‘In the bedroom of the Kurt Cobain-obsessed protagonist from my first short film Rocco Paris there are posters on the wall of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bob Marley and Sean Conway.’
He’s been described variously as ‘the UK’s coolest filmmaker’ (Giuseppe Andrews, actor) and ‘a fucking genius’ (Rankin, photographer and co-founder of Dazed and Confused). Writer/director Sean Conway (and self-confessed frustrated rock star) is undoubtedly doing something right. But with a drama to be screened on Channel 4, enough feature script ideas on the boil to last him his career, a multimedia collaboration funded by onedotzero, and a novella being published, Sean isn’t about to lie back in self-satisfaction.
Sean has been making a name for himself since his award-winning short Rocco Paris made strange bedfellows of poignancy and cool. Since then, he’s proven himself with shorts Rabbit Stories (2006), and Alex and Her Arse Truck (2007). Sean aims to make films that, in his own words, leave people thinking, ‘Wow! I’ve been in another universe!’, and he sees himself as having the capabilities of directing the next Harry Potter film just as much as LA alt-porn: the binding factor being his possession of an ‘agitation of the mind’ (a phrase coined by Werner Herzog).
Rabbit Stories depicts the world of Fenton, a young man with schizophrenia. The fractured visual style complements a brilliant and similarly fractured script. The constant argument between sound and vision is a driving force in communicating Fenton’s state of mind. Unfortunately, we never reach Fenton’s inner core, despite being offered several ‘Thought Insertions’ in which Fenton’s sexual identity and propensity to violence are hinted at. This is slightly disappointing, as is the positing of Fenton as a Christ-like figure: a slightly tired concept that contrasts with an otherwise highly original film.
Sean’s latest, Alex and her Arse Truck, is a vast leap in many ways from Rabbit Stories. Funded by Film Four and the UK Film Council, part of the Cinema Extreme scheme, it revolves around a couple of idealistic hedonists, Alex and Baby Shoes, and their encounters with panties-sniffing perverts, dancing drug dealers and a car park full of cheerleaders. Sean’s use of light is visionary, but there are too many potentially interesting psychological concepts that end up in a music video style extravaganza. The ever-present music will most definitely date the film, but hopefully in the way of a good tattoo – it might not suit in ten years but it makes a statement about the film here and now. Several moments display stunning directorial vision. The decision to have Alex mouth her first line of dialogue, for example, is infinitely more powerful than if she had screamed it.
Each of Sean’s films are very Gen Y, expressing a constant need to be made whole and the notion that the future will be brighter if you just hang on a little longer… As Baby Shoes puts it: ‘It’s like my balls are going to explode but my heart can’t breathe’.
In Rabbit Stories, Fenton believes that he is piloting a plane flying overhead with his plastic remote control. It’s a fitting analogy for Sean’s work as a filmmaker: with such an ambitious mind at the helm, the possibilities that may take flight are boundless.