Tuesday, 23 November 2010

McQueen Movie: An Interview with Lee Battle (Nick McQueen)


McQueen is a movie written & directed by actor Oliver Lee. It stars Lee Battle, Nico Mirallegro, Oliver Lee, Linzey Cocker, Marcquelle Ward, Tina O'Brien, Chris Grixti, Lianne Sorsa, Matt Lanigan, Danielle Malone, Zoe Matthews and Julie Proffitt.

Plot Synopsis:

"The story of Nick and Sam and Northern suburban life for the youth of today. Based in an everyday small town on the outskirts of a large city shows how ignorance, misplaced anger and confusion can end in tragedy.

The boys, one a loner, the other the new kid, both keep themselves to themselves but some how need each other.

Why isn't life as easy as it should be?"

This is my interview with actor Lee Battle, who plays the title role of Nick McQueen...

Pinky: How did you first come to meet Oliver Lee and get the role of Nick McQueen in the McQueen movie, Lee?

Lee: We met in 2007 working on Kevin Sampson’s film ‘Awaydays’. Oli had written the first draft of McQueen about a year earlier and because we shared a trailer on Awaydays we’d talk a lot about the story and read through the script when we weren’t on set. I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with so we started forming a team and began producing the film, and after pre-production got going Oli asked if I wanted to play Nick.

McQueen Movie Poster, photography by Jay Place at ShotID

What are the basic dynamics of the story of the film, and the inspiration behind it?

Lee: A huge inspiration for Oli is ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ – our tagline is even a play on that title. McQueen basically follows the relationship of Nick and Sam, two young lads who are drawn together by the troubles in their lives.

Pinky: Would you say your character Nick is an intense, complicated type of person?

Lee: Yes definitely. When you first meet Nick you can see he is dealing with some issues. There’s a lot of tension between him and his Mum. He’s quiet, very internal and has very high morals.

Lee Battle & Nico Mirallegro as Nick & Sam / by cameraman Jay Place at ShotID

How would you describe the friendship between Nick and his friend Sam (played by Nico Mirallegro)?

Lee: They both have similarities. Nick is more mature, has more life experience. He wants to look out for Sam and is protective towards him. They have a connection. Nick eases up when he is in Sam’s company and they can both be themselves around each other.

Pinky: McQueen's behind-the-scenes photos on Facebook show everyone working hard but looking as though they are enjoying their work. Was it a happy atmosphere on set, most of the time?

Lee: Without a doubt. I think, because it was very small set up it was very hands on for everybody involved and the fact that everyone was willing to pitch in added to the fun. It was a great learning experience and everyone on McQueen was there because they were passionate about it.

Pinky: Was it difficult for the production team to get a gun license for McQueen's more violent scenes?

Lee: Actually no, we were really lucky to make contact with a guy who runs a special effects company and he was happy to help.

Nico Mirallegro as Sam in a violent scene from McQueen / by Jay at ShotID

Pinky: I gather there was a run-in with the police during the filming of McQueen. I'd love to know more about what happened there...

Lee: Haha yeah. Basically, we were shooting some of the films more violent or aggressive scenes and I think because of how real they were some neighbours got worried and called the police and we had a complaint. I guess because our crew was so small it wasn’t as obvious as having a huge film unit and Jay our DOP ended up with a warning. But we ended up getting some good press off the back of it so it turned out alright in the end.

Pinky: How have the cast and crew of McQueen helped to finance the movie over the past few months?

Lee: The film was literally shot without a budget, literally nothing. You hear of low budget features which actually had X amount of pounds spent on them but ours was nil, and that’s what hopefully makes the end result so good.

Pinky: Which parts of Manchester and its surrounding areas were used as locations in McQueen?

Lee: We had two main locations, Stockport and Atherton, which is the town Oli grew up in and was the setting he had in mind when writing the film. We also used a shop on Deansgate and a pub in Bolton.

Pinky: Without giving away too many spoilers, will McQueen make us cry at any stage of the story?

