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23rd August 2018
Chasing Charli
Title of film: Drug Runner
Director: Charlotte Regan
Production Company: Knucklehead, BFI Future Film & Bold Content
Based on interviews with a childhood friend, Charlotte Regan has brilliantly crafted a compelling narrative about a 15 year old cocaine dealer. 1.4 talks with the director about the process of making the short film

1.4: Is Drug Runner a personal project or were you commissioned to make this short film?

Charlotte: It was a short film that I wanted to do. I won some prize money for Standby (Charli’s multi award winning earlier short film) which you had to put it into making another short film. It was something like five grand. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get that type of film funded anywhere else because the guy is not exactly apologetic at the end.

1.4: Yes, that wasn’t expected!

Charlotte: I wanted this film to be true, so I used the money for that.

1.4: You used your £5K to make this film and that’s all it cost you?

Charlotte: I might have put £400, and then a company called Bold Content put £500 in as well, and it ended up about £6K overall budget.

1.4: Did you write it yourself?

Charlotte: It’s all actually an interview or taken from an interview. I wrote the visuals to accompany it, but it was my friend who I interviewed a handful of times, I always said I wouldn’t use his voice. We were talking for two hours each time, he wouldn’t stop. I had to choose bits out of it, all the words are his but I can’t say how much the actual story is true because stories change over time in our minds as we’d both admit, so no doubt a lot of it is dramatised.

1.4: Was the idea that he wasn’t repentant something you wanted to tell before you started the process or did that all come out of the interview?

Charlotte: It all came out in the interview. I mean, he was always, still is, a close friend, so I kind of knew his take on it and we grew up together for a lot of the time. So, I knew that he wasn’t repentant, which I don’t think he should or shouldn’t be because he really did help his mom at a time. So, he sees this as a proud moment when he stepped up and was the man of his house and who am I to disagree? I don’t know either way; I wasn’t in his shoes.

I could easily have cut that end line out and leave it at the bit where the mom gives him that look. Then, it could have been a very different ending where you draw your own assumptions that he is apologetic, but I always wanted it to be more like a visual essay showing people what someone had to do as opposed to taking a certain spin on it.

If I had done that with the ending, it would be wrong of me to call it a documentary because that would really be me manipulating. So, once I cut down his words, the overall message and his opinion on it is still very clear. I’m sure he’d agree that it represents his take on that time in his life.

1.4 You’ve used the boy who plays him before, haven’t you?

Charlotte: Yeah in Dodgy Dave. He’s a great actor, but also his parents are the nicest people in the world, and he really wants to do it. He just wants to be on set. He loves being around the older kids. So, even when he is not filming, he asks how to do the camera work and stuff. He’s a proper lovely kid.

1.4: Did you workshop with him or did you have rehearsals? How did you get that really authentic acting out of him?

Charlotte: I think it’s just in him to be honest. We didn’t have rehearsals and he didn’t really know what the film was about. I hadn’t sent him the script or the transcribed interview. I only gave him a logline and told him the days and because we’d done Dodgy Dave, they were open to doing whatever because he had such a great experience on that film. On the shoot day we didn’t do many takes. He’s really natural. Even when he was doing the arrest bit with the police, because we weren’t paying permits we could only do the take once. I simply said this is what’s happened, and he was like “Don’t worry Charlotte, I’ve got this.”

He’s got quite an attitude in a good way, he’s quite charismatic in that he just runs with it himself. Sometimes you have to give him notice to bring it back in or to do something different, but he’s so eager to learn that he does it differently each time, which is nice. You don’t get that with many actors.

1.4: And the mother, how did you capture that line of “She looked at me as if I were a stranger.” Oh my god that hit home. How many takes did you need to get that look?

Charlotte: We didn’t really plan it too much. We had to do quite a few takes because it wasn’t raining, so I was throwing bottles of water at the window because I really wanted it to look rainy. So, it took longer because of that and not necessarily because we weren’t getting the look.

