Boys On Film 8: Cruel Britannia hit DVD yesterday, and amongst its selection of great gay-themed short films is the S&M tinged Spring. We’ve already chatted to director Hong Khaou, and now we’ve been lucky to pick the brain of the short’s star, Chris O’Donnell (no, not that one). It was quite an unusual assignment, as the young actor spends much of Spring in his underpants, standing on his tiptoes.
We found out what that was like.
How did you get involved with Spring?
I saw an audition call on the Equity website and applied for it. After that I met Hong to talk about the script and his ideas and then I took part in a one day workshop/audition along with the other actors, which I was lucky enough to be selected from.
What most struck you about the script when you read it?
I really liked the script and thought it would be a good challenge for me as an actor. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about the sexual content but after I met Hong and he explained to me how he intended to shoot the film, and the feeling he was going for, my mind was put at ease and I really wanted to be involved.
Is it difficult to portray the sort of intimate power-play in the short, especially with a film crew around?
Not at all. I think it made it easier having the crew around because during the shoot you get to know them all and realise everyone wants to make the best film possible, which creates an extremely supportive environment.
Did it help that the characters aren’t supposed to know one another, so the journey you’re on as actors is somewhat similar to what’s happening to the characters?
Not in this situation because obviously I’m nothing like Joe, Jonathan [Keane] is nothing like Tim, and the reason we’ve met one another is completely different to the characters. As actors you’ve been put together by the director and are working with each other to create a film. Whereas in Joe and Tim’s case they meet through the internet in entirely different circumstances and are both after very different things.
Did you look into the world of S&M before you shot the film?
No. This was an occasion where I could use my lack of knowledge towards the character, as its Joe’s first time.
Did you mind the nudity?
I only had to strip to my pants, so it was easier for me.
Do you just get used to being in your pants all the time after a while?
I wouldn’t say you get used to it but once the first couple of minutes are out the way you certainly feel more at ease.
Chris, it looked like it must have been particularly difficult for you. How long did you have to spend on your tiptoes? Was it painful?
It looks a lot worse in the film that it actually was. Luckily we shot from lots of different angles, so I rarely had to be on my tiptoes for the whole scene.
There’s a lot going on in the film that has to be packed into a very short running time. Is it tough making sure you get across what’s going on with each of the characters when you have so little time to express it?
I think that’s definitely one of the challenges with making a short film. What made it easier on this project was the fact that we rehearsed quite a lot before filming and Hong was also very clear as to what he wanted from us.
Do you have a particular favourite aspect of Spring?
My favourite aspect of Spring is probably during the S&M scene when the camera slows down and all the sounds are heightened. As the viewer it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to watch and the tension created is brilliant.
Did you go to any of the festivals where it played? Were you pleased with the audience reaction?
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it Sundance or Berlin but I did make it along to the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in London, which was great as I got to see a few of the other entries. The film was well received not only here but I’m told it got a very good reception at all the festivals as well
Do you think audiences are missing out, as most people wouldn’t think to spend time searching out and watching short films?
Yeah I do. I also think that it is a lot to do with the fact that people don’t know where to look or even know short films are available to buy.
Thank you Chris.