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Dom Lee on his award winning film Fort Box

Fort Box, the creation of writer/director Dom Lee and Lightning Oak Productions, has been part of the official selection at more than a dozen film festivals across Europe and America.  It also won Best 5 to 30 Minute Film at the Norfolk Film Festival and Best Actress at the English Riviera Film Festival.

We caught up with writer and director Dom Lee to talk about the film and the inspirations behind it.

“I wanted to make a film about childhood,” Dom says.  “As a child, I loved Lego and making models out of cardboard or balsa wood or just general junk, so that was the starting point. After researching cardboard models online, I stumbled on the idea of people who had made massive cardboard box forts. Visually they all looked really impressive and I thought it would be great to try and work building one into a film narrative.

“I worked backward from there, really. I knew building the fort would be the ending of the film, so I set out to try to figure out a reason why the fort was being built.”

The film revolves around a young boy whose mother has been diagnosed with cancer.  They enjoyed making cardboard models when she was healthy, so he sets out to build a fort of cardboard in tribute to his mum.

“I’ve always had an interest in films, but the idea of doing it for a career only really happened when I headed off to study it on a whim at University,” Dom explained. “I’d filmed a few family holiday videos, putting them together on Windows Movie Maker.  When I was doing my A-Levels, I made a short film that involved me having a lightsaber fight with a friend in my garden. At the time I was quite proud of it as it involved a lot of visual effect work and it was something I learnt a lot from doing.”

By contrast, Fort Box feels very organic and down to earth, with practical effects instead.

“The idea occurred to me late 2013. It wasn’t until late 2015 when I seriously started working on the script with the aim of filming during the summer of 2016. I approached Mid Devon District Council in January 2016, seeking to build the fort in Newcombes Meadow Playing fields in Crediton. They eventually said yes in May.  With the build day set for August 6th, that gave me about 3 months to organise it, cast the film, and collect 3000 cardboard boxes.”

Fort Box really is a film that saw the whole community come together.

“Getting the wider Crediton community involved was something I was keen to do. As a new filmmaker, one of the challenges is getting people beyond your friends and family to see your work. I tried to collect boxes from as many Crediton Businesses as possible and we had 250 people turn up on the day to come and help the fort.”

With the local community on board, the word about the film began to spread around the local community of Crediton and then to the wider internet, which helped to create some interest from film festivals both near and far.

While the community uniting to help make the film was a great benefit, the story in the film had to be right.  “Perhaps the most important thing is that story is key.  Whatever type of film you’re making, you need to aim for people to feel something when they watch it, whether that be to laugh, cry or feel scared. If an audience doesn’t feel anything when watching a film, chances are they won’t enjoy it,” Dom says.

After being seen at many film festivals, Fort Box premiered online on Thursday, 6 December.

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