The NoParkingLand Interview With Creator Reuben Williams

The NoParkingLand, yet another film submitted without the trailer, is a story that so many Londoners will be able to relate to: one day you wake up to find yourself Parking Spaceless.

The spoof has won two awards: Best Female Actor and Best Film. We spoke to the Team Leader Reuben Williams.

How was your experience at the DAFTAS?

It was really fun process. It was nice being assigned the film, I thought that was a fun mechanic. If you could choose any film it would be a bit more open. They say necessity is the mother of all invention. Sometimes its nice having your parameters narrowed down. Nomadland was a fun film to spoof, and it was really fun working with my friend Mark Elias and Harriet Fischer and working with my girlfriend Liz Daykin (Best Female Actor).

What film were you hoping to draw?

I actually had my fingers crossed for Nomadland, because at that point, it hadn’t won but it was tipped to win, so I was hoping for that one. I hadn’t actually seen the film so after drawing it I realised I better watch it.

It’s quite a beautiful film, not necessarily my type of film. I watched it with my girlfriend and our housemate who is a middle-aged woman, somewhat going through a bit of a midlife crisis and she found it so deeply moving. I maybe prefer something that is a bit more of a conventional hero type of film, something that’s a bit more action and a bit less landscape

It’s a very bleak film.

It is very bleak, yes. That’s always the way with melancholic films. It’s not just bleak but its also quite slow. But it’s very beautifully shot, although there’s not that much change. The journey for the main character, Francis McDormand, is very subtle. In the end, what’s happened to her is that she’s given up her garage. But it’s beautiful and a very well-made film. It’s a very interesting proposition to figure out how to spoof that. 

You guys won best spoof and best actress for Lizzie Daykin. How did it feel to win?

Lovely! Wasn’t expecting it at all. It had been very fun to make the film and to get it in, it was a very fun competition. I was really delighted, I sort of double take a bit. Of course it was in the middle of Covid so only one of us could attend the ceremony and I collected the award for Lizzie, which marks the first time I’ve ever been given an award for best actress.

And hopefully not the last! 

Exactly!

NoParkingLand by Reuben Williams. Photo courtesy of Reuben Williams

How easy was it to work with such a serious film, and derive comedy out of it?

I would say that serious films are probably easier to spoof. I imagine the hardest thing to spoof would be a comedy because all the jokes are already there. Higher stakes films are probably quite an easy one because you’ve got the stakes baked in, whereas something that’s quite subtle and character driven can be difficult to get purchase one.

My friends Mark and Harriet came up with the overall concept. We had a few ideas, I think one was NoSadLand where she’s in a school for clowns, and I guess that would have been quite absurd. One thing about the film is that everything feels very serious but really there’s not that much at stake. So what about if she’s lost her parking space and she’s very upset about it.

Do you think that working with sensitive topics in comedy has become more controversial in recent years?

Oooo… Political correctness. I don’t think so, I think that’s just comedy, its constantly evolving and it will always be part of the cultural discourse. Comedy reflects the age of the times. In the 80s people made very different kinds of jokes and maybe some people said hey you shouldn’t make those jokes, which made some people say ‘Oh it’s the death of comedy!’

Obviously, comedy isn’t dead because over the past forty years there’s been some brilliant comedies made. I do think it can be difficult to take everyone’s opinions into account. When I’m writing comedy, I want to be in a say ‘yes’ kind of mood. I don’t want to feel like I’m being blocked, and sometimes in the effort to not offend someone it can feel very blocking or very stifling. I totally understand why that can be frustrating to have those limitations imposed on you.

I also think that there’s great merit in trying to not offend people just for the sake of it, and give a lot of thought to other people’s opinions and beliefs who might be part of a different demographic. I think it also opens up a lot of different avenues for comedy. Obstacles can, in fact, spur creativity but I do have sympathy for people who feel like it’s just purely restrictive.

I was going to ask you about your Bullshit Tour Guide project

Yeah, it’s a walking tour of London where all the facts are bullshit that I’ve made up for a laugh. I’m still doing tours if people book me, but the project has entered a bit of a hibernation period. I’m working on a new project involving that which should come into the works soon.

It must be tricky with COVID going on

Decimated the whole live entertainment industry, absolutely.

Back to the logistics of your spoof, how did you find working within the 2-day parameters for filming?

It was nice, actually. It probably wasn’t too different from what we would have done anyway, we just shot it in a weekend. I liked that that was part of the conditions for it. I’ve seen film competitions where people have spent so long filming and spent so much money, so it wasn’t really a level playing field. Have that parameter certainly helps that. 

How did you approach cutting down a 2-hour film into 6 minutes?

I think in the end we had about 12 minutes at the first cut, which we then whittled down into 5 minutes. We definitely could have made a longer film is what I’m trying to say. As for transposing the story of Nomadland into the film, obviously you can’t put every moment into there so we just took a couple of little beats and then tried to make this self-contained thing and tried to make our film a little story in itself as much as we could.

How long have you been making films and how did you shoot this one?

I just decided over the pandemic to learn how to do filmmaking. I’d been wanting to do it for a while. So when the pandemic hit and live entertainment was bust I took out a little loan and bought a camera which is what we shot it on. 

What do you wish you had known before you started? 

That we were gonna win! No, to be honest, because we had this new camera a decent one, but we had brought a bunch of ND filters off eBay to reduce the amount of sun coming in. We were filming in V-Log, I hadn’t done that before, but it made the screen go all grey and I didn’t know that there was another setting where it would make the screen look normal. So I had no idea what the shots looked like until we started editing. Thank god they were OK!

How did you hear about the DAFTAS by the way?

Through the Comedy Crowd newsletter. 

Words by Louis Inglis

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