An Interview with the Crew of Ordinary Life

We sit down with the makers of Ordinary Life following their win at the RTS awards.

George Bell
9th May 2022
Credit: IMDb
Newcastle University Alumni recently won the Royal Television Society North East and the Borders Award for Student Non-fiction Film. I sat down with the team behind the film to discuss their impressive achievement and gain some insight into how the film was made.

Ordinary Life is a first-person documentary that chronicles the adversities faced by a mother and uncle while growing up. It quietly observes their sibling bond through an intimate poetic-observational portrait of their present life.

Through everyone’s least favourite video calling software, Zoom, I was able to spend an hour with the talented crew behind Ordinary Life. Those present were Luke Suddes (Director, Executive Producer), Katherine Beavers (Producer, Production Assistant), Dalene Low (Cinematographer and Editor) and Harrison So (Sound Designer and Sound Recordist).

This was probably made in the middle of the pandemic, which must have been difficult. Were there any key issues you ran into while making the film?

Harrison: Yeah, the hardest part was the guidelines which the government kept changing. We would plan a shoot and how we would work around restrictions and then suddenly next week, lockdown came and more restrictions, which was extremely tricky to deal with.

Luke: It was a blessing and a curse. Obviously, it was horrible to do over a lockdown but at the same time, it gave us six months to plan the shoot. So while the pressure was on to get the shoot done in such a short amount of time, we had it planned like a military operation and were ready.

I thought there was a lot of emphasis on photos in this film, with them frequently recurring in some great shots. What does a photo mean to you guys?

Harrison: You get to see so much and pass each step of their lives, seeing what they looked like young and in college. A lot of stuff happens and photos are a very important part, you know, to keep that memory and keep things going. That’s kind of why we made this film, as a kind of memory for them as well.

Dalene: It just captures a very important part of life, because you don’t remember all the experiences but when you see the pictures, all these memories can come back and you get to experience them again.

Katherine: It’s hard for me not to think about this in the context of the film. We toyed around with the idea of using a lot of archive material and trying to find stuff from the 90s to show the two of them being teenagers. This was less in the editing stage but in the weird period before shooting where we were unsure if we were going to be able to get any footage. Being able to see them as actual 20-year-olds in that period where they literally had to just go off and live on their own is hard to express but extremely important for us.

If you can, name any film or film-makers that helped inspire this film

Dalene: There were some films in mind that we were inspired by and one was something I randomly came across on Vimeo called No Crying at The Dinner Table by Carol Nguyen. The way she talks about family, generational trauma and the way the film was treated was something we were inspired by. 

Luke: A lot of the inspirations got this film actually ended up being very similar to each, stylistically and structurally. One film that did have an influence was actually Amelie. The use of a god-like narrator in films like it and Shawshank Redemption and Forest Gump was something I’ve always liked. But also the idea that without the interesting way Amelie was made, it would be so boring which also applies to our film because it would have just been my mum sitting on a couch.

Luke's Mum and Uncle

How did your mum and uncle react when they watched it, Luke?

Luke: They haven’t spoken or called me for five months. Okay, that’s a lie. My mum was a lifesaver during production. This film would not have happened without her driving us to and from Newcastle, picking up food and having like six people in the house at night. She has definitely been super supportive. I didn’t want to disappoint her, and when she started telling me that she was sending the film to all her friends, that was the real award. But the funny thing was my uncle. He is a lovely guy and for lack of a better word, he is a bit jaded (in a nice way). I could tell while we were filming that he was being polite but didn’t think much of it. To be fair to him, we were just a bunch of kids with a tripod telling him to walk up and downstairs 10 times over and over. But when he actually saw it, he messaged me a big paragraph saying that he thought it was going to be shit but that it’s actually really, really good. That was the biggest praise I could get.

The winners and their award

The Royal Television Society, or RTS, contains awards for presenting and innovation, to animation. Industry giants like ITV were present at the awards, just showing how prominent they are. The category won by Ordinary Life pitted it against other student documentaries from numerous North-East Universities, making their victory no small feat. Following this big win, the team and film are through to the RTS Nationals which take place in London.

Best of luck to them.

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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