Neil Thompson Interview
Neil Thompson Interview
Neil Thompson, co-director of Twenty8K, took time out from the filming schedule of the British thriller to talk on set to View’s Matthew Turner. He discussed the challenges of bringing a great script to the screen, and the blending of great visuals with music, locations and a brilliant cast of actors to create a gritty, exciting and very British film.
What time do you guys start?

Neil Thompson

We usually start trying to set up about eight, start about half seven really. Crew call is usually at eight o’clock so that we can get across London before the traffic gets bad, to get a day in. So we normally stop shooting at about eight and drive up about seven. That’s a sort of normal day for us really. It’s all planned ahead. We do days and nights as well where we’ll start about three or something, shoot in daylight and then go until two in the morning or whatever.
How long has shooting been going on for?

Neil Thompson

This is day 27 of 34, I think we’re doing.
What’s the story about?

Neil Thompson

Twenty8k. It’s a genre thriller. I mean it started off as more of a sort of gang film, I suppose you could say, but it’s always been a thriller really, it’s just we’ve pushed it more into the classic thriller genre, I would say, of British films. I mean it’s been around for a long time, it’s actually something I had in the mid 90s, really, I started it. I originally was doing it as a kind of fake documentary, so it was kind of the same story, it was the same lead character and everything, a sort of investigation, but it was done as a sort of documentary style, so it was cheap, really. I shopped that around to a few people, a couple of people said, 'That’s really good, we could do it as a movie.' So we re-did it as a fictionalised piece, and then I suppose that’s turned into what it is now.

But when they wanted a finished cut, we wanted to do a sort of thriller, and we were looking at various things and plenty of other things were looked at and we thought, 'This is quite current, this could be really good to do now.' So we originally had the writer of Clubbed actually writing it with us, and that didn’t work out for one reason or another, so Paul Abbott who had helped us out on Clubbed was one of our exec producers, we went to him and said, 'Look, we’ve parted company with the writer and this is where we’ve got to and this is the story', and he said, 'That’s really good. I’ll do it.' And then he got Jimmy involved too, because he said, 'I want to do it with a younger writer' and so that was the team really and then I suppose that was about a couple of years ago, it was longer than that actually. But in the last year, I would say, it’s been full on. We’ve all met up as often as we can and done lots of work on the script really, so it’s been a good experience.
Was it always written as a female lead?

Neil Thompson

Yeah. Always. In fact, all of the main characters have always been the same, nothing really changed, it’s always been the same. The only thing that really changed quite a bit was when we were set to go last year; we were going to do this on the Isle of Man as then the last version of the script was set up north, so we were going to actually shoot it in Birmingham but it was set in a fictional northern city and then we were going to shoot all the studio stuff on the Isle of Man as part of that deal that year.

In a way it was kind of a bigger film, really, with explosions and fire bombings and stuff and when that didn’t happen, when we walked away from that deal, we thought, 'Hmm, what are we going to do? Maybe we could do this with a slightly smaller budget?' and that’s when we first had the idea of relocating it to London, east London. That was when the B story, if you like, kind of fell into place and that became a much bigger thing, our Paul Abbott sort of thing. So we always had this central story going through the spine of the shooting and we always had the B story, and it was much smaller, and then, when we relocated it to east London we thought, 'That’ll be quite nice, we could maybe use the Olympics and we could use…' - you know, we thought about The Long Good Friday, this whole thing about Docklands, and no one’s really done that again, and it’s changed so much that we could use the new east London as a strong element to the movie and a kind of backdrop.

And then it all fell into place and that’s when this really good guy, Al, who worked with us on Clubbed (he’s originally from Birmingham but based in London) actually found us a lot of the locations. But he couldn’t work on the movie because he went off to do something else. But he probably found us about 50% of our locations, I would have thought. David is really good on locations, so he’s found a lot of them too.
Is this place often used for film shoots and stuff like that?

Neil Thompson

No, hardly ever. The reason we chose this is because we were looking for a roof, to do the end, and the roof here was the best one we could find that we could afford. We were looking for something nearer Canary Wharf really, but there isn’t anything and there’s a couple of locations used for filming all the time, but they’re really expensive and we couldn’t get them for long enough, we could go for a few hours but not longer. Then we found this one and this one worked really well, because not only did we have a great roof to do the whole end of the film on, but we had all these buildings and lots of other stuff we can shoot, lots of other stuff. So we’ve probably shot here for about seven, eight shooting days. And loads of exteriors, then we’ve cheated interiors in different places, Newham Town Hall and 3 Mills and various sets and stuff, so it’s worked out quite well actually. Saved us loads of money.

Because that was the other idea with the movie, once we’d relocated to London, east London specifically, and we were really happy with the story and that was all working really well and we had a great script, we thought how are we going to do it with not much money, and that was part of the reason we did that really, and wrote around that so we can shoot lots at 3 Mills, where we’re based anyway, because we know 3 Mills really well and we were saying, 'That corridor would do for this and that corner in that room, we could do this.' And we thought if we shoot half of the movie at 3 Mills, just in corridors and corners and build a few sets, whatever we could afford, then we always knew that – the Millennium Building and the Thames Barrier and the river itself and all these other great locations, we’ve all shot commercials and music videos and stuff, so we knew a lot of these places were really good and that would give it the scale, so it was the idea of shooting as much as we could at 3 Mills and as much interiors as we could and save money by doing that so that when we came outside, we could use this roof, we could open the film up, get some scale into it, you know. We’re also going to shoot some helicopter stuff when it wraps as well, just to get the geography right, and see how it’s changed really.
So you’re shooting the piece in Paris?

Neil Thompson

Yeah, we shot a day in Paris. So the interiors in Paris are again all at 3 Mills and then we just did a day exterior in Gare du Nord and some classic roof shots and stuff like that.

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