Three questions to… Ian Lawton, director of Coma

Do we live to work or work to live? Coma is one of the short film selected for the 8th edition of Irish Film Festa and it was shot by director Ian Lawton using an iPhone 4s.

The main character, played by Chris Aylmer, is stuck in a job that leaves him no time for proper living and being happy with his family. What will he choose to do?

Ian Lawton explains how he came up with the idea for the script and what does it mean to make a 4-minute short film with just a smartphone.


The short shows the effects work can have on people’s lives: why did you choose this theme?

It was based upon my own personal experience. I was commuting to a job that was a great distance from my home. I would have to leave early while my family was still asleep and despite my best efforts would not make it home in time to see my kid before bedtime. One evening I observed, upon returning home to a sleeping child yet again, that it was like he was in a coma, as I only saw him while he was sleeping.

This sewed the seed of inspiration for the film. It’s full of metaphor, repetition, life going down the drain, etc. Do we live to work or work to live?
The response from people has been very emotional. Occasionally tears. A lot of people relate to the story, but it is of course open to individual interpretation.

Ultimately, it’s a love letter to my son.


Has filming the short on an iPhone affected your choices as a director, in terms of frame composition and cinematography?

It was very freeing, actually. I could come up with shots that I could never achieve with a larger conventional camera. Since the phone was so lightweight I could mount it practically anywhere, using very little equipment. I shot this film by myself with no crew and this allowed me to move very quickly and make decisions on the fly without having to consult anybody. It was just myself and actor Chris Aylmer for the most part on set. Working with an iPhone has its limitations, but as long as you embrace them, be aware of what you can and cannot achieve beforehand, then simply use that to your advantage and make it part of the style of the film.


What about the music by Nils Frahm?

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Nils is a neo-classical composer from Germany and For is an improvisational piece he composed on the Juno keyboard. I knew music would dominate the soundtrack of the film so I had to be very careful with my choice. Initially, I thought the film would have an original score, but as soon as I heard that piece by Nils, I knew instantly it was right for the film. In fact, I sought permission to use the music long before I even began production on the film.