Exploring a couple’s guilt in the wake of a tragedy.

‘Nightingale’ is a tense piece directed by Edward Palmer (Hippopotamus), that explores a couple’s guilt in the wake of a tragedy. The story develops in an a suspicious and uneasy way which just keeps us on the edge all the way through. The film stars Sophie Hopkins and Stuart Mortimer, who apprehensively the mysterious characters. We spoke to Edward who gave us a little more insight on the film:

Can you tell me a little bit about Nightingale, how did this film come about?

After finishing my debut feature (Hippopotamus) I wanted something smaller in scale to keep my filmmaking tools sharp. I was talking to Stu about some festival or distribution news, when he told me he was feeling very inspired by The Wasteland by T.S. Elliot, and he wanted to play a pitch black character. After a bit of back and forth we got the idea to where it felt like the sort of film I would make. It was important to me that we don’t immediately know how dark the character is. I took this project as an opportunity to explore the power of editing and montage, both in the slow trickle of information and cross-cutting between timelines.

As a writer/director are you open to changes or suggestions when you start shooting or do you like to stick to what has been written?

This is a tough one, I’m definitely open to ideas and changes, but they rarely get used. Most often because they’re good ideas for a different film, or a different version of the film, perhaps the note-giver’s version of the film. I think directing notes are similar to writing notes in that they stimulate thought in you but most often you yourself derive the solution to the problem. I think it’s often very obvious when things are made by committee, and those are rarely the experiences that stick with you as a viewer.

Some times changes are forced upon you by the weather/availability/mistakes etc and this film was a good example of that. You have to roll with the punches, adapt and be aiming at the best version of what you can do, rather than what you dream about when you were sat at your desk.

What was the most challenging element you came across in this project?

It’s a toss up between self-shooting and the edit.

Our DoP got an offer he couldn’t refuse so he had to pull out and I naively decided to self-shoot. I’m extremely proud of the end result, and I think it looks more than passable. Would it have looked better with a dedicated DoP? Most likely. I also definitely could’ve done with a bit more brain space for directing. The actors were bringing me water and sandwiches because I was so run off my feet I kept forgetting to eat. 

I also had ten days to edit for my festival deadline. Manchester Film Festival, which I highly recommend, it’s on now actually if you’re reading this in premiere week. I quickly learned that I didn’t know everything about cross-cutting and edit schedules definitely benefit from breathing room and fresh eyes. The edit was a humbling process.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking? 

It’s taught me how not to cross-cut. Don’t self shoot, especially without a gaffer. 

Most importantly, it’s taught me to go all in on your vision. I made a lot of compromises given the nature of how the project came about, and sometimes I made decisions that were to please or appease my collaborators, after all I was asking a great deal from them for no compensation. Going forward I’m happy to risk falling flat on my face on my own terms, if I’m going to fail, I’d like it to be all my fault. 

Having said that, I class Nightingale as a success, and I think it was a great example of killing your darlings for the greater good.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

This is advice for me as much as anyone else. 

Shoot more.

It’s so easy to make excuses not to create. I think this most often comes from a fear of failure or judgement. I shot my feature while I was still a student but it turned out better than I could have ever expected. However, I gain a huge fear of taking a back step and instead stood still, creating nothing.

I can see the improvements from Hippopotamus to Nightingale, despite the fact that the first was shot on Alexa and the second on a A7iii. 

Make stuff. Don’t be precious. You’ll have more ideas.

What are your favorite short films? 

I’m a sucker for a short with a simple, satisfying pay off. Recent examples are the atmospheric Blackbird by Rob Petit, edited by Jonny Lee Mills, and Mausoleum by Jamie Luke Milligan, shot by Chris Fergusson, I really like the way he composes shots.

Which films you can say directly inspired this film?

Honestly, not many. I watched a few Christopher Nolan films. He’s excellent at cross-cutting. Also, Blade Runner 2049 for the grub farm lighting, but we ended up scrapping that idea.