Interview With Ben Aston: Creator Of 'He Took His Skin Off For Me'
Following the recent Kickstarter success of 'He Took His Skin Off For Me,' we asked the short film's creator Ben Aston about the project (pictured left).
NRM: This isn't your usual story for a short film! What is it about Maria Hummer's story that inspired you to create this?
Ben: Reading the story for the first time is an experience. The imagery and the language is at once haunting, dark, tragic and beautiful. When I read it I was surprised it didn’t already exist, which is always a good sign. It’s one of those stories that that grabs you by the back of the neck and demands you make sense of it. As a writer Maria is elusive as to a singular interpretation, thus the power of the allegory is how multifaceted it is. Everyone comes out with something important and personal.
When I read it, I see as a cautionary tale. I see someone changing themselves totally for another person. Two people can change together, but this situation is a one way sacrifice. If I were to take off my skin for the person I love, it could mean giving up on being a filmmaker. It’s something I could do, it wouldn’t kill me… It might even be great at first, romantic, but slowly things would mount up, and before long I would grow to resent the person I was with. In fact I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself. It would be horrifying.
In some ways, it looks like a horror film. You call it a Fairytale on the Kickstarter page. But in other places of the copy it comes across more like a drama. Where in terms of genres would this lie?
That’s part of its appeal, there are so many different aspects to this film that defining the genre has been difficult. It is a mixture of magical realist, fairytale, body horror and sci-fi all rolled into one. It is definitely not a comedy, but there are definitely elements that are darkly comic. It feels a bit like a modernised Grimm’s Fairy Tale in that it’s kind of a cautionary tale. The guy is sacrificing everything for his partner, but having such a skewed relationship is always going to end messily (both literally and figuratively in this case). The skinless man is anatomically beautiful but also kind of terrifying, the gore gives the audience a visual of the horror, however the couple don’t quite see it, they can’t comprehend how their relationship is poisonous, and that in itself is a horror story.
With your decision to use physical special effects, with the help of SFX legend Colin Arthur, would you say computer generated graphics don't have the same eye-catching immersion? What is your opinion on this?
CGI is an incredible art form. But like everything else in filmmaking it's a tool that's there to serve the story. For this particular story we knew that for the film to work we had to really feel the presence of a skinless character. It's such an unreal image that no matter how photorealistic it could look in a computer, it's never going to have that tangible, tactile quality that you can get by photographing something thats ACTUALLY there. I don't think anyone is going to watch this film and NOT see a special effect, but I think knowing it was actually crafted on set makes you at least believe in the reality of this obviously fake world. In addition the performances will be organic and unconstrained. Considering that this is a film about two people in a relationship, it would be a crime to obstruct the performances by having our lead act opposite a tennis ball. CGI is a great thing, just not everywhere.
With your project fully funded, what timescales are we looking at for production and final release?
To say that we're fully funded isn't quite true. We really need to hit our stretch goal to deliver the full promise of the story. Makeup application can take up to 8hrs, which can only only leave a handful of hours remaining in a shooting day. An additional shooting day for the production ensures we don't have to cut corners and can give the SFX team enough time to show us their best. Our shoot is scheduled for September and we are looking to deliver in early next year.
If you could create film adaptations for any other short stories, what would they be?
There's another magical story by Maria that I really want to adapt into another short. We're also in the process of adapting another into a feature. It involves time travel! Check her out at www.mariahummer.com