How oh how do you get such natural performances from your cast? What’s the secret… do you rehearse repeatedly, do you sit round for days bonding beforehand?
I like to give my cast space to do their thing. I think if you’ve cast well with people who really understand the comic premise, then if you allow them freedom they’ll do all the hard work for you. I rarely rehearse, as it can kill the lovely spontaneity and connection actors can have when they’re in the moment, on set.
Do you keep shooting takes until you know you have the performance?
Yes, I keep shooting. I may throw new comic directions at the actors if they need a shift. Otherwise I often rely on lovely natural deviations between takes. I encourage my actors never to do the same thing twice, as it means they then have to really listen to each other. They can’t get stuck in the ‘right’ way to say something, which is almost always the way to rob a line of any meaning.
You seem to be Harvey Nichols’ director of choice for their Christmas season. What was the original brief? Did you make many changes to the agency script?
I’ve done two Harvey Nichols spots, this one and The Walk of Shame, which was also great fun with a lovely idea. They’re a very trusting client, which makes a massive difference to one’s ability to get them something good, and makes you work doubly hard for them. Rick and Dan, the lovely adam&eveDDB creatives presented me the brilliant idea of the “sorry I spent it on myself” gift collection (it’s the only time in my career when it’s the product itself that’s funny). We purposely never produced a traditional ‘script’ as such, as their idea offered so much more comic potential. We shot over 8 hours of footage on the shoot.
Were there any other scenarios that didn’t make the final cut?
The first was with a pair of twins, one of whom gives her twin a rubber doorstop having bought herself a rather lovely necklace with the saved cash. For some reason, despite being a lovely comic premise and getting some good performances, it never quite fit into the edit. Just one of those things.
The other had me in it… I promise it was nothing to do with a rampant ego, but there was a late idea for a scene that required a middle-aged man who should have stopped wearing ridiculous, overly trendy trainers 10 years ago… time was tight and I appeared to fit the bill. Until I found myself on the cutting room floor that is… and my acting career was over.
Were the locations actually cosy sitting rooms or was everything shot in a studio?
We were on locations with some very patient and understanding house owners. Our art department did wonders making every scene look very real.
And please do tell me anything else interesting about the production.
The trainers that I wore in my scene cost £1250 a pair. But you’ll never get to see them… unless of course you come to my house, where I have my scene playing on a loop on a massive plasma screen in my bedroom.
p.s. Since this interview took place 1.4 has viewed James Rouse’s feature film, Downhill, about four middle-aged guys who walk coast to coast across Britain which is due to be released in May next year. It’s tagged as A Road Movie – on Foot. It’s brilliant, it’s funny, it’s real, and it’s already our favourite movie of 2014.
Harvey Nichols, Sorry, I spent it on Myself
Executive Creative Directors: Ben Tollet, Emer Stamp, Ben Priest Copywriter: Daniel Fisher
Art director: Richard Brim
Creative Producer: Kirsty Harris
Producer: Victoria Keenan
Production company: outsider
Director: James Rouse
Editor: Bill Smedley
Soundtrack: Silent Night
Composer: Stuart Hancock
Music Production Company: SIREN @ Factory Ltd
Audio post-production: Factory Studios