Land of Steel: Interview with Director Chris Thomas
18th July 2019 by Will Stewart
The Port Talbot steelworks have suffered many setbacks, closures and job losses in recent years, greatly effecting the local economy and community. We follow John (70) a retired worker and lifelong resident of Port Talbot as he runs familiar paths, contemplating the shadows of uncertainty as the future of Welsh steel hangs in a precarious balance.
I was lucky enough to catch up with film maker Chris Thomas to as him a few questions about Land of Steel. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please introduce yourself as a filmmaker, and talk a bit about how you got into film making.
Chris – My name is Chris Thomas and I’m a filmmaker living in East London.
I’ve been making films since my late teens, started off with skateboarding & ghost hunting videos that manifested into a more fictional interest when I went to film school. I then worked as a runner at the production company SMUGGLER worked my way up and was fortunate to have opportunities to direct commercials while continuing making short films.
A funny story is, my actual first proper filming experience was when I was 19, when I managed to blag myself on to the set of ‘The Young Victoria’ starring Emily Blunt and pretended I was doing a work experience placement. I spent three days on set before anyone realised. I always remember Jean-Marc Vallée’s (Director) advice to me was to work hard and stick to your guns. It was the first real taste of a big production which inspired me to pursue a career in the film industry.
MadeGood – It says in the vimeo description that this is a passion project- what compelled you to make this film? Do you have some connection with the local area, and what is your relationship with John, the protagonist?
Chris – Land of Steel from the beginning was a passion project of mine. I’ve always wanted to make a film about Port Talbot. As a young boy living in Llantwit Major (South Wales), I traveled through Port Talbot to visit family in West Wales. I was always fascinated with the landscape and the lights at night. For me, it was just about finding the right story within the town. As an outsider, it was important to make a film for the people of Port Talbot and to get across that the steelworks is an identity.
MadeGood – The sound design and music in this film is absolutely incredible, it sounds like something out of a Hans Zimmer blockbuster. Please tell me a bit more about the creative process behind this.
Chris – I worked closely with Mark Hills and James Utting from the sound house Factory. We used real sounds from the steelworks and built together a soundscape that felt fitting with the visuals.
Tom Player (composer) and I from the very beginning spoke of a big score and liked the idea of combining brass and synth which worked really well. Some scores that inspired the process was from the 9th life of Louis Drax and the latest Blade Runner.
MadeGood – Equally, it looks absolutely incredible. For a passion you’ve done well to film this on an ARRI Amira and Cooke lenses, and you’ve assembled a team of very capable people. Please tell me a bit about how you got this film made, and how people became involved.
Chris – I’m big on preparation, the more prep the merrier—even for a documentary where you’re always gonna find moments and new scenes during filming, I always like to build a basic storyboard that’s tells the story from A to B. On the location scout, I tend to think of interesting shots and points of interest and try and build the story around what’s available to us. The equipment we used was an Arri Amira with Cooke S2 lenses. We also used the DJI Inspire 2 Drone. There was only four crew members including myself so we had to keep things light and mobile which worked well for us. Big love to Movietech for supporting us with the project.
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
Chris – I just finished a short film called Let’s Roll which is a film based around the Gloucester Cheese Roll. We recently submitted the film to festivals and as much as it’s a standalone short, we’re hoping to develop a feature film on the back of it. Fingers crossed and let’s see.
MadeGood – Thanks Chris, the next one sounds intriguing. Good luck in the festivals, can’t wait to see it!