Never one for convention, Frank Lebon presents us with perhaps his most offbeat project yet: Diddly Squat – a nightmarish short film on squatting, housing, and “home”, based on a true story of his brother purchasing an ex-printing studio in south London after its previous owner found his beloved building occupied by squatters. At a loss, he sold the space as the only means to reclaim it and, well, get ’em out.
Filmed in Lebon’s signature idiosyncratic style, Diddly Squat follows Archie, a newly employed TfL worker who, alongside a few mates and his pregnant girlfriend, decides to squat at Kenny’s art studio after learning he won’t be back there for a few weeks. Proper chancer.
What starts off as a fairly innocuous activity, though, quickly takes a turn for the worst, as the film’s initial sweet and tender tone spirals into something darker and more menacing. The tug of war between Kenny and Archie’s gang of friends eventually reaches boiling point, threatening lives and livelihoods in the process.
Throughout, Lebon raises questions about ownership in the midst of financial precarity and the meaning of home, security and belonging, all of which can take on different meanings depending on circumstance.
“The landlord’s angle on the whole squatting situation was new to me,” the 27-year-old says. “Growing up in London, I had friends who squatted – we’ve all been to the odd squat rave and there are many totally reasonable reasons to squat.”
Diddly Squat touches on London’s very real empty house crisis plaguing the richest parts of the capital. “Usually there’s a large building owned by a big company, it’s unused and taking up unnecessary space in a crowded and overly expensive city. Squatting stories are generally black and white, community vs company, rich vs poor.”
Moved by the old man’s story, Lebon felt compelled to show both sides of the coin in a situation that usually feels opaque: “Diddly Squat lives in a grey area. As the story unfolds, it poses an interesting moral dilemma.” How can you take back what’s yours, when others have claimed it as their own?
Writer, Director and Editor Frank Lebon Producers Nat Baring and Jill Ferraro Executive Producer Anastasia Ehrich DOP Molly Manning Walker Composers Mount Kimbie and Cadie Janson Production Designer Jabez Bartlett Sound Designer Will Berger Casting Director Georgia Topley Casting Associate Jo Harris Casting Director (supporting artists) Sarah Small Costume Designer Edie Ashley Costume Assistant Charlie McCosker 1st AD Joseph Jones Gaffer Owain Morgan