Most people can relate to the feeling of nervousness before a first date. But for Greenwood, the main character of Benjamin Cleary’s short film “Stutterer,” this apprehension goes even further.
In the film, Greenwood, played by Matthew Needham, has been speaking to Ellie, played by Chloe Pirrie, for six months online, and she announces that she wishes to meet him in person. This is great for Greenwood, except that he has a stutter, making it difficult to speak to someone in person.
“When you have a stutter, mundane tasks like ringing the bank become really tricky,” says Serena Armitage, who was the producer of the film along with Shan Christopher Ogilvie. Cleary had a friend with a stutter growing up, and so had experienced from the outside how difficult these tasks could be. The film aims to show this difficulty as a way of looking at the way that people communicate.
As an added challenge, the film was produced on a tiny budget of just 5000 pounds (about $7200). The filming took place over just four days with an unpaid crew of sixteen, and they didn’t have time for mistakes. The actors had to rehearse with Cleary before filming took place so that each shot took just two takes or less.
Creating something with so few resources doesn’t come easily. Armitage recalls a moment during filming when one crew member accidentally drove two hours away from the set with the batteries to one of the cameras, and she had to drive to meet him in case they ran out of battery. A setback like that would have been disastrous for their limited filming time. Another time, they arrived at a bed and breakfast that they had rented to film and the keys to the door didn’t work, again cutting valuable filming time.
Despite the obstacles, the creators of “Stutterer” produced an incredible moving film that has won awards at multiple international film festivals. At first, they hadn’t even considered applying for the Oscars, but eventually decided that they’d only regret it if they didn’t. And obviously, that decision has worked out well for them.
“I think our film is very universal,” says Armitage. “For me, it’s kind of a microcosm that works on all levels for anyone that has an internal battle for how they might come across in the outside world.”