Emma Clarendon chatted to director Brian Lawes about his short film Lost Kings, which is being considered for an Oscar in 2022 and will soon be screened as part of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.

Hi Brian – could you tell me a little bit more about what Lost Kings is about? Our film is about a boy who is searching for food for him and his younger brother. He ends up breaking into a neighborhood home to steal groceries, but when the homeowners return, he becomes trapped inside with those he’s stealing from. It then becomes a cat and mouse game of him sneaking throughout the house, trying to escape before the family and police realise he’s still in the home. It’s a suspenseful drama that we hope keeps you on your toes all the way until the end.

How did the idea for the film come about? The most literal start-off point for this script actually began with a feature version of this story. However, after finishing the feature screenplay, I realised the next best step was to adapt it into a short film to help in financing the full length version. But in a lot of ways, the initial spark for this story began much before the feature concept was ever written. Back in my teenage years, I can remember trying to process this economic gap I was beginning to encounter in the world. At a certain age you start to see the reality of wealth inequality all around you in your city, and you start to see yourself as a certain facet of that situation. The question emerged for me: “How do I interact with this situation, and how do I become an agent for it getting better and not worse?” I wish I could say I’d arrived at a clear answer, but it’s an incredibly complex situation that way smarter people than myself are even more qualified to speak on. Nonetheless, what you see in my film is me exploring and wrestling with this question, and arriving at a place of empathising with those who find themselves lacking basic needs.

What do you hope that audiences will take away from Lost Kings? Anytime I can leave an audience with a more nuanced understanding of someone different than themselves I feel like I’ve accomplished something special. So in the case of Lost Kings, I hope the topic of wealth inequality and the challenges surrounding those affected by this issue can be seen in a more humanising way. I believe we’re all better when we can learn to see situations from multiple perspectives and lead with more empathy in our day to day interactions. Beyond that, I hope the audience fully experiences the ride of suspense we aimed to craft in the narrative.

How have you found the process in creating the film to get it to this point? It’s truly been a special ride to get where I am today with Lost Kings. Early on, when your idea is just at the script level, you sometimes wonder how the story will translate to the screen. I certainly believed in the story I had written– but still in the early days you wonder if your vision will be fully realized how you hope. Plus, there’s so many ups and downs in any filmmaking process. So at times it’s easy to get overly focused on overcoming the challenges at hand and miss the specialness of it all. Now that I can fully step back and look at what our team has created, it really helps me regain perspective. Seeing the amazing performances and visuals that our team brought to life makes me feel so proud. It feels so satisfying to see that the story is powerful, and resonates with those that watch it. This film will forever be special to me and so many others, and I’m forever grateful for the amazing team who helped tell this story.

How has it felt knowing that the film has been selected for so many film festivals? It’s so gratifying to see festival programmers and audiences connect with Lost Kings. COVID-19 obviously caused a delay in the festival circuit for many filmmakers– I think it left a lot of us wondering what to do next with the films we’d be creating leading up to the pandemic. I’ve been so encouraged to see Lost Kings finally find it’s spot in the world at festivals like Palm Springs ShortFest, HollyShorts, Cleveland International, and so many other supportive festival venues. It truly feels like a big hug from the film festival community; they’ve helped champion our story and help it find its audience amidst a really challenging time in the world.

What would you like to do next? I’m really excited to make the feature version of this story. It gives us a lot more of a landscape to jump into these themes on a deeper level, so I can’t wait to be able to bring this larger scale version to life. And then beyond that, I’m constantly writing new ideas (I have a drawer full of scripts) so I can’t wait to share some of my other films with audiences in the future.

How do our readers follow you? They can find me and more info about Lost Kings at brianlawes.co and from here they’ll see links to my Instagram, Vimeo, and IMDB. I’m most active on Instagram (@brianlawes) for news about current or upcoming projects. We hope everyone will follow along with us to see just how far this film will go as we enter awards season.

By Emma Clarendon