Rob Savage • Director of Dashcam
“I think we need to be careful not to confuse the real Annie Hardy with the movie Annie Hardy”
by Kaleem Aftab
- The British director breaks down his film, starring a podcast host who comes to London to visit a friend and subsequently finds plenty of demons
While people were talking about the death of cinema during the lockdown, British director Rob Savage was busy making two films set in the world of the pandemic, which have now made him into the next big thing in British cinema. His latest, Dashcam [+see also:
interview: Rob Savage
film profile], stars Annie Hardy as a podcast host who comes to London to visit a friend and finds plenty of demons. The film, which launched at the Toronto International Film Festival, has just wowed the in-person crowds at the BFI London Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Where did you find such a crazy protagonist as Annie Hardy, who plays a character called Annie Hardy?
Rob Savage: Jed Shepherd, one of the co-writers, produces Annie’s podcast. About two years ago, he showed me an episode of Bandcar, which is the show that Annie does where she drives around and improvises music whilst commenters throw different words at the screen for her to bounce off. I saw her in the show and thought I wanted to see her being chased by a demon; I wanted to know if we could build something around this. We had the idea pre-pandemic, and after Host [+see also:
film profile], when people asked me what the next thing would be that I would direct, we went back to Dashcam and thought that it would be a good testing ground to see if we could do something in the same vein as Host.
Do you think she’s a fantasist in some ways?
I think the thing we need to be careful of is confusing the real Annie Hardy with the movie Annie Hardy. The thing I find myself always having to say about the movie at the beginning of any interview is that the Annie Hardy who comes to the UK doesn’t quarantine, fucks it up for everyone and takes her mask off, and all that is in the movie. Then there is the Annie Hardy in real life who, I think, pitches herself in a way where you’re never quite sure if she is doing an Andy Kaufman or if she’s being sincere. But throughout the whole process, she was totally respectful, flew over, wore her mask, followed COVID protocols and enabled a shoot where we had no COVID cases during the height of lockdown two.
Your film is a nightmare for anyone who wants to digest a movie in one sitting. It has the action on screen, the comments coming up constantly on one side and emojis on the other. It’s impossible to follow everything. Was this overdose of information your goal?
I know many people might take this the wrong way, but I kind of like that: this film is meant to be a lot. It’s an Easter egg movie on one level. One way of looking at it is that so much is buried in the comments and the background shots and the way the commentators interact with the live stream that if you’d care to go back and watch it again, and I know a lot of people wouldn’t, there is a lot of information. On Host, we found that people would go into it and psychoanalyse things that we hadn’t even intended to be there.
But it’s very different to Host in its sensibility and feeling. Was that what you set out to show? That there are lots of ways to make movies that take place through a screen world?
The design of it was supposed to be the polar opposite of Host. That was very considered and slow-burning, more in the vein of a classic haunted-house movie. We made Host during lockdown one, and we tried to capture that feeling of isolation. With Dashcam, we started shooting the day after Biden won the election, and kind of by design and by living through the period when the discourse got so rowdy, this film kind of took it on in its DNA – that kind of shouty, combative discourse that happened during the Biden-Trump election campaign.
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