An unlikely duo must decide what to do with a severed hand they find on a plot of land they intend to build on.
A dark comedy written & directed by Daniel Harding, The Missing Hand stars Meryl Griffiths and Neil James, and features Radley Mason and Joseph Emms. The music was composed and orchestrated by Jack Blume and the prosthetic hand was made by Emma Snelson.
The Missing Hand was successfully screened at numerous domestic and international film festivals in 2016, and was released online in January 2017.
Daniel started working on The Missing Hand in late 2015, whilst in post-production with Killer Bird. The idea had been around for a number years, but never developed into anything more until Daniel started looking for a shorter project to produce. Similar to Cupid, a script was developed relatively quickly, and only a few changes were made prior to filming.
The main focus during pre-production was making sure a believable and life-like severed hand was made, as without it, The Missing Hand project would never have materialised. Emma was able to produce a realistic prosthetic of Daniel’s hand and casting was able to begin.
Casting was relatively simple in comparison to previous projects. Neil James was the first to jump on board as Trevor, and soon after Meryl Griffiths was cast as Ms Whitman. Radley Mason was already on Daniel’s radar as a Brighton based actor, and Joseph Emms was close to being cast in Killer Bird, and was happy to complete the line-up.
After an initial attempt to film the project was postponed due to bad weather, filming was rescheduled and was completed in October. The Missing Hand was filmed in Essex in a single day. Post-production took three months to complete and picture and sound lock was finished in February 2016. Jack Blume was then commissioned to compose an original piece of music, which was finalised in April.
MEET THE CAST
Q&A WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR DANIEL HARDING
Where did the idea for The Missing Hand come from? I vividly remember the moment in which I thought about the idea of finding a severed limb, and thinking, what would I do? It was several years ago, and I was walking down the street near where I lived at the time. I day dream a lot, which really helps to think up ideas. The idea has since stuck around and it resurfaced last year when I was trying to decide what to do next.
How did you find writing a comedy? Well I wouldn’t say it is an out-and-out comedy, but certainly it has dark comedic elements. The dialogue is my type of humour. I giggled the whole way through filming. It’s what I find funny. Whether other people do is still remained to be seen.
Can you describe the filming process? Did you do anything different on this film? I wanted the landscape and location to really play a part in the story. It was really important for me to establish that this is a plot of land, almost a wasteland, where people rarely went. You can just about see housing and civilisation on the edge, but otherwise that’s all you can see. The characters are completely alone with their decisions. I also wanted the audience to feel that Trevor and Ms Whitman were in it together, so I tried to place them in the same frame as each other as much as possible.
What films influenced The Missing Hand? Anything from Dr Strangelove, In Bruges to The Big Lebowski. I am sure there is a David Lynch film where a character finds a finger in a field. Maybe Blue Velvet.
What are your hopes for the film? I just want people to enjoy it for what it is and perhaps chuckle a bit.
Q&A WITH ACTOR NEIL JAMES
Can you give us a brief overview of your acting career to date? I started acting professionally in 2012 and have managed to stay pretty busy ever since. I try to do a steady mix of both stage and screen work, and have been fortunate enough to be cast in a very varied range of roles over the past 4 years. I seem to mostly get cast as either nasty villains or comic buffoons, which is fantastic for me as I enjoy playing both.
You play Trevor in The Missing Hand, can you describe him and what it was like playing him? Trevor is a nice guy who just wants an easy life. He wants to do the right thing but allows himself to be corrupted by the lure of a quick payday. Throughout the film he seems to be constantly wrestling with his conscience with mixed results. The really interesting thing about playing Trevor was that he is plunged into an adventure with a very unlikely partner in Ms Whitman. She is very different from the type of person Trevor would normally spend time with, plus she has the upper hand in their relationship. Meryl and I clicked very early on in rehearsals and I think that was an important factor to their onscreen dynamic. We felt comfortable playing characters that don’t particularly like each other.
What would you actually do if you found a severed hand? Sober, I’d call the police and hide. Drunk, I’d put it down my pants and take it to a party.
This is your third project with Daniel, can you describe your relationship with him? I would say after three films we have a very good working relationship. I trust Daniel completely. We share similar tastes in film and I admire his focus and work rate. He never stops! He ensures that every film he makes is the best it can possibly be within his means, which is a lot more expensive and time consuming then you may imagine. He is also a very funny guy which is a bonus.
What films would you liken The Missing Hand too? I think it has a similar feel to Clockwise which is an old favourite of mine. I enjoy anything with a scenario where the leads are forced to deal with a drama together despite the fact that they are very mismatched allies. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Breaking Bad are all successful examples of this.
