NoGoLand by Madeleine Kasson

This spoof by Madeleine Kasson is her take on the ‘new normal’ that some Brits had to adapt to in the past year or so. Her exploration of lonely person’s lockdown journey is full of poignant moments – online shopping, furlough, socially distanced picnics for some and virtual picnics for others.

The film has won Best Original Score – ‘NoGoLand OST’ by Jonathan Copper.

The DAFTAS spoke to Madeleine about her experience.

How did you first get involved with the DAFTAS, and what inspired you to want to enter the competition?

I was just getting started in comedy writing. So I’ve been an actor for many years and I was starting to explore sketch and some other forms of comedy. And it’s just in exploring that I stumbled across the DAFTAS and thought yeah, why no, let’s give it a go. 

So you said that you’re done comedy writing before then so it wasn’t anything new to you?

I had been an actor for many years but I was just kind of getting into comedy writing. So, I was just learning how to do sketch comedy and just thought, let’s try another format with a short film.

Can you talk to me a bit about the challenges of filming everything in only two days?

Because of the format of [our film], lots of it was done on Zoom, we actually thought it would be easier to film simultaneously. We had lots of people filming in their own homes at the same time. Which in a sense made the time constraint pretty simple. Because if we have five people, we have five times the time. But then you don’t have a single person co-ordinating everything so you end up with tons and tons and tons of footage. So our poor editor had to go through it all. So yeah, I think we addressed the time by splitting it up amongst people to film simultaneously but then had this issue afterwards and it created a lot of work after those two days.

So you used both days?

Yes. So, on one day we filmed… We only had one scene where we had actors together, that was our scene in the park. We filmed that on one day and then everyone went home and we filmed the zoom calls that same day. And then the next day we did all the still shots, and the montage shots, and the VR footage was also filmed within that 24 hours so yeah.

That’s impressive.

Yeah it was a lot. I was just going back and looking through our shot list and we had 33 distinct scenes to shoot. And our list of what to do, like the still shots and the montage shots was just madness. Dozens and dozens. 

Have you made a short film before?

I’ve worked on short films as an actor and I’ve produced one short film with a team so similar to this because all of the actors who you saw in the film, we all wrote it together, we all worked together to produce it as well so it was really a team effort. I’ve worked on some shorts in that capacity but never really in charge f the whole thing and never this fun or challenging because in a regular short film, you make your own schedule.

What informed your decision to base your spoof so heavily on COVID and lockdown? Your spoof references covid and the changes to our lifestyle as a result. Was it always your plan to include references to the pandemic or did it evolve from your film selection?

A bit of both. We actually initially wanted to avoid setting it in COVID because we just kind of thought everyone is going to be doing that and we looked at other themes. We looked at themes of isolation because we felt the character in Nomadland, really that was the central theme was her isolation and being forced into this new lifestyle. So, we looked at agoraphobia and what happens if you lose your internet and disconnected form everyone but in the end I think because it was still really the height of the pandemic when we filmed this.

And so we were really limited in what we could do. I was actually still in isolation because my partner were at risk so I couldn’t leave the house. From that evolved this idea that this sucks right now but what if somebody chose this lifestyle. We were all forced into it and some people kind of said no let’s keep going I like this.

Was it a challenge to create the film with such a small budget? Under the ‘Did You Know’ section on Shortly it mentions that the film was made with a budget of under £100 – how did you manage this?

Lots and lots of generosity. The whole team volunteered obviously: our editor, our sound guy, our composer, all the actors, we all volunteered. Which was necessary really with the budget that the DAFTAS [allows] you anyway. And again, because we filmed a lot of it at a time we just used what we had at the house, we used props and things. We only ordered the wigs I think. Those we didn’t have lying around. 

I think apart from the wigs and a geology book which we didn’t use in the end that was all we had to buy and everything else… we filmed it on out phones and zoom.

How did you feel about the themes explored in Nomadland? In particular, critique of capitalism?

The critique of capitalism wasn’t an intentional theme that we meant to explore with all the packages being delivered it was a bit more of what our experience was of lockdown and the only way you can get stuff was through delivery and then kind of that character realising that you can keep on doing that forever and ever.