While she’s a great actress, Mitchell the kid really knows when to make eye contact and when not to. He did it in Dodgy Dave on the end shot where he is with the dad in the kitchen. I kept saying “You’re not really sure about your dad,” and he knew when to make eye contact to make you feel that he wasn’t … So, it was him really but they both played off each other well.

1.4: Obviously, the editor was your normal guy (Phil Currie)?

Charlotte: No, I didn’t know him at that point because I finished it in January; So, I just edited it myself to save money. I didn’t know any editors until I met Ore (Knucklehead producer). Because I’d recorded the voiceover I knew where the story had to go. It’s almost shot for shot as the storyboards were other than a few scenes we had to cut or where I’ve had to do something else. It’s quite literal, so it wasn’t a big edit job like my other films were.

1.4: And the sound and the music?

Charlotte: The composer that does all my stuff is a guy called Patrick Jonsson. He’s for sure my coolest friend in the world and I always remind him of that, he no doubt regrets ever replying to my emails and being roped into untold unpaid projects.

I’d worked with a few composers on films, and they just never know when to be subtle. Patrick straight away goes for really subtle stuff that sometimes you can barely even hear it in the piece, but I think it’s nice because you don’t want to force people’s emotions. You want to kind of just accompany the visuals and he’s great at that.

1.4: Did you use your normal DP?

Charlotte: I used Aaron Green, yeah. We’ve worked on a few things together. I just really wanted it to be colourful.

1.4: The lighting is superb, isn’t it?

Charlotte: Yeah, he is great at very stylized work.

1.4: When you’re with Aaron shooting, do you discuss framing as you go or have you both detailed and prepped where you’re going and what you’re doing?

Charlotte: Usually, it’s very back and forth on the day, but for this one I had looked around where I knew I was shooting and I’d storyboarded really specifically just because I knew exactly how I was going to cut it. I’d say it’s more 90% how it was boarded … I boarded with Aaron as well, so he had a massive influence on that, but I wouldn’t say it changed much on the day because it was such precise camera movements.

1.4: Please tell me about the storyboarding process, how long does that take? Days? Weeks?

Charlotte: With my cheese stick men, it bloody takes … I think we sat for about 11 hours one night, in that really nice Turkish coffee shop in Dalston, and if you want to stay late, they will shut up shop, close the shutters, and they play cards. All their family come around. If you know them, they are like “No, no. Stay as long as you want. We’ll be here until 3 AM playing anyway.” So, they just let me and Aaron sit there together.

1.4: Good food?

Charlotte: Decent. I’d suggest going more for the happiness there.

Drug Runner Director: Charlotte Regan Production Companies/Support: Knucklehead, BFI Future Film & Bold Content. Director of Photography: Arran Green Starring: Mitchell Brown & Charlotte Lancaster Voiceover: Alfie Stewart Composer: Patrick Jonsson Producer: Tara Trangmar Sound Recordist & Design: Michael Ling Art Director: Elena Muntoni 1st AD: Jordi Estape Steadicam Op: Charlie Rizek Executive Producers: Noel Goodwin, Blackmagic, Matthew Brown, Tim Katz, Adam Neale. Production Managers: Joanna Marciszewska & Alfie Chambers 1st AC: Beau Pritchard James 2nd AC: Eliot Poyzer Camera Trainee: Ilya Major Gaffer: Jake Buckley Sparks: Sam Baker & Ross Brown Grip Assist: Josh Cob Driver: David Burridge BTS Photographer: Sarah Boezalt Colourist: John Layton Editor: Charlotte Regan Older Boys: Tian Scott, Miles Walters, Marley Pitsillides Customers: Ciaran Burke, Daniel Kemp, Milly Roberts, Zoe Watson, Jack Sunderland Friends: Baxter Willoughby, Angus Taylor, Jaidel Burke, Leo Pitsillides Police: Nick Lester Runner: Ben Sheridan