Q&A WITH ACTOR MERYL GRIFFITHS
Can you give us a brief overview of your acting career to date? Since coming back after a long career break from acting, though hungry for new experience, I’ve been quite choosy in what I do not wanting to sacrifice quality. Having got most of my previous experience from theatre I’ve focused primarily on film, with two features and a number of shorts now under my belt – playing variously bitch boss, empathetic therapist, dying mother, cold disapproving mother, I’ve also done a fair bit of commercial modelling – so you may see me popping up on posters on the tube, bus shelters, wherever really.
You play Ms Whitman in The Missing Hand, can you describe her for us? I loved Ms Whitman! At first glance she seems a terrible person – profit by any means, no matter who you have to trample on to achieve your goals. But one of the things that makes acting so interesting is to try and discover the contradiction. It’s quite telling at a key moment in the film, having been the (apparently) stronger one in the pairing of Ms Whitman and the wonderful Trevor she can’t cope at all, reduced to a fairly ineffectual wringing of hands and pleas for Trevor to do “something!” I chose to think that the tough act comes from being a woman in a man’s world. Feeling she needed to be tougher than the men while secretly wondering when she’s going to be rumbled. She’s probably just a Daddy’s girl at heart!
The Missing Hand is very indie, have you done many projects like this in the past? Most of my projects to date have been indie. There’s something about the lack of budget and other resources that often forces people to be quite inventive and creative. And you really feel you are part of a team. I like that.
What would you actually do if you found a severed hand? I know exactly what I would do, if finding a missing finger in my letter box counts (which actually happened to me!). I always thought I would be cool in a crisis. I’m not. I panicked and my neighbour across the road who saw me going up and down the steps trying to pluck up courage to deal with it thankfully intervened! A bit like Trevor.
What would you liken The Missing Hand to? The Missing Hand is like all the off-the-wall films you can think of – condensed. In more general terms what works about it for me is it starts quite normal, even prosaic, and spirals very quickly into something quite bonkers. From theatre, I would liken it to some of the plays by Terry Johnson who will marry side-splitting french farce with real gut-wrenching tragedy. I love the way he can spin things on a sixpence.
Q&A WITH COMPOSER JACK BLUME
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got in to scoring films I’ve been writing all sorts of music since I was pretty young, but films became my focus towards the end of school. I started out as a Cellist and then started picking up various other instruments, so by the time I was studying Music at university, I was very focused on composing. After graduating I just forced myself into the world of film and TV and snatched up every opportunity I could. That period involved a lot of emailing and coffee meetings. Actually, it still does. Being classically trained in orchestration definitely helped be get some cool jobs and get taken seriously in film.
What attracted you to The Missing Hand and what sort of ideas did you have for the music? I’m a big fan of dark comedies, particularly Coen Brothers films, and the style of this film reached out to me. It’s short, simple, and has a tone that allowed for really interesting storytelling. Daniel was also very open to me developing the style and musical world for the film, he’s not the kind of director to force a pastiche or temp track onto the composer.
Did you treat this project any differently to something with a larger budget? Absolutely not! I’m in the business of scoring films because I love creating the work and collaborating with other creatives. I see no point in rushing through something or doing a lazy job, everyone benefits from a job done properly.
Can you describe what it was like working with Daniel? Daniel was incredibly easy to work with. We had a few phone calls to discuss ideas, and then I actually travelled down to Brighton to meet him in person. I think we both found that getting to know each other’s sense of humour and approach to the work made collaboration much easier and more fluid once we got into sending cues back and forth. He’s very open to new ideas and to challenging his own initial thoughts, but is also very sure of his vision.
And finally, if you found a severed hand, what would you do? Donate it to an indie filmmaker.
“It is the onscreen dynamic between the actors that makes The Missing Hand such a provocative, captivating and fascinating film. The storyline is written in such a skillful and intelligent way as to leave many of the mysteries intact by the end, which makes it all the more entertaining.”
“Smooth cinematography, solid editing, Jack Blume’s apropos soundtrack, and comedic plot all work together to allow the viewer to grasp the narrative and hang on for a jovial ride through exactly how not to wave off an icky, less than handy circumstance.”
“The Missing Hand is the rare movie that succeeds on almost every level, where each character, scene, music, and joke firing on all cylinders to make a film worth watching over and over again. An excellent script written by Daniel Harding really drags the viewer into every scene and makes you question what you would do yourself if you was in the position of the characters.”
“The element of comedy is delivered with ease and placed perfectly in the story if gives you a sense that you’re standing with Ms. Whitman and Trevor. This short film will make you laugh and question Ms. Whitman’s morals too.”
OFFICIAL FESTIVAL SELECTIONS
Austin Comedy Short Film Festival, 24th October 2016
Northern Frights Festival, 22nd October 2016
Nightpiece Film Festival, 2-10th September 2016
Fright Night Film Fest, 25-27th November 2016
Full Moon Short Horror Film Festival, 13th August 2016
Moving Pictures Festival, 26th August 2016
Los Angeles CineFest, 14-15th January 2017