A film by Varun Raman & Tom Hancock
From the Directors: “Shot on glorious 35mm film, Transmission is an abstraction of our fears over the future of post-Brexit Britain and many western countries that are increasingly adopting methods of manipulation and contempt.”
2017 | 17 min | Color | UK | 2.39 | In English
Screens as part of the shorts program Future Primitive.
As a first generation British Indian attending high school in the aftermath of 9/11, in a predominantly working class West Yorkshire town simmering with racial tensions, I looked to films and music as a window to a world beyond what was available to me.
Predictably, I was pushed towards the sciences as a means of seeking financial stability, and found myself studying Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College. I quickly realized I was going down the wrong path, and that pleasing everybody but myself was not the right approach to how I should be leading my own life. It was not the most conducive way to being able to give the most back.
So during the Easter break, instead of revising, I decided to drop out, and on the recommendation of my older sister, decided to watch David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Dale Cooper’s everlasting optimism in the darkest surroundings told me to trust my intuition, find my real passion and become a filmmaker.
Within months, I was studying Physics at Manchester University, where I would be afforded more time to pursue my real interests. After meeting Tom Hancock and partnering up for a student radio show, we’ve been collaborating ever since and are now based in Bristol, UK. On the back of many unproduced short scripts, we were commissioned to write a feature by Blue Shadows Films (blueshadowsfilms.com) and ambitious producer, Merlin Merton.
On top of that, we became friends with MOBO and UKMVA-winning music video director, Ian Pons Jewell (ianponsjewell.com), who afforded us time, faith and advice before anyone else in the industry. Having made two no-budget shorts, we’d repeatedly tried and failed to raise funds to get our first high-production short off the ground.
But we’d accumulated enough talented collaborators to make that fateful jump we always believed we were capable of. We hope TRANSMISSION represents that step-up.
To pay the bills and maintain my sanity, I usher and work on the box office of the Watershed, an arthouse cinema in Bristol. PARALLEL MADNESS (parallelmadness.com) is mine and Tom’s website – a place where we share the things we consume and appreciate, and also the name of our production company.
Being a middle-class, white, British male and the youngest in the family, I’ve had little to complain about. But there’s always the unrequited teenage crush, which nudged me into poetry from about 15.
At the university of Manchester I studied Philosophy & Politics. To widen my references and meet other writers, I founded the writing society. Here we published collections, wrote a couple of collaborative novellas in 24 hours, edited a page in the Mancunion and put open-mic nights on.
With one writer, Varun Raman, I co-presented a student radio show. This was a good process through which to get to know someone. Finding a natural sync and enjoying ourselves we believed we could do our best work in a partnership and decided that a radio play would be a good place to start.
From that day we created a curriculum for ourselves. With all the films we watched as part of it we were sold with the medium – it contained every facet of art. From all that we’d learnt, we decided to test our knowledge writing articles for TheScriptLab.com. It wasn’t long until we got onto the feature pages.
This was all the while submitting short scripts to every competition, fund and scheme out there, interspersed with programming monthly short film nights and volunteering at film festivals. The more we got rejected the more we became bored with standard film rules and started to look for places to break them, resulting in many overly ambitious entries, yielding yet more rejections.
Having piled up the short film scripts, a friend and young producer in need of screenwriters, Merlin Merton, offered to read them. And his production company, Blue Shadows Films commissioned us to write a feature.
It was also time to see what practical filmmaking involved. So we wrote, directed, produced and edited two no-budget home movies, OH BOY, set in the living room and HYPERVIGILANTE, shot in a few accommodating bars around Manchester. Our website PARALLEL.MADNESS.COM became another outlet for us, where we share everything that has informed, educated and entertained us along the way.
The last three years have been focused on building a great team and trying to make the most ambitious short film within our means. Two projects came close but were just beyond us. In TRANSMISSION, we stuck to simple limitations: one room, three actors and keeping it interesting.
That’s where we’re up to. Thanks for reading.
TRANSMISSION was written during the height of the refugee crisis as a warning against the anticipated rise in British nationalism, which had been catalyzed by financial austerity and growing hysteria surrounding terrorism. We suspected people would sacrifice their freedoms on the basis of rousing narratives rather than facts. It’s easier to blame sections of society than to hold the elite accountable.
Originally, the story seemed like a stretch for western audiences and that the events and scenarios of the film were only possible in another time or country. But then came Brexit. And Donald Trump. Clearly, self-destruction is both sudden and incremental. Society skates on a thin crust of civility. Underneath, lies an ocean of malevolence that can be unleashed in the name of self-preservation. Only two meals separate us from empty stomachs and chaos.
Brexit took us by surprise. By a narrow margin, the people voted to end freedom of movement. And our government is now resolute on isolating itself and rewriting the human rights act. The disintegration of Europe could be upon us.
We’re just over a decade away from the centenary of the Great Depression, and the events that ensued culminating in the Second World War. Once again, the cyclical nature of history and people’s short memories are demonstrating themselves to be a dangerous and potent mix. TRANSMISSION no longer feels like a stretch for audiences to believe.
Set in a near-future dystopian Britain, now called Britannia, the film is told in the fragmented, traumatized perspective of Leonard. POV shots are a signature, along with heavy sound design and the fracturing of time, interspersed with memories and outer-body experiences, triggered by Leonard’s tormentor, Dr. Sam. Although the film assumes a non-linear narrative, it appears to play out sequentially.
We decided to shoot on 35mm film. Its grain and response to light and color creates a dream-like quality that has yet to be rivaled by digital. And the filmmaking process is engendered with an ultimate dedication to preparation, as well as a palpable sense of risk that ensures every cast and crew member is giving their all for each take.
Being new filmmakers, we storyboarded every shot. An animatic was made to convey how the whole film unfolds, and to know exactly what we’d need to shoot. We created expansive character profiles, arranged rehearsals with the actors to discuss the world and tone of the film, and staged improv exercises to load the characters’ relationships.
The interiors were shot on some of the last Fuji Eterna Vivid 500T stock with the Panavision Panaflex Platinum and Primo Spherical lenses in Bristol. The exteriors were shot in Devon with the Aaton Penelope and Cooke S4s, on Kodak Vision 3 250D stock.
The interior location’s decor changes to blur the distinction between Leonard’s memories and present experiences. The production design assumes a timeless aesthetic and was inspired by Soviet-era and Japanese-WW2 torture and hanging rooms.
Influences include Jonathan Demme, Juraj Herz, David Lynch, Rod Serling, Nicolas Roeg, Harold Pinter, David Fincher and Stanley Kubrick.
We hope you enjoy the film.