Diane Knight reflects on the highs and lows of an eight-day shoot.
Diane Knight (@candystreats)
My husband (writer/director) and I (producer) run our own independent production company LndnKnts in the UK, with a slate of films in various degrees of development. We recently released our first feature, which thankfully opened a few doors for us within the industry. Nevertheless that didn’t change the fact that we were still struggling to finance our next project. Raising investment for film is tough for any filmmaker, especially it seems in the UK. HMRC have made it almost impossible to receive SEIS/EIS tax incentives for film and TV productions since the budget in March 2018. Like investing in film wasn’t risky enough with horror stories of oﬀ -shore tax evasion schemes and budget gouging by oily producers to sticky fingered accountants or the numerous cases of sexual harassment. So when the opportunity to co-produce with Velox Entertainment arose, we seized the day, and I am extremely proud to say that our latest feature film, 24 Little Hours, which was shot in only eight days, is now heading for worldwide distribution.
Paul [Knight] adapted one of those scripts I spoke about earlier to fit our needs. The story and characters stayed the same, but naturally the £3m of stunts and explosions were removed. We changed the locations and requirements to match the resources we had at our disposal, and by contacting local businesses for sponsorship we were able to make the film for a fraction of the price.
The film is an action crime drama that centres on a vengeful ex-con who goes on a 24-hour killing spree, never saying a word. The discredited detective investigating the case is convinced there is more to it than the evidence suggests. The uniqueness of the script is that the story is told from two different perspectives – the killer and the police. The cast only had access to their half of the script, and neither side knew the full story until we held a cast and crew screening in November. As a producer, I am comfortable behind the scenes overseeing the various stages from concept to delivery, working with the production team and giving input during post. However, I find it completely nerve wracking screening a film for the first time. Showcasing an audience your creative work that you have lived and breathed for the best part of a year makes you question if you have made the right thing. Will people like it? Should we have taken out a certain scene? Should we have included something new? All these thoughts and more run through your head, whilst the 1001 things that you still have to do on the day can make it equally frightening as it is thrilling. Paul and the cast went up on stage and answered a whole host of questions after the film was screened, and it quickly became obvious that the audience loved it.
Our cast are recognisable faces from TV and film: Kris Johnson, known for Welcome To The Punch and Black Site; Fiona Skinner starring alongside Tom hardy in Taboo; Danny Midwinter known for Human Traffic and From Hell; Marc Bannerman in Snatch with Rupert Grint, a US Crackle produced TV series; and Ewen Macintosh, who is best known as Keith from The Office.
The idea of an eight-day shoot was daunting yet exhilarating, but lends itself quite well to indie filmmakers who may supplement their passion with a full-time job, which is what we do. I teach special needs children, and between filming Paul consults for other productions on film budgets and pitch documents.
Shooting for eight days is not for the faint hearted. It does not allow itself to be forgiving, so you need to be extremely organised, prepared and adaptable if and when complications arise. But it does mean your costs are lower per department whilst still maintaining an acceptable day rate. The pace is intense, but when you have a group of like-minded driven and talented creatives, it is amazing what you can achieve.
It was agreed upfront that a 6:1 shooting ratio would be our goal, and this was kept by Paul, who also directed, and our DoP Richard [Oakes], whose input was integral to bringing our vision to life with his stunning cinematography and creative use of lighting. For example, in one of the police interview scenes, which involved a statement from a drug abuser, the audience sees through the addict’s eyes. It was an inspired idea from Richard that really added to the scene, and he came up with it as we discussed interconnecting the scene of dialogue to the action you would see on screen.
Of course, shooting at that pace was made easier with the calibre of experienced actors we had involved. Our female lead Fiona, who played our disgraced detective DI Summers, delivered an awe-inspiring 48 pages of memorised dialogue spread over 19 scenes in just two days! The shoot was broken down from hardest to easiest. We started with all the action scenes that involved several shootouts. Two in particular were all-day affairs, with multiple angles, takes, practical effects and a whole lot of patience from everyone on set. That took up our first three days. We followed that with two intensive days of police scenes, where dialogue was key, and the final three days gave every character their moment to shine.
As I said before, if not for the support of everyone involved, this ambitious undertaking wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as it did. We are thankful not just to companies like Shooting Stars Uniforms, who provided all the police uniforms and gear, but also to the businesses and people of Essex, who opened their arms and doors to us throughout the filming. When it was all in the can, it was down to the post team, where Paul again put on another hat and edited the film from the 118-minute rough down to the 84 minutes finalised runtime that is set to be distributed worldwide later this year.