Development

Fright Bites: producer Q&A

We sat down with series producer Fiona Lamptey from Film4 to hear about terrifying new short-form series Fright Bites, coming soon to All4 on October 22nd, just in time for Halloween.

Fiona Lamptey from Film4 / Fruit Tree Media

Fiona Lamptey from Film4 / Fruit Tree Media

Tell us about this new strand – what can we expect?

Fright Bites are six short horror films that make the perfect online Halloween snack, perfect for your commute to work or other down-time, but perhaps not when walking alone down a dark alley by yourself… ha! What I love about this year’s selection is how different they all are and how some play on our most basic fears. When I think about the films that scare me the most it’s when the ‘monster’ is recognizable – that person you pass on the street, the intruder…

Some of the films explore this type of fear and others border on the more traditional ‘monster in the dark’ but with a truly unique twist. I promise they will get your heartbeat going – but don’t worry you’ll be able to function for the rest of the day.

How did you go about sourcing the scripts and directors – was it people you’d always wanted to work with, or a case of trying to find exciting new voices?

Initially Film4 development execs Eva Yates, Celine Coulson and I looked for filmmakers we had come across over the years or had watched their films and knew they would be brilliant for the strand. We cast the net as wide as we could with the majority of talent being new talent to Film4. Film4 are always on the look out for new exciting voices and people that Film4 / Channel 4 could go on to build a relationship with. And personally, I’m always on the lookout for a way to put my production management and producing skills to good use.

My production company Fruit Tree Media (as the name might suggest) was set up with the intention to nurture emerging filmmaking talent, so when I was brought on to produce it was a great opportunity to invest in a great bunch of talented individuals.

Tell us a bit about the production process.

It was crazy. Mostly enjoyable but intense. We had a month to pull all the films together and although from my very first meeting with the talent I could tell they were brilliant I didn’t know much about their quirks – for example, were they fast shooters, or directors who were more considered and liked more time to think things through? – so that was the most difficult task I think I had to overcome in the beginning. It sounds obvious now but I had to treat them as individuals, as they all wanted or needed different things from me at any given point. However once we got a momentum going and locations confirmed I felt like we were on our way.

Crewing was another stumbling block as I was keen to ensure the shorts were a new talent vehicle not just for the core creative team but the crew working behind the camera too. I am glad to say we had a crew from all walks of life, with different levels of experience in front and behind the camera, on these shorts – and every single one of them made it all possible. It was pure magic. I also couldn’t have done this without the help of Francesca Chen and Tristan Cope – who went beyond the call of duty. We have some great memories! Of course I’ve made it sound like the most smooth-sailing production ever, I just don’t want to bore you about the long days, broken lifts, dysfunctional urine pumps, fire alarms and lighting worries. I’ll save that for another time.

Fright Bites will be available to view on All4 from 22nd October.

Nira Park Q&A: Cuban Fury

Penned by Jon Brown and produced by Nira Park and James Biddle, Cuban Fury stars Nick Frost as Bruce, a failed child salsa star who must face up to his demons to win the affections of the woman he loves via the power of dance. Film4.com’s Catherine Bray visited the set one blazing August day to catch up with the team and have a chat with producer Nira Park about the origins of the film.

Nira Park

Nira Park

Can you talk us through the initial email pitch that landed in your inbox from Nick Frost?

I think we must have been in the middle of doing press for Paul when it arrived, and it was like a dream come true to get that email. Nick always has to wait till he’s really, really, ready before sending an idea, because he knows that if I like the idea then that’s it, he’s doing it! Paul started with a sketch Simon and Nick did whilst shooting the garden scenes during Shaun of the Dead.  It was just this little drawing but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About two years later I said to them “you’ve got to write that.” They’d completely forgotten about it but I said “that’s what we should do next.”

With Cuban Fury, Nick had been thinking about it for about six months before he finally thought  “ok, I think now’s the time to mention it.” I remember my response was simply “I want to see that poster, that is what we’re doing.”

As you say, it was 15 months from email to shoot. How was the development period?

Obviously, we needed a script and a writer. We approached Jon Brown, who’d never written a feature screenplay before, but with whom we were talking about developing a sitcom. We’d just started our conversations about that and I just knew instinctively that Jon would get on with Nick, and visa versa. I think for any writer it’s quite appealing to get the opportunity to write for someone, to have a particular actor in mind, especially someone as talented as Nick.

“When you get a really brilliant first draft, it’s great, and it just felt like a film already”

 

So we had a couple of initial meetings and Jon plotted out the story together with Nick and Rachael Prior who’s head of development at Big Talk.  Then he wrote this first draft in what must have been about six weeks. Obviously this initial draft was different to the shooting draft, but it was such introduction to the character and the world of the film, and it it was very funny, right from the get go. When you get a really brilliant first draft, it’s great – it just felt like a film already. So from that point on, whilst there was still a lot of work to do, we were basically in the early stages of pre-production. StudioCanal and Film4 committed to the project, and Nick started six months of dance training. It wasn’t like most developments which sort of feel like you could just go on developing forever and you’re never really sure if something is going to happen. I just knew with this one it was going to be made.

Nick was of course involved from the start, but can you tell us about rounding out the cast?

To be absolutely honest we wrote the part of Drew for Chris O’Dowd, so it would have been really sad if he hadn’t have been available. We wrote the part of Julia for Rashida Jones, we wrote the part of Ron for Ian McShane, and we wrote the part of Sam for Olivia Colman. So a lot of them came on board before we even had a director which was an incredible position to be in. With Rashida, we had to shoot around Parks and Recreation, and also her film, Celeste And Jesse Forever coming out, so we had to shoot all her stuff in the first four weeks. Amazingly it all worked out.

