Gripping, terrifying, this is more a film with a sound track – how did the narrative develop? Did you write it?
The last few months I’ve been developing a feature script with Hofmeyr Scholtz, an amazing South African writer. It’s based on a treatment I wrote about a year ago. I really wanted to make a short film version of the script so I developed the basic narrative into a much simplified version of the story with the same characters and story arc. The feature is set in Australia and the Philippines but the basic story and characters are the same. I think it has been my most challenging video for narrative and performance. I’m very proud of it!
How much collaboration was there with the band?
I was approached originally by the band’s management who are the same people that manage Chase and Status. The band were big fans of my work, the “Alive” video in particular, and were really cool from the start. They just really trusted me to make them a great video and there was very little compromise in my vision.
The really great thing about the collaboration was the band developed a new version of the track for the video. The original was very complex even during the breakdown sections. I delicately approached them about it and they were really into doing a new version. They gave me a stripped back piano for the beginning, an extended breakdown in the middle and a new ending with just piano. They totally got it and this was key to making the video work in my opinion.
Did the final film turn out how you imagined – did you have to adapt the script, cut scenes to fit the music?
It was pretty much as written in the treatment. Because the band made an extended track I was able to fit everything in. I cut back on dialogue in the final edit just because it felt it was too “on the nose” and slowed the pace too much. We also cut out a couple of big octocopter shots at the end. They were great but I felt like the emotional impact was bigger with the close up shots to finish.
Where did you cast the actors – and how involved were they in the pre-production and rehearsals?
There are only two actors in the film- the two leads Fred Schmidt and Anna Brooks-Beckman. Both came from 42 who are also the company that represent me for features. I don’t really rehearse much at all as I like people to come to the scene fresh and be instinctive in their performance. Fred is an amazing actor who just had his first starring role in the feature “Snow in Paradise” which was a big hit at Cannes this year.
He has an amazing presence and after meeting him I found out he has a lot of street experience which I always look for in this type of role. Before he was an actor he was involved in a big scale criminal enterprise and had been held at gunpoint amongst other ordeals. I consider myself a docu-drama director and I always think the best performances come from personal experience. Fred really put his all into his performance and by the end he was emotionally and physically drained and covered in bruises. Anna was also a real find. She comes from a mainly stage background and was also really able to tap into her emotional memory. I really try to dig deep emotionally with my actors to get the best performance.
For the rest of the cast we found real hard men through my production and fixers in Pontypridd. The main bad guy had only been out of prison for two months having just served a 12 year sentence. He once had the reputation as the biggest drug dealer in South Wales. He scared the shit out of me in his audition and I immediately knew he was my Rosco.
One of the big challenges was to get a believable performance from a six-year old boy. We found the brilliant Connor who was really natural in front of camera. We needed to get him looking really scared which is hard to get from a young kid so in collaboration with his parents I came up with a plan to give him a scare which we did twice by not telling him what was going to happen. Once for the kidnap scene and once for the ending. It was hard to do but it was very quick and his parents tell me Connor loved the thrill of it all.
Please tell us about the production – it looks as though it was mega. Where, how and what were the challenges?
The biggest challenge was the budget! I wrote this treatment originally for a budget over twice the size. They found it too gritty so I wound up with a different client and half the budget for the same film. Luckily I have a wonderful and very loyal team who always support my vision.
We shot in the amazing town of Pontypridd in the valleys and the surrounding countryside. It amazes me that more people don’t shoot there. I have an amazing service company who I work with there called Like an Egg and they are incredible at pulling things together at short notice.
They have really great relationships with local businesses and film people at the councils there and the people and locations are unrivalled in the UK. There is an amazing up and coming film industry there too with some very talented people. My amazing DoP Luke Jacobs is Welsh and he introduced me to that world and I’ve never looked back. I much prefer the energy to the London film industry in general and I try to shoot there for any UK-based work.
This video is the first time I’ve worked with a special effects team which was a lot of fun but was very challenging. I also had more fight scenes than ever before and they had to be shot on the same day as the special effects making the last shoot day a monster! At one point we were three hours behind schedule but managed to pull it back and make it work.
This was also my first outing with my new production company Prettybird who have been really supportive for a project which nobody really got paid on. They have been really cool and I’m currently in Colombia shooting a commercial for Bacardi through Prettybird USA.