Confine with Tobias Tobbell

Confine is the latest feature film from up-and-coming director Tobias Tobbell. The film centres around Pippa, a physically and emotionally scarred former model living as a recluse in her upmarket flat.

When a heist taking place in the same building goes wrong, Pippa’s home is broken into and she’s promptly taken hostage.

With the film in cinemas, on DVD and on demand from 1 July, Flicks And The City’s Amon Warmann quizzed the filmmaker on cinematography, identity, and strong female characters. Check out the highlights below…

Confine has been 10 years in the making, but Tobbell reveals that it was almost made a lot earlier:  

We actually nearly got it off the ground in 2004. We held auditions, started looking at locations, the budget would have been much smaller… and that’s the main reason we couldn’t get it together. Budget obviously counts for a lot – a film in one location is going to be a lot cheaper than the other projects I have set across several areas (nearly always ‘isolated’ as well, but not in quite the same way).

Confine features some fantastic cinematography, and unsurprisingly Tobbell says that he paid a lot of attention to the visual aesthetic of the film:  

I can’t help working on set designs as I write a script. I spend a few weeks meticulously storyboarding the entire film during the finance-raising period. Then I met Eben Bolter, the DoP on Confine, and we both started getting excited about what we could do in such a limited space; to give a flat a cinematic feeling.

Right from the script stage I was conscious of trying to mix in opportunities to change lighting or camera styles (hence the story starting in the afternoon, moving through sun-set and ending at night). It was great fun having the camera sweep around, hover over the top, peer through surveillance cameras. In fact we still talk about all the things we didn’t do, how much further we could have pushed the lighting and shot choices. But both Eben and I are really proud of what we achieved on this.

When asked about how he settled on the themes of the movie, Tobbell replies that the narrative blossomed from the characters:

Identity and the physical side of your identity is the key theme. Kayleigh’s need to disguise herself depending on the con naturally played into this. I’ve always been near obsessed by the whole idea of identical twins, finding your own identity when facing someone who appears to be… you, fascinating! The psychological issues side of the story was also born out of the characters backstories.

If an introverted person is dragged around the world and paraded on cat-walks etc it’s not a leap to see her lock herself away when she finally gets the chance… and someone who’s locked away, afraid to have people see her face any more, it seems possible she’d focus her anxieties into compulsive behaviours – tidying, hoarding and so on. So the themes just naturally evolved through the character development stage.

Confine’s cast features Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen, Eliza Bennett (Nanny McPhee, Inkheart), and newcomer Daisy Lowe. Tobbell admits that the casting process was long and tough:

Casting goes hand in hand with the finance raising, but one relies on the other so it’s very chicken and egg in those early months. The money started falling into place at the same time we found Eliza and Alfie. Eliza wanted to get her teeth stuck into someone as fiery and meaty as Kayleigh – a type of role she’d never done anything like before. Alfie enjoyed the relationship Henry and Kayleigh have. Our first chat mostly revolved around skiing/snowboarding (he was away boarding when we first spoke) and we immediately had a very easy relationship.

Pippa was different. We had an actress cast that had to pull out quite late in the day. We managed to get the script to Daisy Lowe the very next day. We met her shortly afterwards and spoke about her empathy for Pippa, from obviously understanding her modelling background to her shy, introverted side, and she so was interested in the role. We auditioned her and cast her very quickly. A couple of days later we were costume fitting and rehearsing!

Tobbell elaborates on the importance of strong female characters:

I’ve always been surrounded by strong and motivated women so it makes sense to represent what I know in the stories I write. I won’t necessarily write a female protagonist just because – but I am conscious of writing characters that portray the world as it actually is, in some way, and not have everything driven by men whilst girls play the romantic interest.

Tobbell has made two feature films before Confine, and both were improvised. For Confine however, he steered clear of improvisation:

I learnt my lesson. I love the idea but you need time to rehearse and work the characters really hard with cast – there isn’t often the time to do either on film so sticking to the script seems a much safer bet. Some actors prefer to stick to the script anyway (albeit they may alter a line to make it work better) and others may like to play with it a little more. To make it work, all the cast need to both want to improvise and have a natural talent for improvisation – otherwise I’d leave it alone.

Confine is in cinemas, on DVD and on demand from 1 July 2013.