Inside Look: Chanya Button


Chanya Button at her home in London, UK on October 25, 2016.

We spoke to director Chanya Button about Burn Burn Burn, her first feature length film.

Much of Burn Burn Burn is comprised of a road trip – if you could pick three people to share the road with who you do not know, who would you pick?
My next film is about Virginia Woolf and her relationship with the poet Vita Sackville-West. They had an intense friendship, they creatively inspired each other, and they had a passionate romance for a time. I’d like to take a road trip with them and bear witness to the fireworks! They sounded like a riot. That’s only two companions, but from what I know of them they’d provide quite enough entertainment.

When you are showing one of your films to someone, do you typically have a certain scene or minute mark in mind where you consciously think “I need/want a laugh or a cry here.”
After months developing the script, shooting the film, and then crafting it in the cutting room, you do find the rhythm of a film embeds itself into your subconscious! It becomes part of you, and you part of it – often reflecting the cadence of your own thoughts – and the way you see the world. So, when I watch with an audience, I definitely have a sense of the shape of the emotional journey I hope they’ll go on.
It’s been fascinating to watch with audiences internationally; the audiences at BFI London Film Festival where we had our World Premiere responded to different moments to the US, Italy, Serbia, the Ukraine. It’s a fascinating way to explore what moves different cultures; what we share, where we have disparate expectations and experiences.

Why do you personally feel that ‘road trip’ stories are so prevalent in film? What makes them so effective?
As an art form, film is an escape. A means of totally immersing yourself into another world. The act of going to the cinema itself I find so releasing and relieving from the strains of the outside world. So in many ways this tradition of the ‘road trip’ narrative is a perfect metaphor for that sense of escape that film offers. Seph and Alex are breaking free from their lives in order to grapple with grief for their best friend, for many of the same reasons as we choose to scurry into the comforting darkness of the cinema.

What is your favourite road-trip film? (That you haven’t worked on)
Thelma & Louise was a guiding light for this film; as was Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road. The sense of fighting through the thorny knots that life challenges you to unpick with a dry wit, a chaotic irreverence – both of those pieces of work share something with Burn Burn Burn I hope.

How much did your preconceived vision for the film compare or contrast with the final product? What surprised you the most about the film, either over the course of production or how it ultimately turned out?
The greatest creative evolutions the film underwent were provoked by our wonderful cast. Jack Farthing, Laura Carmichael, Chloe Pirrie and Joe Dempsie are such thoughtful, detailed actors – they brought the script to life in new and exciting ways. I think this often about putting a cast and crew together; fill the room with people who are bringing things you aren’t. If you think you’re the cleverest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room!


Chanya Button got ready for the UK premiere of Burn Burn Burn at her home in London, UK.


On Button’s coffee table was an old copy of TIME Magazine featuring Virginia Woolf, who will be the subject of her next film.


The marquee at The Screen On The Green in London.


Choe Pirrie, one of the stars of the film, stopped for press shots.


(L) Button and actress Laura Carmichael joined other members of the cast and crew for drinks. (R) Button posed with the cast of Burn Burn Burn.


Button spoke to fans and friends out front of the theatre.


Pirrie laughed as she took a friend’s arm to balance in her heels.


Button and Carmichael before the screening began.


Actress Zawe Ashton came to support her friends involved in the film.


Button watched on as Candy Says performed. They composed the soundtrack for Burn Burn Burn.


Following the screening, Button alongside the cast members and screenwriter Charlie Covell sat for a Q&A session.

Burn Burn Burn can be seen in cinemas now (UK) and on Netflix globally.

As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Photographer: Jessie Craig

Festival Diary: Noel Clarke


Noel Clarke in Toronto, Canada on September 14, 2016.

We spoke to Noel Clarke at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) about Brotherhood, which he directed, wrote, produced and starred in.

