Q&A with Stephen Parker, ASFF People’s Choice Winner

Stephen Parker’s short drama Dust & Resin made an impact on audiences at this year’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival and took home the People’s Choice Award. This film considers what it means to feel loneliness even when you are not alone, and asks the audience to reflect upon how we judge others, often incorrectly. The film was directed by Stephen Parker, who drew upon his personal experience of Alzheimer’s. We speak to Parker, who shares with us his plans to coordinate an online launch of the film in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Scotland.

ASFF: What was the main influence of the film?
SP: My Grandfather was the main influence for Dust & Resin. He suffered from Alzheimer’s before he died, but I noticed that in a strange way, it was his wife, my grandmother, who suffered more. I wanted to tell the story of the person who was left behind, so to speak. That was the genesis of the story.

ASFF: Did the story develop during the transition from script to screen?
SP: The story itself remained the same – we were very true to our script – but David and Zoë brought a huge amount to their roles and escalated the characters. There was a line of dialogue that I was sure the film revolved around which I ended up cutting on the strength of their performances, so that was a good lesson in ‘less is more’.

ASFF: Loneliness is a strong theme in Dust & Resin. Can you explain how your main characters experience loneliness?
SP: For me, this film is an exploration of how loneliness can manifest itself in someone who’s not actually alone. That’s where Francis is in this film. He’s experiencing a cruelly ironic loneliness, feeling like he’s lost his wife – mentally, at least – whilst she’s still alive. Dance is the way that he remembers her former self. Dance is also the way that Simone escapes her life. Her loneliness is very different. It’s based on the way she’s regarded by others. Although we don’t meet them, I imagine that her life is full of people, but people who don’t understand her, her passions and her dreams. That’s a lonely place to be.

ASFF: The film challenges how we typically perceive others. How do you hope audiences will respond to the characters, and what do you hope they will take away with them?
SP: ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ is another prominent theme of the film. We, the audience, perhaps judge both main characters at the start, then Simone judges Francis without knowing his whole story. It’s so easy to judge someone prematurely, but it tells us something about ourselves. I’d like the film to act as a mirror for people to consider their perceptions carefully before making a judgement. I always hope that audiences are left wanting to know more. It’s an ambiguous ending. In a way, I always saw it as a beginning of a bigger story, rather than the end of a shorter one.

ASFF: It is a great accolade to win the People’s Choice Award at ASFF, congratulations! Where do you hope to take Dust & Resin next?
SP: Thank you! We’re delighted to have won and are extremely grateful! We’ve had a great festival run but hope that this will open some doors to further screenings. We’re looking forward to sharing Dust & Resin online and once the festival run is over, we’ll be coordinating an online launch in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Scotland.

To find out more about Stephen Parker’s Dust & Resin and to watch the trailer visit www.dustandresinmovie.com

ASFF 2017 is now open for entries: www.asff.co.uk/submit

1. Stephen Parker, Dust & Resin