Dan Smyth is the British writer/director of Every Good Boy Does Fine, one of the short films screened at the Aesthetica Film Festival this weekend. Dan received funding from the UK Film Council to make Every Good Boy Does Fine, his second critically-acclaimed short film. As part of our Brilliant Britain celebrations, we speak to Dan about the film and how the British film industry has helped his career.
What is the film Every Good Boy Does Fine about?
It’s about a troubled youth whose talent goes unnoticed as he shuts off the world and secretly studies the art of violin-making in his council flat.
The storyline deals with the traditional craft of violin making, but uses an unlikely character and context for the craft. Why did you choose this particular craft or talent for Gary?
It’s a personal story that is loosely based on my own family. Despite my family’s quarrels and differences, our Irish music heritage has always remained a part of our identity. The craft of violin-making is associated with my family, but from a broader viewpoint, the craft and the context become a metaphor, and the story represents the way certain people’s talents and skills can still be ignored in today’s society.
Despite all their conflict, there are plenty of similarities between the father and son in the film. The art of violin-making embodies Gary’s character traits; his inherited talent and pride, also his desire to explore and create.
There is a stark contrast between the beauty of craftsmanship and music and the nondescript council estate where Gary lives, can you expand more on your thinking behind this:
It was the particular contrast of beauty and dystopia that made the story bittersweet and cinematic. Hundreds of hours of blood, sweat and tears can go into hand crafting a violin, and I wanted to tell this story in such a way that the audience would feel torn and empathise with the young violin-maker despite his problems.
You received funding from the UK Film Council to write and direct this film. Do you think being in Britain has helped you become a filmmaker?
It’s relatively early days for me as a filmmaker but I’m positive that living in Britain has helped me develop. I’ve been lucky enough to have short films funded by The UK Film Council and more recently received feature script development funding from iFeatures2. The UK Film Council used to take an active role in developing emerging talent in the regions and I believe Creative England and the BFI are starting to do the same.
Why do you think Britain is so good at supporting craft and innovation through the creative industries?
I think government and lottery funding have been important to nurturing filmmaking talent within the UK industry. As long as this remains, and the BFI, Creative England and BBC films develop new and exciting opportunities for emerging talent, then we will continue to produce great films and filmmakers.
What would be your nomination for Brilliant Britain?
It’s a toss-up between Mike Leigh’s films and North Staffordshire oatcakes.