Could you talk us through what we’re seeing shot today?

This is the big dance off. Drew’s basically been bullying Nick from the outset of our story and they’re competing for Julia’s affections. It’s all come to a head and Nick has finally told Drew that he can dance, and Nick says “I’ll dance you under the table.”  Then they get in the office lift to the car park and we arrive at this scene. So it’s like a duel for the heart of Julia. It’s the first time Nick’s character Bruce has shown his passion for dance to his rival.

You mentioned Film4 coming on board. Could you talk a little bit more about the detail of that?

Film4 were involved from the outset. We have quarterly meetings with Film4 and StudioCanal where we talk about upcoming projects. It was in one of these meetings that I said “oh, Nick’s just had this idea,” and I remember Tessa Ross’s face, she thought it was a  great concept. So everybody was on board from the outset, and I think that always makes such a difference. Everyone just said “that’s a film we want to see, so let’s do everything we can to make it happen.”

Click here to see more on set videos from the Cuban Fury shoot

Cuban Fury is in cinemas 14th February

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kibwe Tavares: the development of Jonah

Director Kibwe Tavares shares with Film4.com the development process of getting his Film4-backed short Jonah from initial idea, through to concept art and finally shoot.

I think I must have been lucky, or my timing was spot on, or I just said the right combination of words in exactly the right order. Normally, suggesting you want to make movie about the world’s biggest fish in a town near the Somali border would get you laughed out the room but instead I got a “that sounds extraordinary” and “this is something we would definitely love to be involved in”.

I’ve been collaborating with Film4 for around eighteen months, which was when I met with Senior Development editor Eva Yates and Senior Commissioner Katherine Butler, just a few weeks after completing my Masters in architecture. I was still buzzing off the number of hits I was getting for my last film Robots of Brixton. This is when I pitched the idea for Jonah.

Baby Mohammed looked after me in Lamu, and was the inspiration for Mbwana, the lead role in Jonah.

Baby Mohammed looked after me in Lamu, and was the inspiration for Mbwana, the lead role in Jonah.

Inspiration came from a good friend telling me to read Hemmingway’s The Old Man And The Sea. I thought the story was genius, simple and engaging. The problem was, I had no connection with Cuba (where The Old Man And The Sea is set) and I also wanted to tell a new story, so I drew upon my own experiences and travels. I had recently been on a three month trip around Eastern Africa and spent time on the coast in small fishing villages, in Lamu, Pate Island and Zanzibar. These places all seemed on the cusp of changing from the traditional industry of fishing to tourism. In Lamu, we were looked after by a group of ‘beach boys’ who operated as informal tour guides taking us on trips, dhow boat racing, donkey races, fishing, drinking… these guys were who I eventually based my main characters on.

So I had my setting, then I began to work with screenwriter Jack Thorne and producer Ivana MacKinnon on the story. We made reference to a whole load of other big fish stories: Moby Dick, Jonah and the whale (hence the name), Sharky and George and more, in the hope of creating a new contemporary tale. Jonah is a live action/animation mash-up, almost like a collage. In house at Factory Fifteen, we visually developed the look and feel of the animation in the film alongside the script, so that what were planning to do in the VFX wasn’t gratuitous, but all story-led and story driven.

Concept art of Zanzibar in the future - Factory Fifteen

Concept art of Zanzibar in the future – Factory Fifteen

This was my first time officially directing a movie and, anxious about how I was going get all the shots I needed, I used the animation skills I had developed for Robots Of Brixton to create a very crude animated storyboard of the film. This allowed me to pick camera views, work out a rough edit and pace and work out how I would shoot the dialogue. It was essentially a base to the film, so when I had difficulty explaining what I wanted to crew or actors I could physically show them. It acted as a very powerful tool to show financiers and allow them to get inside my head.

Pre visualisation

Pre visualisation

We had a nine day shoot in Zanzibar in June, which was insane. Five days on land, the other four on or under the water. There was an amazing spirit and there was that genuine ‘up and coming’ feeling within the crew; people were extremely passionate and really believed in what we were trying to create. Post-shoot we had a very intense four month animation period. We split the animation between my company Factory Fifteen, focusing on the development of the town, and Jellyfish Pictures, who focused on the fish and underwater world, again with both teams showing amazing commitment.

Factory Fifteen added statues, billboards and reinterpreted the architecture of Zanzibar.

Factory Fifteen added statues, billboards and reinterpreted the architecture of Zanzibar.

Jellyfish Pictures modeled and animated the fish based upon an original design by Warren Holder

Jellyfish Pictures modeled and animated the fish based upon an original design by Warren Holder

Jonah was based on an idea, not a fully developed script, as I had no formal film education. The steps taken were ambitious, naïve and challenging but eventually completely worthwhile and fulfilling. I don’t know if anyone quite knew how it would turn out, but it exceeded what I expected to do in that first meeting. It’s amazing that this project got made, and hopefully everyone’s hard work and dedication will make the film stand out. I thoroughly respect Film4 for ‘taking a punt’ on a bit of a wild card, and am looking forward to working together on future projects.

Jonah premiered at Sundance 2013 and receives its UK premiere today

Original concept art for the fish by illustrator Warren Holder

Original concept art for the fish by illustrator Warren Holder