivals think. But it’s not a huge hook I’m hanging on to. I’m happy if it gets accepted, that’d be fantastic. But the main thing for me is that I had an idea for a film, I wrote it, produced it, and made it. That’s a big thing and it’s done and now it’s on to the next one. I just want to see where it takes me and if it’s something I’m interested in carrying on, then investigating and making a trilogy of films, I’m not so sure yet.
But I had an idea, I got it out of my system. It’s done, it’s made and it’s better than I thought it would be. It’s one of those weird things in my head where it was one thing and then it came out to be another thing, but I’m happy that it’s made and hoping people’s reactions will be good. I hope people see the cinematics of the film and feel that it was nicely shot and the camerawork was good. I’m quite interested to see what people think about that. Cinematically, does it feel like a film and does it move like a film? The technical stuff is a bit nerdy, but that’s what I’m looking forward to see what people think. And obviously making the next film, I want to keep that momentum going and make another movie.
Check out the trailer below and find out more about The Windsor Paradox at http://www.twpfilm.com.