As a film blogger, I’m so fortunate that I got to ‘meet’ filmmakers (whether virtually or in person) from all over the globe and help champion their work. I first learned about Forget Me Not in early 2017, right when I was I was in crazy pre-production mode working on my own short film Hearts Want. Thankfully I got in touch again with director Nicholas Goulden and producer Angela Godfrey earlier this year and got to see his wonderful, heartfelt short film set during the holiday season in London.
Alone and invisible to the world, a homeless man and the ghost of a little girl discover they are each other’s only hope of finding peace in time for Christmas.
The title of this film is most appropriate as it’s one of those films that will linger in your mind long after you watched it. It also has a very significant meaning given the story revolves around two people who are ‘forgotten’ by people, especially during the hustle bustle of Christmas at a busy London junction.
Renowned Scottish actor James Cosmo played the homeless man Benedict, with Ruby Royle as the little girl Isobel and John Heffernan as a working man who offers Benedict coffee daily. It takes a bit of time to figure out just who the little girl is and why she keeps approaching Benedict, and that’s the point. I feel like the deliberate measured pace is a contrast to the speed of how everything and everyone is moving every day, unaware of what’s happening around us as we’re so focused on ourselves.
There’s such a quiet grace in the way the story is told, with few words spoken. Yet it packs an emotional punch and the scene at the end got me all teared up. I’m not going to give anything away, as I hope one day the film would be available for public view.
The cinematography (by Chris Fergusson) and music (composed by Matthew Slater) is absolutely stunning and adds even more emotional resonance to the overall viewing experience. I adore the story that speaks about themes of hope and caring for those who are most in need around us. Kudos to filmmaker duo, director Nicholas Goulden & producer Angela Godfrey (both of them also wrote the screenplay) for creating such a beautiful film, both thematically and visually speaking.
Q. What’s your background in film? And what made you decide to make Forget Me Not a short film?
Nicholas – I started at the bottom, as a runner, and worked up. I came to the film industry in my mid-twenties with the intention of telling stories that interested me, but first of all I had to learn the craft – and stay alive! While directing, writing and producing independent material, I moved up through the AD department to 1st AD, primarily on films and commercials. This experience has given me a huge wealth of knowledge which I’m able to bring to my directing work.
Regarding making Forget Me Not a short film, I guess the simple answer is we planned it that way. The short film format was perfect for the story that we wanted to tell.
Q. Angela, you’ve been involved in huge studio productions costing hundreds of millions. What’s been the most gratifying thing for you in making something much smaller on a personal level for you?
Angela – I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been involved with lots of high budget film and tv productions and I still very much enjoy being a part of them, but as a Script Supervisor I tend to only be involved in a very small way. So for me, having the chance to build a story that is important to me personally and see it grow right from a tiny seed to where it is now has been incredible.
Q. Forget Me Not is such a beautiful, poignant story. What’s the inspiration for the story? Was there a personal connection for either one of you?
Nicholas – The inspiration really came from the desire to address themes that are not only important to both of us as people but also resonate with a contemporary audience. We all go through times when life is against us and we feel lost and alone – hopeless – so telling a story that addressed different facets of that felt very worthwhile.
Angela – In doing so, we wanted above all to make as well crafted and affecting film as we could that could strike a chord with everyone who watched it. It is also a very visual and sound heavy film with minimal dialogue which means it can be enjoyed by people around the world no matter their age or language.
Q. There’s a magical realism in the story, yet it still very much grounded in the day-to-day reality. Tell me how you balance out those elements in the film, esp. for Nicholas as a director.
Nicholas – Finding that balance was really important and something we worked a lot on. I looked at it very much from the point of view of a real world where magical things happen, rather than a magical world where real things happen, so the emphasis was on a naturalistic approach. It was conceived exactly as you’ve described – grounded in reality with a touch of magic.
Q. Please tell us a bit about the casting for the project, particularly James Cosmo, who’s a pretty well-known character actor even here in the States. I’d also love to hear how John Heffernan come on board.
Angela – As relatively unknown filmmakers it’s very difficult to persuade an actor who is in high demand to come and work on a short film, in the freezing cold in the run up to Christmas, so we were very lucky to have a very talented Casting Director, Rachel Sheridan, on board, who knew both James and John would be perfect for the roles of Benedict and Jack. Having Rachel behind us, helped us approach James and Jack in a professional way so that we could be taken seriously.
