Tom Werber - Director

Richard Munn here. If you don't already know I'm doing an interview and portrait series with creatives and creative business people. I've been looking forward to interviewing the film director Tom Werber, who has a short film soon to hit the festivals called Fumes and we recently met to talk about it. 

Portrait by Richard Munn

What were your influences and inspiration for Fumes?

I like Bergman, particularly the way many of his films don't really have a resolution. They just end. That leaves the viewer with something to resolve in their own minds before they can move on. I think that's powerful. I also like the fact that many of his films have morally complex characters.

I started writing the film around the time of a petrol crisis in London. There was panic buying; petrol stations were running out of fuel. The London riots were also an influence. Those events gave me a sense of how much of our society is constructed, in a way very artificial, and how easily that could fall apart. The question then arises, if that were to happen, if it were not checked, what then? How would we behave towards each other? In a city many relationships and friendships are based on fairly tenuous connections. I sometimes wonder how long those would last under real pressure. I’m sure we have all seen friendships break down over quite minor things.

My grandparents lived through a war too - on my Father’s side they were Jews who fled Germany. I have speculated about whether I carry that ancestral memory of a world being torn apart, and the constant need to quesstion what is real and what is not.

On the other hand I think it's important that we continue to question our own motives. Our minds are complex and often ‘cover up’ our true intentions, even from ourselves. We live in a world of illusions. These are all things I wanted to explore in the film.

Some parts of Fumes are quite tough, how did you get the performance you needed from the actors?

Well, the shoot was tough! It was ambitious, we were on a hard schedule and the weather was often quite unforgiving. We were staying in the barracks on an army base. It wasn’t the most comfortable environment. I think the atmosphere of the shoot helped the performances. A little bit of pressure can be a good thing for an actor. We were lucky in many ways - even our bad luck often turned out to be good luck in a way.

I learned a lot from working with Adam, Aaron and Elisa. I think it’s very important that the director is in this with the actors. The director has to live in the world of the film I think - or to have one foot in it and one foot in the real world. To both be in it and looking at it as a dispassionate observer.

What do you look for when you're casting for a film?

I look for the best actors I can find! What makes a good actor? Commitment is very important. They must be willing to sacrifice themselves to the performance. To be completely within that constructed moment. They also need to have the ability to create - to build a world and a set of circumstances around themselves and to be able to enter that world quickly. I also think it’s vital that an actor can understand the character, that they get to know them. Different actors work in different ways - that was something I found very interesting working on the film.

What advice would you give directors starting out that are trying to make work?

Don’t listen to too much advice. Don’t wait. Just go out and make something. Make your own mistakes. Any advice you do hear will make a lot more sense after that. Beforehand, you probably won’t listen anyway, and if you do it may just restrict you. Having said that, I’d say make sure your script is as good as it can be before you shoot. Work with people who are really good at what they do. Stick to your vision but be prepared to adapt. Learn from your mistakes. Be brave.

To check out more of Tom Werber's work see and for the upcoming Fumes see