Lee: Yes.

Pinky: Will there be a roll of out-takes as an extra on the DVD, when that comes out?

Lee: I hope so. I’ve watched back all of the takes and there’s some great outtakes. Who knows, they could end up on the facebook page?

Pinky: Finally Lee, do you think that McQueen has a special underlying message for us all about urban life?

Lee: McQueen is more of an insight into small town suburban life, suburban youth. And a look at how prejudice or ignorance can have consequences and greatly affect the people around you.

Pinky: Thank you for the interview, Lee.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

An Interview With Sloane U’Ren; Director/Production Designer of the movie Dimensions

Sloane behind the scenes with Henry Lloyd-Hughes (as Stephen) and Olivia Llewellyn (as Annie) in the Rose Garden

Pinky: How did you and your husband first get inspired for the story of the movie Dimensions, Sloane?

Sloane: Visiting the location we used in Cambridgeshire was very inspirational; it's a lovely property on the River Cam and its grounds include an apple orchard which felt timeless. There is something about certain buildings and places that already have stories in them and we are there to release them. And concerning specific parts of this story, Ant (my husband and the writer of 'Dimensions') saw a youtube video that explained multiple dimensions and theories. That started off a train of thought in his mind that led to the story.

Pinky: What kind of background experience did you and Ant Neely have in the film industry before starting work on this epic project?

Sloane: Though I've lived in the UK off and on for almost 20 years, I'm originally from Los Angeles and was a child actor there, so I have had experience in front of the camera. After studying Art History at UC Berkeley, I got my training in Art Departments in the UK and worked my way up over the years. I've worked on projects such as 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince', 'Batman Begins', and 'Being John Malkovich' and having designed commercials and short films, I've learned what the filmmaking process entails. Ant was a music composer before he became a screenwriter and has created music for everything from features films to animated series. His credits include having music on television shows such as 'Six Feet Under' and 'Boston Legal'.

Pinky: Would you be able to give us a brief synopsis of the story of Dimensions, without giving too much of the plot away?

Sloane: 'Dimensions: A Line, A Loop, A Tangle of Threads' is the story of Stephen, a brilliant mind, who lives in England in what appears to be about the 1920s – but nothing in Stephen's life is quite as it seems. As a child, he meets a charismatic and inspirational professor who demonstrates to Stephen and his friends that by manipulating other dimensions, time travel may actually be possible. As Stephen's life unfolds, events lead him to dedicate himself to turning the Professor's theories of time travel into reality. Love, obsession, jealousy and greed surround him, influencing his fragile mind and the direction of his work.

Pinky: Dimensions has the interesting distinction of being both a period drama and a science fiction story. Does it have any unusual special effects?

Sloane: Not having a huge budget, we've had to keep special effects and visual effects to a minimum and concentrate on using them only when really needed. The effects we do have had to feel in keeping with our time...we didn't see this as a hi-tech sci-fi, it's more brilliant-English-boffin builds machines and experiments in his ram-shackled workshop. His equipment is made of brass, wood, leather, valves, and mechanical parts; when experiments go wrong, it's more meltdown than huge explosions so our SFX and VFX have to reflect this.

Pinky: You sold your house to help to finance the Dimensions movie. I'd like to know more on how that came about.

Sloane: Ant had written a couple of television pilots that were making the rounds in L.A. as well as a few film scripts. We had both been working on other people's projects for years – Ant was composing and I was art directing on films and designing commercials -- when we decided we'd like to create and realise our own film. Of course, it's prohibitively expensive to just go out and do it, but we put together a budget and discussed that fact that we could actually make our own film if we sold our house and topped it up with a bit of private investment We know people who have been trying to get the money together for years to make their films: they'll have a few million pounds in place but need 5 or 6 and then they might get close, but one or two investors pull out and they're back to square one. We didn't want to spend years chasing the money, we just wanted to make our film. We've been really fortunate that we were able to stretch our tiny budget by calling in favours from a huge amount of industry friends and colleagues. The real cost of the film far surpasses the actual amount we had to spend and we will be eternally grateful for the help and support we've received from those who have been a part of this.

