MISTAKEN: an indie thriller. (Or how a Nandos chicken dinner saved the entire film production.)
Sadly I (Lorraine) have missed my and only chance to become a movie star, being in the USA when our nephew Anthony was casting his friends and family members in a full-length thriller he wrote, directed, starred in and produced himself. As the July 20th premiere at the Cineworld in Wandsworth, London approaches, I decided to interview him.
What made you decide to make a movie?
I missed acting, and wanted to be in a film.Figured it was quicker to make one than do years of casting for a lead role.
Did you ever think you’d achieve what you have – did you have doubts?
Never beyond my wildest dreams… actually if you told me we’d get a cinema box office showing, and a DVD release is on the cards, I would have laughed.
How old were you when you started and how old were you when you finished?
What was your budget?
I’ll tell you once I’ve sold it.
How did you get the equipment? Actors? Locations?
I bought the equipment wanting to start making wedding videos. I turned to friends for actors. Some I asked, some asked me. Some I nagged. A lot. Some I bribed with chicken dinners.
How was it directing amateurs as actors?
Very different to how it’s normally done. There are very few long scenes in the film and a lot of switching angles during the scenes. It was a case of pointing the camera at them and making them say the line over and over until they said it the way I wanted. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get the same direction with my performance. Some people really grew as actors and some had some surprising natural ability. Using friends definitely gives better out takes for sure. Like Jamie’s line ‘you’re bleeding from your femoral artery’ which came out as ‘you’re bleeding from your feminal orgy.’ Priceless. And Mat’s Italian accent always sounded French – unless he was shouting and then it sounded German.
What did you think/ foresee would be your biggest challenges?
Biggest challenge by far was keeping people interested long enough to keep turning up for more scenes. One of my friends was super keen to play a hit man and halfway through decided he didn’t want to do it any more. I had to bribe him with a Nando’s chicken dinner. Another friend was cast in a major role but twice failed to show up when we were scheduled to shoot. When we finally managed to get him back on set a second time, we killed him off instantly. He kept saying, ‘this isn’t in the script.’… hah, hah. Thankfully I had a few friends who were really keen from start to finish. It was hard enough getting 10+ people to take a day off work to come and film all on the same day Plus we needed good weather on the day…. in England!
How did you come up with the idea for the script?
I dreamed I was being chased by loads of different hitmen. I’d escape one and round the corner there’d be another one waiting for me. I woke up sweating and thought if I could translate that to a movie and make it half as entertaining as the dream I’d be winning.
What were your roles in the film?
Writer, Director, Producer, Actor, Editor, and Special Effects.
Did you have any experience in writing, directing, producing, editing?
None to begin with – I’d won a competition or two making football videos, and filmed a few weddings. That’s it. I learned filmmaking with constant months/years on Google and tutorials on YouTube. A few books too. 3/4 of the ‘Mistaken’ process was about learning, making mistakes and correcting them.
What help did you receive?
A lot. Apart from various friends playing cameramen, and the huge amount of extras. We had some amazing locations such as Nonsuch Mansion (designed by King Henry VIII) in Surrey. They were supporting local projects and let us use the Mansion for our film. We had help from local police, councils, my old work offices, a farmer with a barn in Devon, mine and friends’ families, and all sorts. People were really keen to help out, which was immense. I’ve got a long list of people to thank.
What was the biggest drawback of using friends and family?
I think you are taking people out of their comfort zone when not using experienced actors, which they don’t always like. However, it’s character building, and I would say everyone is a better person for it. I don’t think anyone looks back thinking “shit I regret that”. Although Mat was initially drafted in as an extra for one scene only and decided to grow a funny-looking beard for the day’s shoot. Because he turned out to be really good and was keen, he became one of the main characters. He had to live with that stupid beard for three years.
What were your biggest surprises?
How much is involved in making a film. I thought I’d get it done over one summer and it would be amazing. Three years later… In fact because it took so long we had an issue with the main detective character, (Jamie), putting on weight. He starts thin, gets chubby midway through and then slims back down at the end because I stuck him on a diet. I think we just about get away with it.
What were some of your funniest moments?
Jamie couldn’t say I love you convincingly to his on screen wife (who was his girlfriend at the time) – that was funny. Someone called the police on us when we were filming an over-motorway shot because they thought the camera was a bazooka. The one real actor we hired found it hilarious that the make-up artist wasn’t on set and we had to drive to her house to get make-up put on first while her mum made us all tea. Another of my friends had a really bad upset stomach on the day of his scene. He was in a lot of pain while filming a big shoot-out… he started begging me to kill him so he could go home.
And then there were the ten hitmen that we talked a start-up extras company into supplying. When we got to the location there were these massive scary-looking blokes waiting for us. We were all debating who was going to fight them… and at first none of us even wanted to go over and say hello. I said to mat ‘OK, you’re fighting that huge bald bloke, ha ha.’ Of course they were all great people to have in the film and really helpful.
Also I lured another friend Pedrum in to film in the middle of December. He came wearing his best suit and the script had him down to be thrown into a rubbish bin or trash dumpster. At the last minute I opted to chuck him in the freezing swimming pool. It was a bit mean but funny.
How about stunts – any challenges there?
I had to drive a car at my sister in one of the scenes while operating the camera at the same time. I also had to make a 6 foot jump off a roof onto the top of a van. Mat had to get dangerously close to a cliff edge in one scene and we nearly dropped the camera off the cliff. And Jamie managed to stab himself with a knife in the chin during a fight scene. It was at his heaviest stage so his brother kept asking ‘which chin did he stab?’
Did you ever lose heart?
Yes, once – for 6 months. Then I carried on and didn’t look back. In the middle of it too I did a round the world trip which I’d had planned for ages. I did a rough cut of the film before I went, which I was really pleased with. I didn’t show it to anyone. When I came back I hated it and decided to work on it for a further year. The ‘creative break’ did wonders for the film.
How did you manage the special effects? Blowing up buildings?
I filmed the building and added all the effects in afterwards. I had to do a lot of research into how I’d make this happen. I found some great packages online, and spent literally months on tutorials.
What was most difficult for you in the whole process?
Biggest sacrifice was time – in the end I had to take some time off working to get it finished. I had to learn an awful lot and there were probably about 30 different versions of the movie before I was happy with it. I was broke, skint, totally penniless. I went out in the same pair of cheap Primark boots so many times that it became an ongoing joke amongst friends as to how battered they’d get before I’d finally stop wearing them. I’m now finding them hard to throw away – they make me laugh every time I look at them. I lost a girlfriend over the film too… it took up every minute I had. I wouldn’t change any of it though.
What do you think will happen now?
I think we’ll easily get a DVD release. The trick is convincing the world to watch it. I hope more people will attempt what I have. Maybe ‘Mistaken’ might inspire someone out there to try it themselves.
What do you want to do next – what are your wildest hopes and dreams?
Well, first is the Mistaken premiere on 20th July at the Cineworld in Wandsworth. I’m working on content for a couple of YouTube channels I want to launch. Then I have amazing ideas for more films and also some crazy website ideas. I’m always going to be learning more and making (hopefully) better and better things. I’ve just learnt the hard way to do one thing at a time.
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