A standout from the upcoming MSA Festival is The Service, the first film from promising director Annabelle Marshall. The film looks to be an interesting hybrid of both a Black Mirror episode and an idea from the great visionary Christopher Nolan, but there’s a real air of ambiguity to this one. The music in the teaser trailer feels utterly transcendent, whilst the brief footage has been cleverly appropriated to make sure any narrative reveals remain cryptic. Intertainment caught up with Annabelle to find out more about this enticing project, The Service will be exhibited on June 7th at MSA Festival.
Firstly, I’d like to know when you started the production for The Service?
We started production about six or seven weeks ago. We shot about 70% of the film at the University of Salford. A lot of the scenes you see in hallways, medical rooms and a nursing ward were shot there. The university was really co-operative, they have great facilities there, and we were able to re-write some of the script so we could use the location.
How would you describe the film in terms of genre, possibly science-fiction?
I’d say it’s very much a dramatic piece as well as science-fiction. It’s a different, unique way to tell a story about memory and loneliness, which is something that’s been heavily done.
The latest teaser looks like it is leaving a lot to the imagination. Do you feel as though it is important for the film to be somewhat ambiguous for the audience?
Definitely yeah, and the whole film itself is quite ambiguous. We’ve purposely tried not to reveal to the audience what time the film is set in, as it’s both futuristic and contemporary.
There’s also a really haunting piano score. I’m assuming that you acquired a composer for that?
We used a composer called Phillip Rousiamanis from the Royal Northern College of Music. We worked closely with him as I wanted the music to act as a character. There’s a lot of hallucinatory scenes where the music works really well, and there’s a time lapse of a lamp which sounds, well, pretty boring, but the music acts metaphorically.
Was this a composer you already had worked with?
We met at a networking event, which was put on through the Manchester School or Art.
As a filmmaker, have you found that working alongside people with industry experience such as Loran Dunn and Christian Hitzemann has been productive?
They’ve been incredibly helpful. We’ve had a lot of one to one tutorials and group tutorials which have been useful during the production. They’re a big inspiration as well.
The synopsis gives me the impression that the film is dealing a lot with the notion of memory. Were there any significant influences when making the film? Memento or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind are ones that spring to mind.
The main one was the TV series Legion, which is very much something which tells a story about a person’s mind, but with superpowers. In The Service, certain hallucination scenes can represent a parasite of the character’s mind. There’s also the Black Mirror episode Playtest, and how the story of a character who takes part in a virtual simulation is told.
Besides your own film, are there any others you could recommend for somebody on the fence about coming to the festival?
The one that instantly comes to mind is The Keeper, which I also worked as an assistant director on. It’s another story about loneliness and the film looks amazing, with lots of great scenic cinematography. There’s also Ever After, which shows a storybook way of a narrative about a daughter who has family troubles with her parents.
Have you seen any of the other films yet?
The only ones I’ve seen are Ever After, The Keeper and Lizzie’s Law. We’re all sort of collectively choosing not to see the final projects until the festival, which is an experience itself and certainly the best way of viewing them.
Are there any plans to submit your film to any other festivals?
We want to take the approach of hopefully taking The Service all over the world. We’re going to submit it and see where it takes off. I’d like the film to be shown in Manchester, but I also want it to branch out and for other people to be able to see it.
Finally, what is next for you after The Service? Are there any other projects being developed?
There’s another short drama currently being discussed, with lots of different ideas floating around right now. There’s also talks of making a collective film with the other filmmakers at MSA, which would be great. We really want to keep MSA going because it’s a great opportunity for students to work together and get some incredible experience.
You can find out more about the MSA Film Festival on their Facebook page here