Did you keep in touch with them afterwards?
You stay in contact with them, but at the same time, you can't be a fake parent. They're street kids. They've had hard lives and grown up in a hard way. Things we take for granted - families, stability - maybe they don't have that structure. That was another reason why I wanted to work with them. It was an opportunity for them to be in an extremely professional environment and to be around something they might not get a taste of.
How did you find all the cast?
The guys who play David and Sarah [Che Corr and Tara Ballard], I met them in Tescos! They were arguing, going through the process of splitting up. It was the way she was berating him and the way he was ignoring her. I approached them. At that point, I don't say I'm a director. I say I'm a casting director and would they be interested in having a conversation with me.
Liam McIlfatrick was walking down the street. I had just gone to visit one of the actors in my short film. He was walking down the street with such a purpose and energy, his hood up. I shouted, and as soon as he turned around and I saw his face, I was struck. It's the same with all the other actors. Sometimes, you have to find them on the street. Sometimes you put ads in newspapers and people turn up.
Are there any filmmakers influential to you in terms of the narrative?
Not in terms of narrative. I wouldn't say that there's necessarily cinematic influences there. Maybe more musical ones. I did want to make something that was similar to a piece of music. With music you don't analyse it and you don't look for where it's going next. It washes over you and penetrates you on a much more subconscious level. Then you can get associations between things, rather than concrete connections.
Are you concerned this will be portrayed in the media as a drugs movie?
Yes. It's an easy thing to do. I did want to show the reality of drug taking so I made sure we did a lot of research and that, visually, it was absolutely correct. That's quite striking and when you see it, it is violent, the actual injection of the drugs. It is very visceral. The film's more about the psychology of the addict, why they would want to take heroin and what they get from it.
What do they get from heroin?
A sustainable form of a particular feeling. They wake up in the morning and think, 'As long as I get this drug, I'm going to know how I will feel'. I felt you could juxtapose that against relationships. If the relationship is good, then I know this person is going to give me a certain feeling, a certain stability, a certain safety.
Why title the film Better Things?
It's a mood title. I like the sound of it. It seemed like a nice counterpoint to some of the stories.It's a very sparse piece of work. You're very economic with your background information.
Robert Bresson is a big influence within the editing. What I like about his films is that you don't have the background stuff. What I wanted was to evoke was a certain atmosphere.
Is the film about the pain of love?
There's an absolute beauty in it. And there's an absolute cruelty in it. The beauty of it is you can have this incredible relationship with someone for your whole life. But the cruelty of it is that one of you will pass away before the other. Then someone will be left.
How much of you disappears when that person goes?
That's what's interesting about the younger characters. They have no idea about compromise. So being in love for the first time is a mixture of intimacy that you've never felt before, but it's also violent. The first love almost never lasts. One of you always pulls away. And because you're so young, you take it so deeply and you don't understand that you'll meet someone else. You don't understand this is a learning process. You can't see the positive. There's just this negativity that eats away.
I wanted to juxtapose this against the older group. If you put it side by side, you see what love looks like at the start and at the end of life.
Source | Channel 4