We caught up with Brian Lawes, the director or the topical and important short LOST KINGS which tackles child hunger.
Director Brian Lawes live-action short shares a story of a young boy searching for food to feed his younger brother. This topical film has been selected to premiere at the Oscar qualifying Calgary International Film Festival, followed by Edmonton International Film Festival and Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. Lost Kings, won the grant support of the Community Builders Grant, the OVAC Artist Grant, and was made possible by the support of a Jury Award prize for his previous film, Rock Paper Scissors.
Searching for food, a boy breaks into a neighborhood home. But when the homeowners return, he becomes trapped inside with those he’s stealing from.
Brian Lawes is an American film director, writer and producer who is known for Lost Kings (2020), Rock Paper Scissors (2018), and Temp (2017). His films have played at numerous high profile film festivals across the world, earning multiple jury awards, with notable premieres at Oscar Qualifying festivals like Cleveland International Film Festival and Indy Shorts International Film Festival.
- What inspired you to make such a topical film?
Initially, my goal wasn’t necessarily to make a topical film, but more so just to tell a story I felt would have an emotional honesty for its lead character. I’m often interested in exploring stories that introduce the audience to morally complex situations, and the initial spark for this concept came from a desire to better understand what situations may lead a person to resort to theft. While there’s no blanket answer to this question, there’s certainly a portion of the population that makes this choice only out of necessity for survival. I think so often we forget there are people in our own neighborhoods who aren’t sure where their next meal will come from, and this film aims to bring humanity to an often faceless issue.
- For those who haven’t seen the film, please can you tell us a bit about it.
Our film is about a boy who is searching for food for him and his younger brother. He ends up breaking into a neighborhood home to steal groceries, but when the homeowners return, he becomes trapped inside with those he’s stealing from. It then becomes a cat and mouse game of him sneaking throughout the house, trying to escape before the family and police realize he’s still in the home. It’s a suspenseful drama that we hope keeps you on your toes all the way until the end.
- What reaction have you received from audiences?
Initially watching the film, most audiences are very quiet. At first, you wonder if they’ve engaged with the story. But then afterward you hear them take a sigh of relief as the suspense winds down and realize they were very connected with the lead character all along. I’ve been so encouraged to hear how people have felt the story to be emotionally resonant and engaging. Even more encouraging is to hear the conversation the film has stirred around the topic of wealth inequality and what it means to interact with individuals who find themselves in financially desperate situations. The film doesn’t try to offer any simple solutions to this complex problem but does prompt an authentic dialogue that I hope leaves people with more empathy towards others.
- What would you like people to take away from seeing the film?
Anytime I can leave an audience with a more nuanced understanding of someone different than themselves I feel like I’ve accomplished something special. I think we’re all better when we can learn to see situations from multiple perspectives and lead with empathy in our day to day interactions. I also hope they have a lot of fun watching the film, and fully experience the ride of suspense we aimed to craft in the narrative.
- What attracted you to filmmaking?
Movies have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. Watching movies with my Dad very young definitely gave me the filmmaking bug, and as I got older I became more and more fascinated with the process. Although originally I was interested in acting, I eventually fell in love with writing and directing because I loved the challenge of crafting stories that captivate and connect with an audience. So many different films have shaped me for the better, and I hope to tell stories that engage viewers emotionally and leave them more connected with themselves and others.
- They say never work with children or animals, what methods did you use to bring out such brilliant performances of the children in Lost Kings?
I’ve heard this many times, and while I can’t speak to whether animals are something to never work with, I’ve been so lucky to work with the most incredible child actors. For me, it always begins with the story. I believe if it’s emotionally true, it’ll resonate with others. And I’ve found that’s true of all ages, especially with my younger actors on set. I invite them to be collaborators with me in shaping who they think their character is, and they constantly impress me with their intuition for what the story needs. On a more practical note, I find it’s best to say less and let them work out the performance with a few takes than to offer a long list of notes right at the beginning. They often have great instincts that I can build off of with small direction as we tweak the performance.
- What advice would you give to those just starting out?
My favorite advice I’ve received, and one I’m constantly reminding myself, is to “Keep making stuff.” I’ve found this to be a consistent message passed down to me by others in the industry, and there’s a certain magic in keeping yourself moving creatively. Don’t hesitate on starting the project you’ve been dreaming to make. Commit to jumping in and let yourself figure it out as you go.
- What do you have coming up next?
With the feature script of Lost Kings completed (this short is a proof of concept for the larger piece), we’re currently in the process of financing the feature film. Also, we’ll be sharing the short on the festival circuit over the next year or so. The pandemic also allowed me some extra time to write a couple of new ideas, so those may be made in the meantime depending on how long it is before the feature is up and moving.
- How do our readers follow you?
They can find me at brianlawes.co and from here they’ll see links to my Instagram, Vimeo, and IMDB. I’m most active on Instagram (@brianlawes) for news about current or upcoming projects. And if anyone would like to receive more specific updates about Lost Kings, we’ve set up an email list at lostkingsmovie.com for news directly to your inbox.