Music as Influence

Music as Influence

Daniel Jerome Gill has worked his way through the film industry in various positions, including second assistant director on The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Stan Lee’s Lucky Man. Adapted from his own short film, Modern Life is Rubbish is his first feature as director. It tells the story of a couple Liam (Josh Whitehouse) and Natalie (Freya Mavor) who are at breaking point after ten years together.

ASFF: How did you take this from a short into a feature-length movie?
DJG: Originally, I approached the writer Philip Gawthorne; he had three short plays and one of them was Modern Life Is Rubbish. I loved it. And I said: “Could I buy the rights to make it into a short film?” We adapted the thirty-minute play into a twelve-minute short film, which I directed and produced. We got Rafe Spall and Rebecca Night to be in it and we shot it at my mate’s house. And everyone worked for free. It premiered at the BFI London Film Festival and it played around 35 film festivals around the world. Then we got some development finance from the BFI and we developed it in a feature-length script.

ASFF: How did you envisage the tone of the film?
DJG: My vision for this was always making it as an indie film. It’s not a Working Title-Richard Curtis type film. It’s more an imperfect love story. It’s slightly tarnished. It’s not social realism; it’s not Andrea Arnold. Most people have gone through a break-up.  Going through your music collection, separating it and putting it into boxes at the end of a relationship … I think people can relate to that story. Because they’re both musos, they’ve got loads of records and CDs that they’ve mixed up.

ASFF: Are they Blur fans, given the title of the film?
DJG: Modern Life Is Rubbish was always the title and it was always based on the Blur album. In the feature-length script, they first meet in a record shop and they talk about Blur and Modern Life Is Rubbish and all the Blur albums. We liked the idea of “Modern Life Is Rubbish”; there are three main themes in this story. One is love, one is music and the other one is modernity. And what pushes them apart is modernity. He’s very much against the corporate world that she’s starting to belong to.

ASFF: Josh Whitehouse wrote and performed some songs for the film. Did you know he had this talent?
Yeah. In hindsight, I could never have imagined having somebody as good as Josh, who is a guitarist, a musician and is in a band, More Like Trees. We had a music producer that wrote the music, but because he’s such a talented songwriter, Josh worked with him to write the tracks for [the film’s fictional band] Head Cleaner.

ASFF: How would you pitch Modern Life Is Rubbish to audiences?
I see this movie as High Fidelity meets Blue Valentine! Although it’s not as depressing as Blue Valentine!

James Mottram

Modern Life Is Rubbish opens in cinemas on 4 May.

1. Still from Modern Life Is Rubbish.