Nicholas – For Isobel and Owen, we contacted agents all over the country, looking at hundreds of actors, dozens of submission tapes and ultimately auditioning about thirty actors. It was a long, time-consuming process but totally worth it, bringing us the fabulous Louis and, of course, Ruby.
Q. How many days did it take to shoot the film? Looks like there are mostly night shoots or was it in the wee hours of the morning?
Angela – We shot the film in 3 and a half days. We worked ‘split days’ which means our call time was later than a normal shooting day, allowing us a few hours of daylight at the start of each day and then the rest was shot after nightfall, and we’d wrap by 11pm. Having a child actor as a lead made life harder as we had very strict times that we had to adhere to, so everything was tightly scheduled.
Q. What’s your favorite part of the shoot? Conversely, any memorable on-set snafu you’d like to share?
Nicholas – My favourite part was shooting Benedict taking a bite of the cookie – his performance is delightful and still makes me chuckle. With so many emotion-laden scenes, the shoot was especially intense and that scene was always intended as a lovely moment of levity. James absolutely nailed it.
As for snafus, we had niggles but we were fortunate. Given the time restrictions everything went remarkably smoothly, which is a testament to the level of planning which went into it! But we had our moments – for example we had managed to hire the coffee cart but didn’t have transport to get it across London – the delivery costs would have blown a hole in the budget and we had no driver let alone usable van of our own. In the end, Jonathan, one of our floor runners who had come over by coach and ferry from Utrecht in Holland to be part of the shoot, cycled the thing across London through the freezing rain. It was titanic efforts like that which really held us together.
Q. The location in bustling Hammersmith is almost a character in itself. Tell us a bit about how you choose that location.
Nicholas – Angela and I were familiar with the location prior to the project. The architecture of the flyover has a brutalist beauty which really appealed to us. Also, there is a fascinating contradiction in the fact that it’s thronging with people and traffic practically 24-7 but only because people are trying to get from somewhere else to somewhere else. That makes it quite a lonely, isolating place, and the perfect mise-en-scene for our story.
Q. I LOVE the mood and tone of the film, brought to life by the gorgeous cinematography and score. Please tell me a bit about working with DP Chris Fergusson and composer Matthew Slater?
Nicholas – They were both fabulous to work with. We had a good run up as we waited for the right time of year, so we talked extensively with both Chris and Matthew about the mood and tone we wanted for the film to make sure we were on the same page.
Our budget didn’t allow us much shooting time given our ambitions, so with Chris we worked extensively to flesh out a tight shot list which would allow the vision to come to life despite the practical restrictions.
Angela – We spent lots of evenings inspecting the locations. Chris even made digital 3D mock-ups of the location so we could plot camera and actor positions and see what the shots would look like months in advance. This really helped when it came to the shoot because we didn’t have to waste any time on the basics, instead finessing already well thought out shots to tell the story in the most beautiful way possible.
Working with Composer Matthew Slater was incredible from start to finish. He really pushed the boundaries with the score capturing the emotion of the characters and the story perfectly. The recording took place at the infamous Studio One at Abbey Road Studios, conducted by Matthew and performed by the world renowned London Metropolitan Orchestra. We were extremely lucky to have this as it’s pretty much unheard of in the short film world and adds a whole new dimension to the finished film.
Both Matthew and Chris were an absolute dream to work with and both gave an incredible amount of time and expertise to the film. We hope Forget Me Not is the first of many!
Q. Lastly, what’s next for both of you? Any feature project that your prod company Keen City is working on?
Angela – We are currently developing a TV show called Lady of the Med which is about an ordinary expat mother, living on the coast of Spain who gets tied up with the local mafia and becomes a spy for the UK government, and a feature film called ‘Grace Escape’, a black comedy about an elderly grandma who wants to die her own way, so escapes her care home intending to jump off the cliff where her husband tragically died many years previous. Both very different to Forget Me Not, yet they deal with family relationships and will be very emotive and hopefully great watching!
Thank you so much Nicholas & Angela for the interview!