A local beheading on location, actors being held hostage by crew, a near fatal overdose with the stunt cow and the two leads falling in love – as the odds stacked, we held our nightly production meetings in the sea, fighting the tide, muttering ‘this film will not break us.’
Simon Lewis handed me a dogeared copy of his book Go at The Ritzy in Brixton eight years ago and I was mesmerised by the hazy days written in the first half. Emotionally, the character Lee embodied every bad mistake I ever made in my twenties, subconsciously I had been researching this film from the ages of 15-29.
To play the self-centred Lee, our lead needed serious charisma to keep the audience on his side. I first watched Robert Sheehan in the short film Dip , you can’t teach what Rob possesses, in my mind he is our generation’s Richard Burton – an intense and instinctual actor. Brooding and fiercely intelligent.
A plan was hatched to approach him with the novel, but we didn’t just want a star, we wanted a creative partner.
Rob and I were able to work on the script, both of us identifying with the emotional heartbeat of the film, Lee’s relationship with Sol.
My first film, The Inheritance, was about brothers, Jet Trash was about friendship – those friends in your twenties who you take along for the rest of your life and the ones left behind.
This collaboration with Rob was absolute joy, from sharing films, all nighters, beer and more beer we really honed the character of Lee and focused on the details of India we wanted to include in our narrative. These were great days that I will always cherish. Rob’s honesty is refreshing, you know where you stand and that is really crucial to good creative work.
It was a dream to shoot in India, a country in love with cinema, the local crew couldn’t have been more supportive. Growing up I was obsessed with films that transported me to somewhere exotic and dangerous, films like Key Largo, The Wages of Fear or The Night of The Iguana.
For me the film was always a psychedelic film noir seeped with madness, fantasy, and the unease of Cammell and Roeg’s Performance.
The intensity of John Cassavetes’ Killing of Chinese Bookie and the humour of Nicholas Winding Refn’s original Pusher were key references for our performances.
Celebrating Vix as a modern day Hitcockian femme fatale added another layer of tension to our thriller.
I was very conscious that although this film was about male friendship it has a softness and sensitivity. My wonder DOP Maja Zamojda was delighted to experiment and pushing the envelope in terms of the visual DNA of the film and my Production Designer Laura Elis- Cricks brought incredible references and embraced the freewheeling feel I wanted in the production design.
We shot the whole of the London section in 4 days, around 28 pages…including two hours the petrol station heist i.e. from the moment the guys get in the car to the end of the scene when they are pulled up with Marlowe…even by my standards that was pretty fast!
Due to our micro budget, the schedule was excruciatingly tight the only way this succeeded was the brilliant team of actors we assembled. Sofia – I’ve never worked with a more prepared actor, sensitive, intelligent and soulful. Osy – a young Denzel Washington, brilliant physical work and charisma to burn. Craig – an understated genius with wonderful technique and great instincts for dialogue.
All of this was kept on track by Andy Brunskill, an old colleague of mine in the runner days at Vertigo Films. He managed to keep the wheels on the train through belligerent hard work, boundless energy and a valiant crack at stunt driving.
The film was truly an independent film made against all odds. The tension we all felt trying to make the film on budget and on schedule with no opportunities to return to India for pick-ups or re-shoots really found its way on screen.
The finished film is the director’s cut – not one frame or moment of sound I would change.
Exuberance, Excess and Ex’s, a love letter to one’s twenties.