With Brotherhood at TIFF, do you feel more pressure to promote yourself as an actor, director or as a writer? Do your personal inclinations gear you to present yourself more as a director? Actor? Writer?
I don’t feel any pressure. I feel that sometimes because of the writing and directing that the acting gets ignored. Brotherhood is probably, bar Star Trek Into Darkness, my best film performance since Adulthood, 8 years ago. I do still see myself as an actor who does all the other things but I am now as much a writer, director, producer as I am an actor. In the UK, I get called jack of all trades, in the US a multihyphenate. Either way, I think acting sometimes suffers as it takes a very confident director to hire me.

Brotherhood was shot 8 years after Adulthood, and 10 years after Kidulthood. Was this a project that you had always been set on making to form a trilogy, or was it a proposition that you came to slowly? Can you conceive of yourself telling another story in this world?
This was never meant as a trilogy. It was meant as one film. When the first one was released and people said I had a voice I thought of the second and 2 years later it was released. After that point I had nothing to say about any of that world. 8 years and 3 kids later I had life experience and an emotional intelligence that allowed me to think about where that character could be.

Brotherhood, much like Kidulthood and Adulthood, possess heavy leanings towards the tragic, reflecting the consequences of action and choice in a gritty, compelling style. How important was it to you for these films to be both instructive and realistic? Are they one and the same?
Instructive came second and unintentionally. The films came from a place of truth. That’s where I’m from, I really know people like the characters in the movies, and that authenticity and the things that I have learned became informative and relatable to others I guess.

How much did your vision of Sam shift as you continued writing and playing the character for each installment?
I played Sam from the perspective of where I felt I was in my life. Kidulthood he was young and angry. That’s how I felt, not getting roles that I wanted. Adulthood he was a guy that was trying, but didn’t really give much of a f*ck about people doubting him – he knew what he was, even though others wouldn’t give him a chance, and that’s where I was too. People still weren’t giving me chances, I wasn’t getting to take part, so I wanted to take everything. I was still young and brash. Brotherhood, comes from an older, level-headed father who just loves what he does and will do anything for his family, and again, I am where Sam is.

What was the most vital element of influence on the ‘hood trilogy, Brotherhood in particular? 
Real life. All have elements of real life. Brotherhood is the most reflective in everyday of where I am as a filmmaker and as a man.

What would be the most gratifying or fulfilling comment or compliment someone could pay to you/ your film?
There’s no real compliments I get excited about. I guess the most satisfying thing would be for someone to say they were surprised by our results and say they didn’t expect that. I’d be thinking ‘I know you didn’t, I did though and that’s why I work so hard.’

If you could attend one screening at TIFF this year apart from your own, which screening would you pick?
They are too many to pick as I love films so much and there are so many I want to see, but I guess I’ll say A United Kingdom as it’s another British film and my brother Arnold Oceng is in it. We’re good friends and I support my friends.


Clarke and his business partner at Unstoppable Entertainment, Jason Maza, began the morning of September 13 with breakfast at Soho House.


(L) Arnold Oceng and Clarke. (R) Clarke watched on as his Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap was steamed at New Era Sports.


Clarke inspected the fit of his new baseball cap.


Clarke on Queen Street West.


Arnold Oceng and Clarke cut loose backstage during the screening of Adulthood for the Manifesto Festival.


Clarke sat for a Q&A session with Manifesto Festival at Innis Town Hall. “Manifesto is a non-profit, youth-powered platform that puts local artists on the map and unites, inspires and empowers young people through arts & culture.”


After the Q&A, Clarke met with members of the audience.


Driving back downtown, Clarke reflected further on some of the questions probed during the Q&A.


Arnold Oceng and Clarke stopped off at The Hilton.


Clarke was among a small selection of guests at a dinner with Cameron Bailey, the Artistic Director of TIFF.


The next morning, Clarke was in a meeting discussing future projects.


Clarke smiled as he Skyped with his children back in London.


Clarke went to a Toronto Blue Jays game that afternoon, pictured here purchasing tickets outside the Rogers Centre.


Before heading into the game, Clarke grabbed a street hot dog for lunch.

As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Photographer: Jessie Craig