It cost under £5000 to make, non of the cast or crew had any prior experience on a feature film, and its debut writer-director Robert Savage only turned 18 on the first day of shooting. The beginnings may be inauspicious, but British indie Strings (2011) could turn out to be one of the low budget success stories of recent years when it sees release later this year.
A relationship drama following a group of teenagers and their romantic entanglements before they leave home for university, Strings could be the making of its young cast which includes Philine Lembeck, Oliver Malam, Hannah Wilder and Sid Akbar Ali. German stage actress Lembeck’s disaffected Grace falls for the withdrawn, distant Jon (Malam), while her best friend Scout (Wilder) struggles with her sulking, obstinate long-term boyfriend Chris (Akbar Ali). Wilder has since appeared in several other shorts and another feature, Red Heart (also set for release in 2012), whilst Malam made a brief appearance in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011).
It may seem odd to compare a teen romance film with a science fiction road movie, but if there is a contemporary filmmaker whose work bares comparison with Strings, it is perhaps Gareth Edwards. One of the big indie breakthroughs of the last two years, Edwards’s film Monsters (2010) was shot with a very similar camera set-up to the one used for Strings. Edwards found the money for Monsters thanks to his short film Factory Farmed, produced as part of (and winning) the London 48-Hour Sci-Fi Film Festival. Savage and his team also entered the competition in 2011 with Sit in Silence, winning the BFI Future Film Award and placing 2nd overall.
Audiences are used to hedonistic portrayals of the intimacies and sexual confusion of the teenage years, but may have seldom seen such a refreshingly honest and stripped-back vision as Strings. This is not the remembrances of an adult, looking back years later, but the work of a young, aspiring director whose experience of this world was so imminent that he only legally became an adult during production.