Warwick Davis joins Demon Media in the studio for a chat about his part in ‘From Leicester To Hollywood’, a documentary from DMU’s very own Rhys Davies, as well as the UK Film Industry and it’s direction, his beginnings as an actor/filmmaker and behind the scenes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and his future in the series!
Warwick has taken time out of his busy schedule to tell us about what he is doing in and around De Montfort University.
‘Well, I’m here to voiceover a documentary.’ says Davis sitting comfortably on the couch with DemonFM producer Avery Penn.
The star, famous for roles in the Star Wars and Harry Potter film series, is also well versed in the producer chair so the documentary, one that follows the making of a film on a record-breaking budget of £43, was something that stood out to actor and filmmaker.
‘The script was great, to start with. Any job that comes in to me, via my voice over agent, I’ll straight away go through the script.’
The documentary, ‘From Leicester to Hollywood’ follows the story of a indie filmmaker from Leicester trying to produce a film on a tiny budget.
Considered a mockumentary, the director, Rhys Davies and writer Rod Duncan have set out to tell a story from the perspective of the underdog. Both the city and character in the film mirror one another. It has been described as a “love letter to independent cinema”.
‘Even though it’s written in quite a straight way, there is humour in it.’ smiles Davis. ‘And I thought, ‘yeah I can quite imagine, the pictures that go with it’. So then once I’d watched the documentary, I was like, ‘yeah this is going be great!’ This is a great little project!’.
‘It’s hard to even cater for a couple of actors for £43 let alone make a film for it.’
‘I hope people watch the documentary and kind of learn something and either be inspired to make their own very low production or be completely put off the idea.’
For a household name, Davis is not one to shy away from small scale, independent projects.
‘I do like to support indie projects.’
‘I’ve often got involved, on screen, in projects involving students, universities, etc. They’re the future of our industry in this country, if not the world.’
He continued with a few tips for prospective filmmakers, building upon his own experiences.
‘I learned everything I know about acting and filmmaking from working in the industry. I did go to college and study media and journalism but I found, practically, that I’ve learned so much more watching the industry function: being on a film set, watching them set up lights, cameras, asking questions, and working with other actors, asking them questions about their techniques.’
‘I think you need a good grounding of solid education but nothing beats the hands-on, practical approach.’
‘I think we’re going to see more and more indie filmmaking, because of outlets like Netflix. They are now funding film projects, which is very unusual and I think will allow a lot more indie filmmakers to break through.’
Davis claims, ‘there’s so much at stake’ when making films for theatrical release and looks to the benefits of on-demand services.
‘It’s so expensive, to distribute a film, but with Netflix, there are budgets available and you’ve instantly got quite a large audience and distribution costs very little.’
Davis has also seen success in online shorts published on the popular video service YouTube.
‘We can make a film, put it on YouTube and it instantly has a worldwide audience.’
‘YouTube transformed the world of amateur/indie filmmaking. When I was growing up, the only way people saw my films was at local film festivals. Otherwise, it was my family, sat around our telly at home watching it.’
‘There’s nothing more rewarding than getting a reaction from an audience. Seeing people enjoy something, be scared by something, be upset by something.’
‘It’s about creating and invoking emotion in people.’
When asked if it takes a certain kind of person to be a filmmaker, he responds with what he considers the criteria. ‘You have to have a lot of tenacity, a lot of determination, a lot of energy.’
‘When I direct something, it takes a huge amount of mental energy.’
‘Not only are you creating a story, and putting it on screen and making sure all the pieces will work when you get to editing this; you’re also motivating. You are the leader of an army.’
‘You’ve got to motivate the cameraman to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and set his equipment up. You’ve got to motivate the actors to learn their lines. You’re constantly motivating everybody to be involved with this project. You’re the reason they’re there in the middle of the night filming because you’ve decided this scene should be set at night in the rain.’
‘It’s a total commitment. As a director, you should go without eating. You should be hands-on, motivating this. You will reap the rewards from it if you work like that but it’s not for the faint hearted.’
Davis then leads on by saying that, even with this commitment, it doesn’t always go as planned.
‘You have to be willing to accept compromise. For me, that’s the hardest thing, dealing with those compromises.’
‘My vision is ultimately what I want to see on screen or on stage but you don’t always get that. The conditions, the location, the performances, so many factors can influence what you end up getting.’
Moving onto his acting career, most will remember Warwick Davis from Harry Potter, where he played Professor Flitwick and then Griphook the Goblin in the final film of the series. Warwick also had a cameo appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (appearing in Maz Kanata’s cantina scene and credited to the character ‘Wollivan’).
Davis stops to ponder for a moment on what his highlight may have been. As the launching pad of his career, it doesn’t take him long to settle on Star Wars.
‘I think it has to be Return of the Jedi when I was eleven.’
‘People talk about the character (Wicket the Ewok). You either love or you hate Ewoks.’
‘Return of the Jedi gave me so much. It gave me a career. It gave me a life that I enjoy. Something so unexpected.’
‘When you’re eleven, you haven’t decided what you want to be. I think, when I was eleven, I wanted to be a fireman or a policeman, that sort of thing.’
‘I didn’t know that going into Star Wars was going to dictate what I did for the rest of my life.’
‘Star Wars is something I talk about every day, without fail. Even when I’m not making a Star Wars movie, I’m influenced by having to do events, or other things that are related to Star Wars in some way so I think that has to be my favourite.’
Davis continues on by talking Star Wars and the influence it had on him and on the film industry.
‘I was a fan. At seven years old, I went to see Star Wars. Before that, I’d only seen Bambi in the cinema.’
‘So many people are influenced (by Star Wars), so many people in the film industry said once they’d seen Star Wars, that’s all they wanted to do; was work in this industry.
‘When the idea of Episode 7 came along, I was excited as anybody was.’
‘My daughter, Annabelle, is an actor and she got a part in (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) before I did.’
‘I used to take her to Pinewood studios and drop her off and sort of loiter. Once I was through the security gate, I thought, ‘this is my chance to get spotted’ and maybe someone would go: ‘Warwick! Why don’t you come and do something?’’
‘Eventually, it worked but I had to drop her off quite a few times. I got thrown out a few times as well.’
When asked about his role in the latest film in the franchise, he suggests that there may be more to his role.
‘We ended up filming a lot of stuff, and then it gets cut down to what we see in the film.’
‘For me, it’s all about being able to say I’m there. Now I have my foot in all three trilogies.’
Penn closes the Star Wars discussion asking if there’s room for Davis in Episode 8. Perhaps expanding upon the character of Wollivan.
‘There’s always room for Warwick Davis in a Star Wars film. I don’t take up much space!’ he jokes.
Just before Warwick steps out, Avery asks him about his time in the city of Leicester.
‘I’ve been in Leicester, just for today! Leicester has been mentioned, quite a lot recently in the news. I’m excited to be here.’
When asked whether he was much of a football fan, Davis was quick to shoots down the idea.
‘Football was not my favourite sport (at school), therefore I sort of resent it a little bit now.’
‘My son supports Peterborough united and makes me go to the matches.’
Please check out the full interview on DemonTV’s YouTube Channel.
Special Thanks to Rhys Davies, Tim Hall, William Rowe for allowing us to conduct this interview!