Best British – Two

The Iris Blogger interviews writer and director Kenneth O'Toole
Two  is a smart, hard-hitting take on the phenomenon of homophobic hate crimes, and is shortlisted for this year’s Best British award. It is writer and director Kenneth O’Toole’s second short film, following Denise, which was about an ageing drag queen reflecting on her past. The Iris Blogger spoke with Kenneth about his latest film and some of the issues and questions it raises. IRIS BLOGGER:  Some short films feel like calling cards for bigger projects, but Two is very self-contained. Did it come to you in a flash of inspiration, or did it take time for the idea to come together? KENNETH O’TOOLE:        I aim to tell a story that is thought provoking and entertaining and which focuses on LGBT+ issues. I’d written a couple of short self-contained scripts but wasn’t particularly enthralled by them. I was then inspired by a particular incident which led me to write this. IB:           The sense of threat is very convincing. Was any of the film drawn from personal experience? KO:         Yes. I was in the park with my partner. From the way we were interacting with each other it was evident we were a couple. A few guys were walking past and one of them said the exact line that Omar says to Nathan. You’re suddenly faced with this decision to stand up for yourself and potentially take a beating or stay silent and let your pride take a beating. Unfortunately, it’s a feeling that many gay people experience, and I wanted to try and convey a moment of that in the film. IB:           The second half of the film plays with ambiguity, offering two very different versions of how the situation might pan out. The last shot seems to confirm one version, but did you ever consider ending it differently or leaving it unresolved? KO:         I always knew what I wanted the last shot to be. However, people have responded to it differently and still have their own interpretation of what happened – which I like! IB:           Is there a message you want people to take away from Two? For example, do you want them to think about intolerance, or repressed sexuality, or risky sex… KO:         Ha! Risky sex – a couple of people have mentioned that – but I never once considered it. I guess that says a lot more about me than it does about them. I don’t know if it’s a message per se – but I do want people to take note that homophobia takes place even in a large “liberal” city such as London, or at least question whether it does (and the answer is yes – it does). The film is also very much about perception. IB:           You've worked on some big recent movies, like Goodbye Christopher Robin and A United Kingdom. How does working on something like that differ from working on a short film that you've written and directed yourself? And are you planning any feature films of your own? KO:         They have money and I don’t! In all seriousness – the main difference would be that when you’re the director everyone looks to you for answers and decisions. You have to be prepared to deal with the unforeseen and do what it takes to be able to tell your story. We shot this in two days and encountered several problems on the first night – and with a short like this you don’t always have the time or money to rectify it – so you make it work – and learn from it… then again some features don’t either! And yes… the plan is to make features one day, and I’ll continue working to make that happen.