Simon Aboud…as a young boy grew up just outside Liverpool, England, who, as oftentimes as boys, or children would do, didn’t always want to go to bed on time. So while his parents entertained with dinner parties in the 1970’s he was given the opportunity to watch television. On Friday’s BBC2 would play movies and that’s when this creative world opened his imagination…And as oftentimes children do, Simon dreamt of what he’d one day become when he grew up. Simon wanted to become a film director. He remembers a movie he watched at that time which is still his favorite. Instead of recollecting a favorite actor, place or theme, he recalls this movie by it’s director. The movie was Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Then one day, his father asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up, Simon shared, ‘I want to be a director’. His father laughed, this was not a profession he was familiar with nor how to encourage Simon in his ambitions.
So, Simon retained his aspirations, his hope of achieving something in the field of directing of movies…But this dream would have to wait some time as would the production of his first screen play, This Wonderful Fantastic. And he wondered, somewhere subconsciously, did he desire to become a film director to prove his father wrong…
Becoming a Writer/Director
Kathy – As a director, you have the ability to take the writer’s story and make it visual. This includes editing scenery and music to ensure what your writer, and you are both, that the vision is fully told. Is there any part of that process that is exhilarating or even difficult?
Simon– The whole thing is difficult. It’s an odd path to achieve to be the writer and director. For instance the work I’ve done recently, when I did the TV series last summer in L.A., I didn’t write the story and I found that more difficult. Because, I think what happens is, if you’re the writer and the director, very clearly, when you’re writing you bring the director’s perspective. It should feel visual, it should leap off the page and you should hopefully elevate it to something that is visual not just one dimensional, obviously in just word. But, then also there comes a point where you take that hat off and you put a director’s hat on and hopefully, because you’ve been with it since the birth of the script, you’re so readily invested in it, so it becomes easier. However, you’ve got to be really hard with yourself to make sure you find real objectivity. Because, obviously, I am the writer and director with two minds on that. One is the writer and one is director – the same person as in one.
Making a small independent film is hard work. It’s absolutely difficult to get it even from the starting line; difficult to cast; difficult to raise the finance; it’s difficult to achieve the schedule. Because, if you’re doing a studio movie you’re given a few months and in a small production you’re given just a few weeks. You don’t have the finance or the luxury of doing this, that and the other. But, in a small production, you have far better creative freedom. Every thing balances out at the end of the day. Really, seriously, I am so lucky to have this job. I know that. I’m incredibly grateful to do what I do.
Kathy – I think it is a gift when you’re able to finally do what you enjoy, or to find the thing that you enjoy…
Simon – I know, I agree completely. I think, whatever you do, if you can bring a real joy and a sort of passion to what you do, you’re going to be good at what you do because you’re going to be so engaged in it. But I think, in the creative business if you can get a chance to make a movie, it’s just such a privilege. It really is.
This Beautiful Fantastic
Kathy – What I like about your film is the storytelling aspect. Touted as being a modern-day fairy tale, which have elements of magic and of the improbable. what would you say then were the elements in this story that were magical or improbable?
Simon – Was it magical?
Kathy – I think so! For instance Luna….
Simon – Here’s the thing, what I tried to do with the film, right, which is… I’m very glad people call it a modern-day fairy tale. That’s what I set out to achieve. But, I was very careful to make the film seem timeless and at the same time to ground in a reality. Which it’s meant to be London today, but I didn’t put any computers or mobile phones in there….I deliberately took away the things like cars, buses; I took away a lot of that. If you go through it very carefully you’ll realize the bus she gets on is modern-day where she goes is modern-day. I think, one part of fairy tale telling is the ability to suspend belief, right. So, there’s a point I present them to you that these things are possible. But over the course of 100 minutes they hopefully, fingers crossed, take on the air of being slightly magical. So very clearly, the story that she’s telling about Luna, the bird, the whole thing has an element of magic to it. What you do is take elements of real life and you weave those into that story. Also, all the characters were slightly on the edge of reality. Yeah, that’s kind of the way I did it, but hopefully, the take out is I do believe it is magical…Well, that’s the best thing you can say to me. It’s great to believe that I achieved that.
Kathy – I feel that you were able to accomplish that. And, I was wondering, your story works when those working with you catch your vision. How much of your vision was realized through the actors you chose?
Simon – I tell you what, I think any character on the screen has got to be a collaboration between the actor and the director. They’re the two people that are going to make that character kind of live and breath. I was very, very lucky that I had four actors; all with strong will, all with creative vision, all very passionate. They all worked really hard on developing their characters. They all worked me really hard with making me justify every word I’d written for the script every day. I think then, when you do that something special is going to happen. They were all very, very talented and I was super lucky to cast them.
