This Friday sees the release of Kenton Hall’s debut feature A Dozen Summers. A coming of age tale with a twist. In preparation for the release Kenton sat down with us and answered a few of our questions…
What inspired you to make A Dozen Summers?
It’s always odd trying to work backwards to what initiated an idea with which you’ve lived for so long, but with “A Dozen Summers” there was a definite moment where I was listening to my daughters talk – and, let me tell you, they can talk – and suddenly realising that I was being given a guided tour of a whole other world. It looked a little like mine in a low light and it sounded a little like mine, at a slightly quicker pace and a slightly higher pitch but it was utterly different. And then it just hit me. Being 12 is weird. You don’t belong to any of the groups that get proper labels. You’re not a kid. You’re not a teenager. You get stuck with “pre-teen” which suggests that it’s an intermediate stage rather than what it is when you are 12, a complete and unique time in its own right. It took a long time to get to the guts of what that meant as a story, but that was the spark.
The film has a very distinctive style, what was it that inspired you to break the fourth wall and have the girls in control of the film?
Partially, I think that’s just how my brain works. That’s how I see the world at the best of times. But I knew that it had to be their story, told by them and I knew it had to try and reflect how they see the world. And film and TV are huge influences on my kids, as they were on me. It’s our first portal to the wider world, to experiences other than our own. It felt natural that, in their hands, they would be translating things into those mediums in order to work them out. And, hopefully, any time you turn something one twist to the left or right, it makes you think about in a different way. Also, I dare you to try and stop those girls from being in control. Can’t be done.
The film is, in my opinion at its best when you are sharing the screen with your daughters, were these scenes improvised and/or did you allow them to have some creative control over the dialogue?
The dialogue is almost all scripted, although there are some definite quotes from things they’ve actually said. They consulted a lot on the script as I was writing it, telling me what they thought was funny, making it very clear what they thought was the exact opposite of funny. They’re honest, I’ll give them that. That said, one of the joys – with the entire cast – were the things they brought to the dialogue, the little inflections and reactions that weren’t in the script. And there are a couple of gags that the kids wrote on set. In any successfully creative environment, it has to be the best idea that goes in, not the one that was yours.
What challenges were there working with such a young cast?
Every challenge. All the challenges. A Greek myth’s worth of challenges. One, there were a lot of the young cast, with a few exceptions like David Knight, Holly Jacobson or Quinton Nyrienda, who were working on their first feature film. They were excited, but they were nervous. And while you have a responsibility to everyone to make the best possible version of the film, you have an even bigger responsibility to create a safe, fun, creative and inspiring experience for the cast. Whatever I screwed up, it couldn’t be that. Otherwise the whole point of what the film was about would be lost. So, you just worked harder, spent more time, were more patient. It was worth it for every moment of joy that occurred on that set. The rest of the crew and I will recover from exhaustion, eventually. If it had been a bad time for the kids, that would have lasted forever.
I found the film to be full of fun little film references, you’re clearly a very cine-literate director- were there any films and/or directors you looked to for influence in the making of A Dozen Summers?
I will very gladly admit to being a film nerd. Every kind of nerd, every shade of geek. Films were an escape for me when I was a child, so I watched a lot of them. I like directors who make films that are very them. I think any creative work should tell you something about the writer and/or director, or there’s no point. I love everything from tiny little indies from around the world to the smarter end of the blockbuster slate. But I’m going to name-check Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Edgar Wright and Tom DiCillo. Possibly because they are the only names I can remember at the moment. If you asked me who my godparents were right now, or who were the Founding Fathers of the United States, I would also name them.
This is your first full feature as a director, what does the future hold for you?
I’m scheduled for a short nap in November. It’s in my calendar. I know what the next two to three films are. I know what I want to write about. But I’m a working actor, writer and director. I want to work with interesting people and tell interesting stories, whichever side of the camera I’m on. Hopefully, there won’t be a mob of folk outside of my house with pitchforks and torches trying to prevent me making another movie. That would be a result. I could build on that.
A Dozen Summers is released this Friday. You can red Bram’s review here
You can find out more about the movie here