Pinky: What has been the most expensive scene (or piece of purchased equipment) so far?

Sloane: That would be telling! What I will tell you is that we had a set build by Leigh Gilbert's construction team based at Pinewood Studios. This particular set piece was absolutely integral to the story and had to be just right – we are really fortunate that Leigh's team are some of the best in the business and they did us proud.

Pinky: Costume Designer Rose Bennett designed all the beautiful costumes for the movie. Did it take a long time working out all the styles and colours, and getting all the actors fitted out?

Sloane: Rose is amazingly talented. As our story takes place in the 1910s/20s and then jumps to the 1930s/40s, she had two different time periods to work in but because we weren't actually ever in an exact year, we could play with the different styles – mix it up a bit -- and not feel beholden to a certain fashion of a year but instead, could create the feeling of the era. We talked about styles and colour schemes, and we were both on the same page so it was very easy for me to let her run with her costume design ideas. She was very sympathetic to our locations and sets, and the details of the characters' clothing added that much more to the flushing out of their personalities. Rose didn't have much time with the actors before the shoot. The lead actors had initial fittings with her and then she went away and made some of the costumes from scratch herself; others, she hired or purchased and then tailored them to suit. Generally, she didn't see the actors again until they were with us at the location, and she could finish working her magic.

Pinky: What has been your most memorable experience so far, in making Dimensions?

Sloane: It's hard to pick only one memorable experience. Our shoot was so very quick at just 4 weeks (we usually shot between 3 ½ and 6 ½ pages of script per day) but we were able to do it because we had a great team who were all talented and professional, and that enabled us to shoot quickly without sacrificing quality. Sure, I would love to have had 3 months to shoot this but we just didn't have that luxury. What I suppose is most memorable, at the risk of sounding corny, was watching the magic unfold once the cameras started rolling and watching the story, that was previously only words on a page, spring to life before our eyes.

Pinky: Is there anything you wish you had been told before you started it all?

Sloane: To get as much sleep as possible before you start shooting because once you've begun and you're on that rollercoaster that is principal photography, you don't have time to sleep. I think Ant and I averaged about 5 hours of sleep a night.

Pinky: The BBC did a very good news feature about Dimensions on Look East, which showed some beautiful photography in outdoor clips from the film and behind the scenes. Where were the main locations?

Sloane: The main location is a beautiful house and grounds on the River Cam just outside of Cambridge. We also shot at a local pub, The Bridge Pub in Waterbeach, and at Downing College of Cambridge University and Wesley House, a theological college. One of the great things about this area is the amazing combination of historical buildings and beautiful countryside, so I had a big canvas to work with.

Pinky: What have you been mainly doing online to create a buzz about the movie?

Sloane: We have our own website www.dimensionsthemovie.com which has updates and blogs, photos and interviews, and we also have facebook (Dimensions the movie) and twitter (dimensionsmovie) sites. We were written up on Boing Boing before we starting filming, and we have youtube videos up (dimensionsthemovie's Channel). Basically, asking friends and fans to share with their friends and family (and fans!) our progress of making 'Dimensions'...like your good-self! Unfortunately, we don't have as much time as we'd like to do promotion at this stage so we really appreciate people passing on our links and helping us out.

Pinky: Finally, Sloane, what advice would you give to new film makers out there, who are thinking of starting an epic movie project?

Sloane: Don't make the film if you're not passionate about it – you will spend so much time with it, so many, many months, that if you don't love it, you might as well not do it. And plan the heck out of it...preparation, preparation, preparation. It's exhausting but exhilarating. In our case, of course, selling our home to make the film isn't the most sensible financial decision but life is short and if you're passionate about something, you have to go for it.

Pinky: Thank you for the interview, Sloane.

Sloane: Thanks again, Sara.