As you were saying, you’re trying to give it a kind of glossy sheen so it looks very, I suppose, American?
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that’s our style, I suppose. That’s our style, in a way. Because we all come from music videos, a commercials background, so we’re always trying to give it a look, we’re not Ken Loach if you like, and with this we always wanted to try and do something noir-ish, but modern. And because we’re shooting on Red as well, we designed it around that, so we did lots of tests and stuff and found that quite good, because it’s kind of HD it’s quite unforgiving and not a kind of film look, so we decided to go for the look where we used a lot of smoke and a lot of wet downs and a lot of practical light in shot and a lot of fall away to darkness sort of thing, so we’re going for a kind of noir-ish sort of look, but building it around the HD look and trying to push that as much as we can. So within the limitations of what we’re doing, we’re trying to make it as stylish as possible.
I think that’s a great thing about British movies, that grittiness, that sort of gritty edge, not polished.
Exactly. And we’ll still have that. Ours will be, hopefully, a little bit glossy but it’ll still have that edginess to it. The performances too, and the actors, they give you that anyway, to be honest with you, because they like that too. So it’s never that polished by the time it’s all done and dusted. We’ll give it a nice grade, we’ll make it look pretty nice.
What’s your take on the spate of sort of urban films we've seen recently? Have you seen Anuvahood and any of those films?
Yeah, I mean that’s kind of becoming a genre now really, isn’t it? All that stuff Revolver do and that. Yeah, I’ve seen most of them really, I try and keep up. They’re all right. They’re different though, different from what we do. We’re trying to make some bigger films really, with the same amount of money, but that works as a business model as well for investors because I think they attract a decent cast and good writers and great talent, and still keep the budget roundabout a million, a million and a half or something like that, or even less if you can, then that makes sense for the investors, because with a good US sale and a good UK release they can make the money back quite quick.
That’s the idea really, to create a pool of investors that we can work with; hopefully we can make them money so they’ll keep letting us make more films. Which is kind of the only way to make films in the UK now, I think. It’s so difficult now to put a decent budget together just by using talent from TV and all the available soft sources of money. And that’s all tied up anyway with a handful of people. It seems to be very specific things they want to make with that, so it’s very, very hard to go to them with a spec script, no matter who is attached to it. We’ve had incredible stuff turned down, you wouldn’t believe it, so it’s much better to be in control of that yourself, if you can be.
It’s always much better if you can go into a meeting with one of these guys where you say, 'Oh yeah, we’re doing this and we’ve got a great script and so-and-so’s written it and we've also got blah blah attached, oh and by the way, we’ve also got a million quid!' and they go, 'Oh, right' and you’ve suddenly got their attention.
You mentioned Revolver, have you seen The Veteran, that came out a couple of weeks ago?
I haven’t seen The Veteran yet, but about three of our crew worked on it. So I’ve seen bits and I’ve seen excerpts from it and stuff. I’ve seen the trailer.
That’s a very slick looking British thriller.
It was a decent budget though, wasn’t it? Got a few million to do that I think.
It’s a pretty amazing cast in Twenty8K. Who put the cast together and who came on in what order?
I suppose me, mainly. Me and [co-director David Kew] kind of do everything together, but it’s just fallen that way and he ended up running around getting the locations and stuff and I just fell into casting it mainly. Because we’re all doing five jobs with a budget like this it’s better if we split up and do stuff separately and get a lot more done. It’s just a lot more efficient. I suppose I was responsible for most of that, really.
In a sense we got most of our first choices. I’ve always wanted Parminder for this, years ago really. From six, seven years ago, she’s always been in the frame for this, but obviously she was in LA and that was difficult, so when we finally had a script we quite liked last year we sent that to her, she happened to be in London a couple of months later doing some meetings so we had lunch with her and talked about it and ever since then she’s stayed attached to it, which is great. So as soon as we talked about it she said, 'Yeah, I love this. This is the script for me, this is fine, I’m doing this' and then when the film fell apart we thought, 'Oh no, we’ll lose Parminder', but she was great, she said, 'No, no, no, go and put it together again, it’s fine, I’m still with you.' So she’s been fantastic and so we kind of always had her.
Then Kaya, Nichola and Michael were always our first choice actors for those parts. They all committed, Nichola very early actually. Nichola came to a read-through and committed to it, stayed committed to it, so she’s been brilliant. Kaya was a bit more problematic because she’s quite busy but she’s always stayed committed too, she’s been quite good. But we didn’t actually to get her officially until last month, but that was fine. Michael again came on board as soon as he read it and then with the older actors, Kierston has always been attached to it, since the get go really, we wanted Kierston for that part, she committed and stayed with it, she’s been great. Stephen came on quite late and was mainly the choice of one of our casting directors, Alice, as she thought Stephen would be great for Stone, and then Jonas also came on quite late because we didn’t really have a script where that part was particularly attractive to a decent actor, but once we did, and we showed it to a few people, Jonas was the one we wanted.
People have reacted brilliantly to the material, it hasn’t been a problem at all, it’s been great. Alice said, she works with Fiona Weir, that she’s never seen such a reaction to a script from younger actors. She said, 'When I sent the script to younger actors they’re just fighting themselves to do it.' That’s great. That’s very encouraging, because that’s our target audience, the target cinema audience certainly, so it’s great that they like it so much. Even though the adult parts are probably the bigger parts on the film, the younger actors see it as a kind of contemporary gang film, if you like, with all these big thriller elements in it, which is great.
We get loads of scripts, without wishing to disparage the Anuvahoods of this world, and it's always: 'Fuck this, fuck that' and it’s fine, we don’t mind doing that, but this is great, proper intelligent, multi-layered. A lot of them are saying, 'It’s like the Wire.' So the casting has been effortless, to be honest with you, because of the material. Good actors want to do good scripts.
So the shoot is 34 days? So you’re nearly finished? Another week to go?
Another week to go. Then we’ll stop and do an edit and then we’ll probably shoot some pick-ups and then we’ll do the helicopter stuff when we know exactly what we want. Probably two or three more days of shooting.
Who is doing the soundtrack, and the music and everything? Is it an urban soundtrack?
Yeah, I haven’t actually signed all the deals on that yet, but I’ve already filmed a rapper that’s in it and we’ve got this other guy. What we did with the music that’s quite interesting is a composer called Ruth Barrett, who did Harry Brown and stuff like that, who is classically trained, she’s teaming up with this grime hip-hop producer and they’re doing it together. The stuff they’ve done for us is fantastic actually, it really works. It’s really good and it really suits the film. But that’s not done and dusted yet, but it will be soon. That’s the idea for that.
We’re probably going to have about two featured tracks in it, which Jake’s written for us and then we’ll probably have about another four or five commercial tracks in it. We are going for that kind of grimy, hip-hop, east London kind of sound. It seems to suit it. And on the soundtrack as well, the stuff we’ve done so far with Ruth and Jake is a proper fuller score, orchestral, and he’s put these big beats in it with an operatic voice and then some of the chase stuff that we’ve done, which we’ve tried, and just put some temp stuff on. It’s really good, we’re trying to make it organic and not just stick music in it, but work from the film out really, and come up with something quite different, try something that hasn't been done before.