DOORWAYS – Macabre tale of homelessness gets its world premiere at Leeds
A new British short drama which highlights the psychological torment of living on the streets has its world premiere at this year’s Leeds Film Festival.
The macabre drama Doorways – filmed in the style of renowned British drama realists Ken Loach and Alan Clarke – features two grounded performance by screen newcomers Dan Sheppard and Katie Marie-Carter.
The film, penned and co-produced by horror writer Ed Murphy (Rose Black, Society: Party Animal), follows a newly-evicted young girl on her travelling with a homeless veteran who believes his street colleagues are being abducted from the city sidewalks.
It was shot in Manchester’s Northern Quarter by former actor Trey Williams, who worked with Ken Loach on the 2012 feature Route Irish, and the main performers found themselves virtually integrated into the heart of the city’s homeless community for the four-day shoot.
Here, Dan and Katie talk about their experiences of working on this ambitious film project.
Q – How did you tackle playing homeless characters?
Dan: “When I went to the audition, I dressed as though I was homeless. As I walked down Deansgate in Manchester, I noticed people no longer made eye contact with me. I was invisible. The only people who acknowledged me were the real homeless. I’ve always dropped spare change to the homeless and, if not, I always say ‘hello’. But after playing this character, I now always asked them to tell me their stories.”
Katie: “I had to think about how people become homeless. I tried to put myself in their shoes. Myself and Dan went into the homeless community and spoke with the people of the streets. They just wanted someone to talk to but, most of all, someone to listen. Before filming, we went begging in character and I was shocked to tears at how people looked through me as if I didn’t exist. I have never felt so deflated and worthless, I couldn’t stop the tears rolling down my face. I felt so sad. This was the perfect way to understand how a homeless person feels.”
Q – You filmed in Manchester’s Northern Quarter amongst one of the most publicised homeless communities in the UK. Did that affect your performance in anyway?
Dan: “Very much so. After talking with them, it dawned on me that they are not all drug addicts
and alcoholics. In fact, very few that I met are. They really are just like you and me. The only difference is they have had a run of bad luck or trauma in their lives that has rendered them without a home base to return to at night.”
Katie: “Filming around the homeless community was a challenge as I wanted to respect their home and give the people of the streets the respect they deserve. In one part of the film, I am looking for somewhere to kip for the night. There were a group of homeless people watching and one of them said ‘Keep your head down, we don’t want to see. It’s easier that way.’ They were interested in the film and were happy the ever-growing homeless way of life is being noticed. They wanted to help create a true representation of their world.”
Q – Director Trey Williams tried to integrate you in the community during filming. What were your
experiences of that?
Dan: “Trey has a great way of setting you up for the role. He asked me to go begging and not come back until I had a fiver. I came back with a tenner, which shows the generosity and compassion of the Manchester people and during down-time, I was told just to wander the streets and talk to the
Homeless. I talked to this one guy who had lost most of his toes through frost bite. Some man – possibly a dad, a son, a human being in the 21st century – lost his tows through frost-bite. Can you believe that?
Katie: “The community were very helpful with what we were trying to create. They showed a lot of interest and care. For example, there was one particular part of the film, which was very upsetting for me – and there was this stranger who was concerned for my well-being.”
Q – Has this made you more aware of the homeless community in the city?
Dan: “I am now more aware than I have ever been. I notice how many people are on the streets,
and it seems they are everywhere. It’s so sad to see in a rich first-world country.”
Katie: “This experience has definitely made me more aware of the homeless community. Since filming ‘Doorways’ I have noticed an increase, however that may be because I am more aware of it now. I hope audiences start to notice it more after watching the film.”
Q – How did you work with each other to create the homeless companionship in the story?
Dan: “Trey asked us to wander the streets and go into a few places to try to get a coffee. We were
watched like hawks. We were told the coffee machine was broken. Katie was in tears after we
walked past a couple who looked at me in disgust. Katie said the woman gave her a look of compassion that really moved her. We then realised we had to stick together in this – as a surrogate family so to speak. After all this, her performance prompted me to react and vis versa.”
Katie: “Yeah, we rehearsed outdoors, in a similar location to where the film is set. This enabled us to understand what it was like to be outside in the cold with nowhere to go. We walked the streets in character and went into shops together and were treated unkindly by security. Other people’s view of us together was of disgust and most thought he was my pimp. This experience struck a bond between our characters and I began to see him as my protector and someone I could trust after losing everything and everyone around me.”
Q – What would you like audiences to take away from your performance in Doorways?
Dan: “The homeless are you and me. The homeless are an interest rate hike too much. They are the result of a redundancy, a gambling problem, the death of a partner. We are all on a knife edge that can slice us into bits and scatter us onto the streets. The homeless are there, but would you notice if one disappeared? How many of this invisible population would have to vanish before you noticed? If you don’t want to give them money that’s OK, but don’t ignore them. Just say ‘hello’. That’s all it takes.”
Katie: “After watching ‘Doorways’, I would like the audience to leave thinking about their attitude towards the homeless community. A lot of people are repulsed by a homeless person on the street and only judge them by the way they look now. I would like the audience to consider what life that person had before and how they got to this point. A life can change in moment.”
Doorways will screen alongside Habit at the Leeds Everyman Cinema on Wednesday, November 15 (8.30pm) and Thursday, November 16 (3.30pm) http://www.leedsinspired.co.uk/events/habit-doorways#