Even as a child, Guy Davies loved drama.
He had a passion for acting, fueled by a like-minded group of friends, and starred in a few films and commercials in his early teens.
But when he saw himself acting in those films, Davies realized that path just wasn’t for him.
“When I saw myself acting, I just didn’t think I was any good,” Davies said. “I was like, ‘This isn’t going to work.’”
The acquisition of a video camera set him on a different path, one that combined his love of drama with a knack for storytelling. That path has led the 28-year-old Brit to Indianapolis, where his first feature film, “Philophobia,” will make its world premiere at the Heartland Film Festival on Sunday, Oct. 13, at 4:30 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14, Theater 11.
There were, of course, plenty of bends and curves in Davies’ journey along the way. As a teen, he bothered producers he’d met through acting to get roles as a production assistant or runner. He progressed to doing a few “bits and bobs” in the lighting department, before moving on to New York, where he studied cinematography.
“I didn’t feel like directing was something that you could teach,” Davies said. “I loved photography and I loved images and the way you can storytell through them, so that was something I wanted to learn more about and get better at.”
Davies returned to England, where he started working in the camera department for films, commercials, television and music videos. He shot his first short film, “Emily,” as a director when he was 21. The crime drama, about a wealthy girl who orchestrates her own kidnapping, won several awards as well as entry into some prestigious film festivals. It also solidified what Davies wanted to do with his life.
“I really already knew what I want to do, but then that made it much clearer that I was definitely on the right path,” Davies said. “It was very rewarding, and I really enjoyed working with professional actors.”
His first feature was born in a “strange way.” Davies was filming a commercial for a fitness supplement brand in California, stuck in a house with a bunch of models and a lot of testosterone. He found he needed an escape from the competitive atmosphere and would wander down to the garden with a bottle of whiskey to write.
“At first, it was like a method of creative escape, and, after a couple of days, these ideas were taking shape in my mind and starting to connect,” Davies said. “The first draft of ‘Philophobia’ came together in like five days or a week or something.”
Based on the characters in and a draft of a short film written by friend and business partner Matt Brawley, Davies describes “Philophobia” as “somewhat autobiographical,” with the characters inspired by people in the real world. It’s set in the British town where Davies grew up in the countryside, the cotswolds of the UK. Davies shot much of the film in the school he attended.
“Philophobia,” which means the fear of falling in love and emotional attachment, centers around Kai, a 17-year-oldish boy, and his journey through the last week of school. Kai wants to be a writer and, for the past several years, has dreamed of escaping his small town in the countryside for life in the big city. But he starts to realize things aren't quite as simple as they sounded in his head.
“A lot of his friendship group and his potential love interest, it’s likely they’re just going to stay in this town,” Davies said. “At the heart of the story is the pull between his ambition and his situation.”
Moviegoers will recognize a few of the names in the credits – Harry Lloyd of “Theory of Everything” and James Faulkner of “Game of Thrones – but much of the cast is young and raw. That includes its lead, Joshua Glenister, who connected with Kai’s desire to see the rest of the world.
“He really struggles with expressing his emotions, if you like, and getting across what he feels. And I think a lot of teenage boys particularly can empathize with that. There’s a sort of stigma that you can’t express yourself in the way that you would want to,” Glenister said. “I could massively empathize with that and just I had the same sort of feeling when I was growing up – just wanting, you know the grass is greener on the other side – and just wanting to get out and see the rest of the world.”
“Philophobia” is also Glenister’s first feature film, a common trait among the cast Davies assembled. Glenister said it created a special kind of atmosphere around the cast. They didn’t want to make the production company regret taking a risk on their inexperience.
“We all felt like this was a golden opportunity and a wonderful script,” Glenister said. “We all came together and really wanted to make this film as good as it can be … It was a truly wonderful experience.”
Davies will travel to the U.S. with some of those cast members for the film’s debut. They’ll do a question-and-answer period after the Sunday showing. Then the film will show at AMC Traders Point 12, Theater 7, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at noon.
Davies plans to take a month or so off after the festival, then gear up to do his next project.
For now, he’s eager for an audience to finally see the film.
“We haven’t shared it with the public at all yet, so you will literally be the first members of the public to see this film,” Davies said. “That’s pretty exciting, to see how people react. I’ve seen the film like 1,000 times by now, with all the editing and everything. So I’ll probably just be watching the audience, with fingers crossed that people like it.”