FAQs

• How did this film come about?

After finishing our last short Three Towers, we felt it was time to do a longer film. We had a few feature scripts that would cost at least a few hundred thousand to make, and since our work is never really commercial, we realized that it would take us a very long time to raise that money.

Around that time we saw an American cinema verite film from the sixties called David Holzman’s Diary and we thought to ourselves that this kind of format – one person documenting and commenting on his life, could be an interesting and relatively cheap way to explore subjects that interest us.

Almost all of our previous short films were shot on 35mm film and are very visually oriented, but we knew that our next longer one would have to be a DV project if it were to be self-funded.

• How did you decide on the unique style you used?

We thought that if we’re going digital we should try something extreme and go all the way. We decided that instead of compromising and shooting a 35mm look-a-like film with a DV camera, we would aspire to make a digital film that justified its digital medium – to take advantage of the digital format and do things that are not possible to do in any other format.

Basically we didn’t want to just shoot something digitally, we wanted a ‘digital idea’. So we thought of a concept of making a film with
people who are not actually aware they are part of a film (by using a hidden camera), and in this way to play with concepts of blending fiction and reality.

This way of shooting (from a chest high camera)

would dictate a sort of

aesthetic that is not usually seen in fiction films.

Also we were eager to try and film in a way that would free up actors from their awareness of a camera on set, this was very liberating for them.

We had a rule of not letting the actors see the rest of the script other than their dialogue and not letting them watch the takes after shooting because we didn’t want them to see and be aware of what the frame is or what exactly we see in each shot.

They totally understood what we were trying to achieve by doing this and thoroughly enjoyed the process despite the obvious frustrations for them.

Many parts of the film are in fact pure documentary – many of the people Tim (the main character wearing the camera) approached and talked to didn’t know they were being filmed and only after the scene was shot we had to chase them for release forms.

Our main character flew in from LA to play the part and had never met most of the cast and crew before so genuinely did not know very often who was an actor or who was rehearsed cast. For example when he meets the main female character for the first time after asking several random members of the public questions, Tim had no idea that she was not just another genuine member of the public until the dialogue being exchanged between them started to sound familiar. This was of course true to the story of the script. When watching the film it is not always easy to guess who is an actor and who is “real” and no we’re not going tell!

• Was there a written script or was it improvised?

We wrote a treatment based on our ideas and contacted our friend and writer Chris McColl who started to write the script while we went about casting and location scouting and other areas of pre-production.

There was a written script but certain parts were documentary and totally improvised.

• It feels like it was very much shot on the fly was it?

With the exception of the documentary bits the opposite is correct, it was often very difficult to get shots right from a framing and movement point of view and we often did up to 50 takes until we got it right.

The sound recording side of this was more elaborate than any film we have ever done, as often nothing could be visible from the outside we sometimes had four separate sound recording devices synch recording all at once.

The restrictions of filming like this often meant less freedom and more difficulties. And because we wanted to keep uncut long takes in the finished film, the rehearsal process with the actors was vigorous.

• What were people’s reactions when you told them you were filming them secretly?

They were fairly laconic – Londoners have seen it all, and with the exception of one or two almost all of them amazingly approved of us using the material.
• Did you really use a button-hole camera or did you fake it?

We really used button-hole camera. When we started pre-production we found this perfect company who designed their own spy cameras, they are experts in espionage. We tried as low budget film makers often do to ask for a discount in return for a credit or other publicity through the film but they got scared and told us that they can never publicize themselves since that could put them and their client-base in jeopardy – they have to keep it underground.

We spent many hours testing different cameras and ways of recording undercover while on their premises and some of their clients’ enquiries that we overheard during that time were truly unbelievable and eye-opening.
• What were the challenges of filming ‘guerrilla style’ on the streets of London?

It was a strange but positive experience filming this way in the streets of London and we did get away with a lot. It is well known that London is a very unfriendly city for film makers – anyone who puts a tripod on the street is usually stopped within minutes by police, and official permits to shoot publicly cost a lot of money… but we didn’t have a visible camera and nobody knew we were filming – we didn’t have second AD’s running around directing the background people – our backgrounds are real!

At times in order not to arouse suspicion and interest of passers by, the small film crew (including us the directors) were waiting somewhere away from the scene, checking the action only by looking at the material at the end of takes and then re-directing accordingly. For this reason the rehearsal process was crucial. (just for the record there are no location copyrights issues in having footage of the city streets, but for the filming itself there is a need for a permits)

• Why black and white?

Many of these undercover cameras film only in B&W, we had a choice to use colour but decided that B&W gave a more voyeuristic feel because of our association with surveillance and CCTV imagery. In addition we felt that the moment of seeing material suddenly from a different pov of a colour camcorder as it happens in the middle of the film (for 2 short shots) is significant to the film.

For a low-budget film where one doesn’t have control over the colour pallets of the background, walls etc., B&W has the quality of bringing things together – giving some uniformity that might lack while shooting uncontrolled colour.

As a filmmaker it makes you concentrate on texture and contrast more than other things which are visually gratifying elements to work with.

• Why is the lead actor American?

Our story is about a character who is very bold and a very ‘in your face’ type. We couldn’t imagine an English person approaching strangers in the street and asking them what they think of him, it would have seemed very unnatural, but as an American outsider (who has a lot of chutzpah) it works.

The people who Tim approached in the street “forgave” his intrusiveness and opened up to him easily because he was someone from somewhere else. Without generalizing too much, it seems Americans find it easier to talk about themselves and reveal personal things than the English do, without too much hesitation, and this quality is an integral part of this film. It simply couldn’t be an English character.

• You’d recently had a baby when you started the film wasn’t that a problem?

Bruno was basically in a sling on his mum during filming hours and he really seemed to enjoy being on set. We had him with us during auditions and in fact it was a good test for the actors to see how they responded to an unpredictable environment as they would probably encounter this during filming.

The hardest part was actually the normal routine at home rather than the filming, as babies tend to be fairly easy during the day but don’t really get the concept of sleeping at night.

• You’ve got some great music on the soundtrack, tell us a bit the choices you made there.

Our music and sound supervisor Ro Heap used to work at Abbey Road Studios and through his connections and charms we found a wealth of incredibly talented musicians and bands (some signed and some not) who were happy to contribute their music to the film on the basis of possible future distribution profit. We are very proud of the music in this film that includes a variety of sounds from new kleizmer to grunge and contemporary modern.

• If you had more money to make this how would you have made it differently?

This film was made the only way it could have been made – with a small almost undercover crew and talented devoted actors. This is why we chose to do this project.

(color photo by Graeme Weston)

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