If CineShots was a Scooby Doo cartoon Emmanuel Li and his gang would be a bunch of meddling kids and we, the old guys, would always be angry at them for showing everyone we’re just a bunch of pretenders.
And that’s because the guys behind The Big Tent Films know their ropes pretty well.
We interogated Emmanuel Lie - writer and director of Have You Seen Buster? - in a haunted castle right after his Mistery Machine van broke down.
There is an ad in a newspaper with your photo in it. What does it say?
It'd be a very unflattering photo of me followed by "MISSING: Have You Seen Emmanuel Li? Last Seen in the Walthamstow Marshes."
When it comes to complexity and difficulty of producing an art work filmmaking is very close to the top. What makes the whole journey, often unpleasant, worthwhile for you?
Film is such a unique and fantastic art form in its accessibility and ability to appeal to absolutely everyone. I've always had a passion for stories and to be able to have the creative control and freedom to bring a story to life from script to screen is intensely rewarding. The process is, of course, arduous and often frustrating, be it writer's block or on-set complications, but filmmaking being the ultimate team sport, working with so many talented people, sharing in these ups and downs, solving problems together, all while striving to tell a great story will never cease to spark joy in me. And hopefully, when all is said and done, it will spark joy in the audience as well.
Why this film?
Having just come off making a bleak, gritty drama last summer, with many more dark comedies in the works, I wanted to take a departure and make something sweet and charming without any cynicism. I love dogs but have never had one, so part of the "searching-for-a-dog" plot came from that. The location also played a big part - exploring Walthamstow Village made me think of all the wacky characters that could inhabit such a colourful, vibrant world, a world I desperately wanted to share with audiences. Being a magician, I love twists and I won't spoil it here, but the ending came from something that happened that was really close to me, which was the main inspiration for the film.
You have unlimited budget, green light for your dream project and can cast anyone you want...
Wow, what an opportunity! I'd make a darkly comedic Neo-Western crime caper - think Reservoir Dogs with a Coen Brothers twist. It'd be set in harsh, urban LA and then transition to the gorgeous, sunswept backdrop of the Mojave Desert and hell, the Grand Canyon while we're at it! It'd follow a ragtag bunch of criminals who made off with the wrong suitcase containing something seemingly worthless but are now hunted by rival gangs, a corrupt detective with a crossbow, and a female assassin whose preferred method of transport is horseback. It'd star Taron Egerton, Daniel Kaluuya, Dean Norris, Timothee Chalamet, Joaquin Phoenix, and Charlize Theron. It's a crazy, chaotic wild ride and maybe even a bit messy and trashy, but among the madness, I'd love to explore what drives people to commit crime and the complex disparity between generations through the father-sons relationship of the main group.
What are your future goals regarding filmmaking?
My dream would be to continue doing what I love - filmmaking and storytelling - for the rest of my life and be lucky enough to make a living out of it. There's nothing quite like the collective sharing of a story through film, and to be able to provide that experience and create art that makes the drudgery of life that much more bearable would be an honour.
To see if anyone’s seen Buster you’ll have to pop to Streatham Space Project 11.6. at 19.30 and watch the film with five other amazing shorts. Emmanuel will also be there for Q&A and your regular autographs.
Make sure you get your TICKETS.