An Interview with Guy Myhill
Guy Myhill is a director and has worked extensively in theatre, television and film. His debut feature, The Goob was released in the UK in 2015. I spoke with Guy about his inspiration behind The Goob, the casting process and his connection with Norfolk.
Did you always think you would become a director?
I don’t think so no. I mean I kind of grew up around video technology and then, my Dad had a lot of kind of more interesting cameras in the loft. So when I was a kid mates and I would pick up these kind of- they were like sci-fi ray guns and it turned out they were Super-8 cameras. But there was something about them that was more of an appeal than the kind of video formats, even though you had to wait for the film to come back whatever. My first forays with this kind of mucking around, we used to get our action men figures, they weren’t the genuine ones, and they were kind of like Chinese copies from the market. We’d attach these little figures on zip-wires, but we’d douse them in petrol and then we’d torch them, but film the resulting blob of melting plastic on Super-8. I think from that point it was just absolute mayhem and fun around it, never did I think that that would be something I’d kind of pursue.
What was the inspiration behind The Goob? Were there any films, or directors you were particularly influenced by?
No, I think the initial inspiration was that I’d made a documentary for channel 4 some years prior to making The Goob. It was a documentary around the stock car scene and it was actually at the track that we used for The Goob. It was just something that stuck about the making of that. Men kind of trapped going round and round on this circuit. There was a starting point I knew for a story, and so the initial bits of The Goob kind of came out of that. Here are these grown men stuck paradoxically in a really open wide landscape. So the flipside to that was that someone had to kind of get away from that, so that was the seed if you like for The Goob.
Norfolk has featured in other recent films, such as 45 Years and Yesterday. Did you have a connection with Norfolk before making The Goob?
I’ve lived here for a while. I’ve made a lot of documentaries in the area and numerous shorts. It has always been a land full of secrets. It’s very flat and it has been a kind of natural hideout throughout time for outcasts and misfits. It’s got this kind of incredible history and at different times has been overrun. From World War 2, there were a lot of Americans here. Before then, going back in the day, Vikings, but then we’ve had huge influx of Dutch people. It’s always been kind of- something about the area, it’s like no other in the UK and even the Partridge film was shot around the Norfolk coastline. I think maybe there are other areas in the country that have figured more, but I’ve always seen it as, for a location point of view, one of the UK’s secret spots I guess.
It’s got more in common with that part of Europe where France and Belgium merge. We were over at a festival in the US with it and it was chiming with people from the southern states in America. That flat kind of landscape. Actually people have remarked that there was an American feel, but I don’t know whether that was because of those big skies you’ll often get in a Western that feature. There’s the diner too I guess.
Liam Walpole’s debut performance as Goob really stood out for me. How did you come across him, and did you have him in mind for the part of Goob from the beginning?
Not at all. I had a fantastic casting director, Carmel, and she had a team of people searching the whole area just trying to track down. I think the Norfolk accent is quite particular, so I just knew that across the whole casting process I had to have people, where possible, that knew it. If it was important to their character who actually had first-hand knowledge, i.e. they grew up here, so in the case of say, Sean Harris, Sienna Guillory and then Hannah Spearritt, who was in S Club 7. They are all from the area, so they know the tongue. It’s really difficult to pull off if you don’t have that. Because Goob is the thing the piece hangs around, I knew I had to get a local. He doesn’t say much, but I still wanted him to have that kind of first-hand knowledge. I think one of Carmel’s assistants, Leanne found Liam and it was quite late in the day. It was maybe three weeks before we started shoot that she found him in a little market town called Dereham, which is maybe 20 miles outside of Norwich. She found him and the process they were taking, they would take headshots of characters that they thought might be suitable. I saw Liam from a headshot that came in that day. I said it before, he had that kind of mixture between Spock from Star Trek and David Bowie. He had that kind of quality. There was also a sort of femininity to him that I knew would just contrast with the Sean Harris character. Liam hadn’t really acted before, it was just a question of could he do it. It was just spending a bit of time with him. Sienna Guillory came up before the shoot and we spent a week together, working stuff through with him and building his confidence and that was the process with him.
Liam’s done a couple of pop videos since. With Liam, I think he’s so talented but I don’t think he’s that fussed. He’s not going to actively seek out work. He certainly had a couple of opportunities, but for whatever reason he didn’t grasp that. He really kind of likes doing stuff with his hands. He’s fantastic at origami. You know, if there’s an issue with your phone, you might have dropped it and something’s been knocked out of alignment, Liam’s the man you go to. He’ll take it apart and he’s got that kind of mind-set. Acting is a competitive game, I’m not sure he’s got that absolute hunger. I could be wrong and I’d love to see him in stuff. I think he’s certainly had opportunities that he’s not taken, so whether he’s holding out for something else I don’t know. He’s certainly got a talent, he’s got a fantastic look.
What was the most challenging, and also most enjoyable aspect of making The Goob?
I think the challenge always with things like that is the time that you’re given. We didn’t have very long to make it, that’s the challenge. The thing is you think you’re in this wide open landscape, but actually if you go three miles down the road from one particular field that you’re filming in, or maybe five say. You can’t go straight there, you have to navigate all these irrigation dikes and the kind of the way the roads are configured. So even moving and when you’ve got to move a crew of maybe 45 or 50 people. All of that is eating into time and I think that was the biggest challenge.
The whole process of filmmaking is evolving, I always feel blessed. I enjoy virtually each part of the process. There are things that can frustrate of course, whatever that might be, but on the whole, the whole thing is really pleasurable. I wouldn’t say it’s sort of one euphoric moment. It’s a wonderful way to sort of exist.
Can you tell me about any projects you’re currently working on?
I’m always sort of wary of this. We’ve got things in good positions. My God, what the landscapes going to look like coming out of COVID in terms of insurance. I don’t know. I think it’s a tricky one. Nobody is really able to determine what that’s going to look like. Hopefully something will land. If not, God knows what will happen. Probably best not to think in those terms. Keep positive.
Check out my review of The Goob here: https://www.closelyobservedframes.com/post/film-of-the-week-the-goob-myhill-2014