With the other themes of Nomadland, I think what we were really looking at was what happens when a character through crisis shoved into new circumstance and then decides to accept that circumstance perhaps for a bit too long or more completely than everyone around them expects. So with Fern in Nomadland and her van-life, everyone kept saying ‘Come live with me; when are you going to stop doing this van thing?’ and she was just like ‘Nope this is it now; I’m going to reject every offer and live this way forever’. 

You won the DAFTAS for best original score – what tone were you trying to capture through the music? How closely did you work with the composer and was it someone you knew?

Yes the composer Jonathan Copper was someone I knew from years ago and about a decade ago actually.

He is a wonderful composer and he has film score experience so it was really great that we could get him on board and he was basically going for the same musical tone as Nomadland. So that kind of emotive violin and that pace of music but then wanted to bring an element of sarcasm into it. So, how do you parody music was a question for him. And his answer to that was to copy the style but then do silly tunes that everyone knew so I think Mary Had a Little Lamb and those childhood songs, so he was going for a bit of sarcasm there and also just to bring the town down from this big beautiful sweeping soundtrack that you have for Nomadland and how do you inject humour into that.

You’re entering the DAFTAS again this year, are you pleased with your film draw? Is there another one you would have preferred?

No not at all. We weren’t able to attend the draw. I was actually on a plane and when I landed someone had sent me a clip of us being drawn and I just was like ‘oh no!’ So we’ve drawn The Power of the Dog and I think to be honest it’s not necessarily a bad film to parody.

Parodying a Western can be quite fun. You know Blazing Saddles is one of the best comedy films of all time. But I think that it just feels really similar to Nomadland in those big sweeping shots of the American South West and there’s still these films of… there’s kind of dark tones and sadness and its heavy. And the soundtrack is more violent so it just feels really similar so we’re kind of trying this year to see one…

If, like you said, you have to watch our parody a couple times to get all the connections and I think we went a bit too thematic with our parody last time. This time, we’re looking to just make it a bit more fun and try to bring some levity to this whilst still keeping some elements of the film but not going for the cinematography and the music and those big themes.

Do you have any advice or tips for anyone wanting to enter the DAFTAS competition?  Anything you want to do differently this time around? What were your main challenges last time?

I would say do it, definitely do it. Even if it’s just you and a friend. One of the funniest films from last year was a parody of Camel With Horses or something like that. And it was just one girl and she filmed it in her room but it was hilarious. It won the price for like best thing that didn’t get nominated for other things but tit was really, really good so, definitely just jump in and do it. And don’t worry whether you have experience or equipment or whatever, just have a go because it’s fun.

What we’re going to do differently thin time. What we realised last time and this is partly because of how we chose to film it and we had all that footage, the editing really took a lot longer than we had initially planned. We had film experience and we know editing takes a while but we hadn’t anticipated filming as much as we did.

So, this time around it’s kind of ‘Right, let’s just get this filmed asap and then we have plenty of time to do edits.’ And then it all has to be edited before you can do music because the composer has to see the film in order to write music to it. So that’s another week after editing.

Everyone is volunteering their time so you have to be consciousness of their schedules and actual paid gigs so, basically, it’s just a lot of time for everything to happen after you’ve filmed, so film it as soon as you can and get on it with the other stuff. We’re actually still looking for an editor this year because our editor from last year [Jamie Clarke] has decided to write a film and lead a team this year which is great.

Circling back to the music, did you have a set time to work with the music composer?

Sort of. So we had two people working on sound, So we had our composer and then we and someone doing the score. After the video was edited, we sent to him and he fixed all the levels because obviously we were recording on phones, its not great quality.

And then put the soundtrack over that, put the score over that. And so they were in touch with each other to know what to expect. The composer basically needed the film edited first so the bigger thing was to work with our editor to get a timeline that we could then give to the composer and then he composed it fairly quickly.

Like I said, he was super talented and experienced, so I think in a day or two he had recorded… and he played all the music as well so he had done all of that and then we sent that off to our sound guy who then had to cut everything together. I think he had the most difficult job because he had to work with what he was given, there were no other options, and we had a really tight timeline by then. He made some miracles happen by cutting all that sound together. And I think we had actually after we got the composition, made some edits to the film so the timing didn’t quite add up so then our sound editor had to fix that as well. His name is Paul Rose, he’s really talented.

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