Kathy – I think it did work. I had this idea and was curious. Could it be that there’s a little bit of you in each of these characters?
Simon – Yes, yes, you’re very perceptive. This is not the first time being said, I think. Because it’s my first screenplay, I think it’s more autobiographical than anything else I’ve written. I’m very happy that it is but, I think what’s very interesting is that people ask me, in that I suffered from OCD, and people are saying to me, “well, so, are you Bella?” And I’ve always responded saying, “I think that I’m a bit of all of them. I really do…” What’s interesting is the most common questions I get, “well, what’s the film about?”...And I now think, wholeheartedly, that the film is about how important it is for someone to find a family…I don’t just mean a biological family…But, I think that it’s really important that people find an emotional family; where they are nurtured and where everybody helps bring about the best in everybody else. I suspect that it also may be a kind of reaction to what I said to you before. Which, is me remembering, you know, I said to my Dad, “I really want to be a film director.” And my Dad, well, God bless him, I loved him dearly… it’s that he just didn’t know how to praise us. He wouldn’t know how to make you a film director. But obviously now, if my son said to me “I want to be a film director”, I would say, “Yeah, bring it, I’m not going to laugh at you!” I think the whole thing is about you have to take people seriously about their dreams. You have to try to help them get somewhere towards them. So, yeah, that’s a very interesting observation.
Kathy – I think too, when that idea came to me and I thought in Alfie, I absolutely loved Alfie, when talking about his flowers, his garden, his passion, you could hear it. He changed. It was kind of like the sun coming out from behind the clouds.
Simon – Yeah, that’s right…
Kathy – …So, do you have a passion for gardening as well…is there somebody that instilled that in you?
Simon – Yes, I do! I have a great passion for gardening. It started with this movie. Because it got to a point where I needed to know what a Delphinium looked like. I needed to know just how big a Delphinium is and what colors they came in. So, I eventually just started gardening and now I’m kind of obsessed with it. I love it. I’m very passionate about it. Even to the point where the worst thing about me going to LA. to shoot this TV show was that I couldn’t see my garden in the best time of the year, in summer. When I came back it was kind of overgrown. And I found it quite depressing. My wife would ask me, “What was wrong?” and I’d say “Just look at it.” So yeah, I love gardening.
Kathy – That’s one of the things I love to do, but it’s a challenge because I inherited an old garden at this home. And there are things that just want to take over. I love the part where he (Alfie) tells Bella to take all of the (weed) roots out, because that’s such a truth…
Simon – That’s a complete truth…well, Kathy I’m going to have to go in just a couple minutes because I’ve got an eight year old and a five year old I haven’t really spoken to since I got back from Paris, and they’re looking at me through a window.
Kathy – Are they! Bless your heart! I truly appreciate all your time…
Simon – Oh, it’s such a pleasure, honestly it’s such a pleasure. You know when you get on the phone and talk with nice people, I could talk all day. But I’ve got my kids, I think they just need some of their dad.
Kathy – Well that’s a good thing, I think Dad’s are very important. Honestly, I’ve always promoted my husband to our children. They’re all grown and gone now, I’m looking forward to being a grandmother! Dad’s are vitally important so I truly support you. and I have one last question. Some of my readers love to compare movies to books. Do you think you may consider making this story into a book?
Simon – Oh yes, I have to say, I think it will be turned into a book. The book actually took on a bigger and bigger significance. What was funny was when I first started the detail of it was not super important. What was important was that it was coming out. But then, as I got further and further in to the draft, I suddenly realized I was thinking “Hang on, what happens to Luna now?” So actually there’s probably more, there’s more I ended up writing; more stories than there are in the film. So the answer is…Yes…The answer is I would love to do a children’s book.
Kathy – I think that would be wonderful. I appreciate your time and I thoroughly enjoyed your movie, I’m looking forward to seeing in the theater and to one day owning it.
Simon – Thank you Kathy so much, have a great weekend and go do some gardening!
This Wonderful Fantastic
When she is forced by her landlord to deal with her neglected garden or face eviction, she meets her nemesis, match and mentor in Alfie Stephenson (Tom Wilkinson), a grumpy, loveless, rich old man who lives next door and happens to be an amazing horticulturalist.”
This Wonderful Fantastic also includes the amazing actors Andrew Scott and Jeremy Irvine. These four characters do come together as a family in the end, supporting one another and beautifully set in a timeless manner. Family is important, supporting one another is important…This Beautiful Fantastic will be released in theaters March 10, 2017. You can further read my review of this film here. You will find this film completely charming, completely delightsome!