A few years ago, director Chris Thomas shot a short documentary for the Marine Conservation Society which opened his eyes to the problems of plastic pollution. When starting to look for plastic or waste on a beach, he soon realised it’s everywhere.
Some may argue that beach cleaning just isn’t enough, perhaps going as far as it not making any difference at all. Despite these arguments, what’s always drawn Chris to beach cleaning is people’s strong and passionate desire to help remove pollution from our shores. Every piece of waste that’s taken away means there is one less dangerous item for wildlife and for habitats to be restored.
Ben Cowan, editor at CUT & RUN, said: "Discussing new projects with Chris is always exciting, our previous collaborations have involved a great blend of picturesque landscapes and authentic relationships to tell relatable stories, and I knew this latest film had the potential to be really beautiful. It’s always a hope that the work you do mirrors your personal beliefs, and with environmental impact at the heart, this had the perfect combination of two of my passions. The world in which the film is set is entirely real so our focus was to build and explore the family dynamic; the differences between the girl’s relationships with her gran and mother, in order to populate it with realistic characters the audience could connect with. It was important to give breathing space to specific scenes to capture the emotional shifts in the story, and deliver a film that can hopefully inspire others to change."
The film was shot just before lockdown on the Isle of Anglesey which is home to Chris' mother's side of the family, where he spent a lot of time growing up and exploring many of the beaches as a kid: "I’ve always found the beaches in Anglesey beautifully unique with its baron and rocky surroundings. I wanted the story to highlight the problems of coastal pollution yet connect the audience through an emotive human story. As a fictional narrative, it was key to ground the film in realism, that being through the performances and finding that balance between considered and handheld camera work, creating a sense of observation between the characters", said Chris.
He continued: "I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of a slightly more nimble and splinter approach to filmmaking and have probably produced some of my best work this way."
Due to the nature of the shoot, there were limitations with it being micro-budget and the crew only consisted of five people. However, Chris has always enjoyed the challenge of a slightly more nimble and splinter approach to filmmaking and has probably produced some of his best work this way. Lee Thomas (DOP) and Chris planned the majority of the shots but kept everything fairly loose, constantly searching the horizons for inspiration and 'moments of magic'.
They also had to find a weekend where they could capture scenes within variable weather. Anglesey has its own microclimate, so the weather can change quite dramatically. As a bit of a weather-enthusiast, they scheduled each day around certain weather-models to plan each setup, where there could be a window of sunshine all the way to rain accompanied by 50mph gusts.
"Lucy Shaw (girl) and Alyson Marks (gran) were a real joy to work with, along with Lynne Ryan (mum) who’s local to the area. For the final scene we got the Anglesey Beach Cleaners involved which I thought was a lovely touch." added Chris.
In post, they were fortunate to have some brilliant and regular collaborators on board including Ben Cowan (editor), Vlad Barin (colourist) and Tom Player (composer) who always scores such beautiful and emotive music. Everything was done remotely during lockdown which was 'challenging at times' but something the pair adapted to.
Vlad Barin, colourist at CHEAT, commented: "We wanted to have a gloomy atmosphere with soft shadows and slight monotone wash in-keeping with the British weather. At the same time, we didn’t want it to all look the same to show the progression of time. The tone had to be slightly melancholic but with glimmers of hope and emotional intensity. We achieved this by letting the yellow of the jacket and red elements pop throughout the film. The sea shots at the start, and the night time ones later on, were particularly challenging but we achieved quite a dramatic atmosphere while still keeping detail in the sea and beach. It’s always a joy working with Chris and Lee and I am happy to see their hard work being recognised”.
Since the film’s release it’s been acclaimed and shared by numerous charities and organisations including the North Wales Wildlife Trust, MCS, DEFRA, Plastic Tides, Discover Cymru and Keep Britain Tidy who are including the film in their upcoming campaign.