Imagine a society where to be accepted, you must take the place of someone else.

‘Ironstone’ is a single shot pilot short film inspired by a violent Yorkshire tale. Director Craig Bingham takes us through a raw, tense and emotional sequence that will leave you wondering what you just witnessed – in a good sense. The story moves quickly, but also very little, which has the viewer inching for any little detail he can get in the surroundings. We connected with Craig who gave us a little more insight on the film and its inspirations/

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

When I was growing up, I worked as a landscape gardener. One morning, my dad and I were working on a job in Bradford, West Yorkshire. On our tea break, the home owner came out and told us a story about something his friend had witnessed the previous week – an illegal fight in the middle of a field. Two guys got in and only one got out. It never left me. This is a pilot short of a much longer story inspired by the tale he told.

How did you go about casting for ‘Ironstone’?

I work closely with casting director Hannah Ashby Ward at Lanes Casting in London. When I read through the short with her, she immediately said I should meet up with actor, Frankie Wilson. Strangely, at the time, I had just watched him in “The Souvenir” and “Against The Ice” and was really drawn to his performances in both. We met and hit it off. Hannah then set about searching for the rest of the cast. Among the blood thirsty punters are some of my close friends from Yorkshire; they were all eager and excited to get involved.

Behind the Scenes of Ironstone
photo by Peter Lally

Every action and framing seems to be carefully orchestrated, yet so much is left to interpretation. Do you have any answers for the audience – or do you want us to draw our own conclusion?

For me, this scene always played out in one shot. I wanted to create tension, suspense and throw the audience into a heavy situation, quickly. More than that, I wanted it to leave the viewer asking questions.
When making a film as heavy as this, the back story and motivations for the characters need to be well thought out. Why would anybody get into a hole like this and risk their lives? For me it was never about money; it always came down to family and belonging. “Imagine a society where, to be accepted, you must take the place of someone else.” This is a pilot short of a much larger story. What happens before this scene and after has been written. No spoilers.

There is obviously a much bigger story here, what held you to limit the story to this particular sequence?

I would have loved to tell more of this story and looking back, maybe I should have. Short films are always a labour of love. This was supported financially by me and it comes down to the simple fact of budget. As soon as you are travelling with a crew and cast to a location far from where you are based, the cost begins to run up quickly.

Photo by Peter Lally

One take films are always a challenge, what was particularly difficult for ‘Ironstone’?

The challenge with all one takes is making sure you hold the audience’s engagement. When blocking this scene, there were beats I needed to hit to keep the story moving / create intrigue. The challenge was peppering information in front of frame at the right moments. When initially blocking, it felt quite static so we created subtle interactions and movements to make punters feel real and to motivate the camera’s movement. Aside from the technicalities, you’re working with actors who are giving a lot to the scene – we only had a short window of time until they’d exhausted themselves physically and emotionally. It was tight – the sun dropped quickly and, at one stage, I remember thinking…I’m not going to get what I was hoping for. But we did!

Photo by Peter Lally

How many takes did it take to get it right?

We did 5 takes. I chose the third.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

I always learn the most when working on my own projects. Actors all have their own methods and approaches. When working on this, I had my notes, thoughts and opinions about the characters I created but I’m always curious and excited to hear the actors’ thoughts. It’s important to have time – time to allow them to explore, to experiment. I think that’s when the magic happens.

What are your favourite short films?

My favourite short film of last year is “The Long Goodbye” (Watch on FS) directed by Aneil Karia , starring Riz Ahmed.

Which films can you say directly inspired this film?

Catch Me Daddy

Rust and Bone
Tyrannosaur
Bullhead
Snatch