Shooter Daniel Jerome Gill Discusses His Debut Feature ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’

Posted May 8th, 2018 by Helen Jack


Modern Life is Rubbish is the debut feature from Shooter Daniel Jerome Gill. The film follows couple Liam and Natalie, who, after being brought together by their shared love of music ten years earlier, have finally reached a breaking point in their relationship. Liam, a struggling musician, cannot let go of his vinyl collection and refuses to adapt to a world of smartphones and instant downloads. Natalie has let go of her dream of designing album covers and has become a rising star at her advertising firm. As they make the difficult decision to separate, they start by splitting their prized music library, but the soundtrack that defined their relationship keeps pulling them back together.

Daniel’s new feature evolved from the success of his short film of the same name, which premiered at the 2009 BFI London Film Festival. The film went on to screen at over 35 film festivals across the world, and picked up a number of nominations. Off the back of this, Daniel met producer Dominic Norris who saw an early draft of the feature script and took it to the BFI for development. They went on to receive financing from Universal Pictures, Piccadilly Pictures and Lip-synch.

As we all know, making that first feature is a real feat of hard work, determination and talent and so we wanted to chat with Daniel and hear about his process. Below, he shares with us how he came to the story, how he collaborated with writer Philip Gawthorne and what it was he was trying to share with his audience.

“The idea to make the movie came about after the short, as it did very well on the festival circuit. People loved it and asked whether we’d thought about extending the story. So the success at the festivals and the fact people kept asking questions about what happens next, having invested a lot in these characters, made us think, hang on a second, we should write a feature, so that’s what we did.


Modern Life Is Rubbish was originally a short play written by Philip Gawthorne. The idea of a couple separating their prized music collection at the end of their relationship immediately struck a chord with me. This was a story that 99% of the population could relate to. After directing and producing the short film, and chiefly due to its success on the festival circuit, Philip and I set out to develop the feature.

The concept was simple: every time the couple pick up a CD, record, ticket stub or talk about music, we flash back to the past and see how they got together, fell in love and eventually tear apart. The key themes in the film are love, music and modernity.

I was attracted to the idea of making an imperfect love story, which is non-linear. Thus, juxtaposing those euphoric moments (falling in love in the past) with the hard process of parting with your music collection (present). I never wanted to make a film that follows the classical rom-com genre, but one that instead explores an indie, gritty, imperfect nature…bitter and sweet simultaneously.

The story is conveyed through the prism of music. Music plays a large role in the film. Almost like another character. It’s music that brings the couple together, moves us back and forth, and plays a key role at the end.

This film sits within the romantic drama genre, with a strong stroke of comedy, but I don’t see it as a classic rom-com as such. It fits within the genre though, which has its own rules, you know a boy meets girl and nine times out of ten they’re gonna get together. But what I tried to do, which is similar to 500 Days of Summer, is to create a non-conventional rom-com, a slightly anti-rom-com, as we’re dealing with an imperfect love story. I also wanted to do something different with the structure of the genre, but it is hard because you have to obey a little by the rules. It was difficult to switch things up within an already working genre.


I wanted to set the protagonists down a path which is very common in society today. Certainly a lot of my friends who are artists or filmmakers, the other person in their relationship has a ‘normal’ job, a permanent job. This is something young professionals in London, and across the world, are going through, this is a story to be told.

So many people can relate to it. Most people have had dreams of wanting to be somebody but have had to nip it in the bud because they have to pay the bills, and there is always that friction in relationships, and they can get fractured, and eventually people split up with each other because of those sort of pressures, where one person is the breadwinner and the other is trying to be creative, a lot of people can relate to it.

The question I’ve tried to pose within the film, is whether modern life is rubbish? On one hand we all know how much we rely on our mobile phone devices and our computers and how it has revolutionised the world, but it’s also hindered the world because you sit in a coffee shop, or on the tube, and you don’t look at anybody, or talk to anybody anymore. Modernity has affected all of our lives for the better and worse, so I’ve tried to use the title and the themes that run through the film and offer a balanced argument on what modern life is, and whether it’s rubbish. The title is of course tied in with Blur and the album, but it’s very much connected to one of the main themes of the film too. Love, music and modernity are the three themes I wanted to focus on.


I was born in London and have lived here for most of my life, and we talked about where to make this film, and I wanted it to be London because it’s a very important part of my life. But I tried to make London be on the periphery, I didn’t want to have them meeting outside Big Ben. For me, London is in the background. At one point we see London Bridge in the distance, like a Turner painting, and then we see the London Eye, but in the reflection of a tube station. I tried to make it a bit like how Londoners see London, which is just having it in the background, in the distance, and not necessarily how a tourist sees the city, which is by going sightseeing.

The toughest scene to shot was such a small one, but we had to get a shot of us walking over the Abbey Road crossing. It was very difficult, for a shot that is maybe three seconds of the film. We arrived at about seven o’clock in the morning and there were queues of people really, really wanting to take a selfie on the crossing.

We were dying because we really didn’t want to walk across and have our picture taken, and yet we had a whole film crew, we were doing it the best we could and we had to do it over and over again, it was so cringeworthy. But it was funny at the same time. I just felt bad for taking this moment away from little children and tourists. Cars were stacking up and they were beeping, they don’t care that you’re making a film.”

Modern Life Is Rubbish is in cinemas now and can also be watched on VOD. For more information go to

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