Big Finish have for many years been known as the top brass company for audio drama of all kind. And now they are doing films. From the minds of the ingenious Guerrier Brothers (makers of Wizard, Revealing Diary and The Plotters) comes Cleaning Up a brand new short film starring Mark Gatiss and Louise Jameson. The film is a dark psychological thriller and can be purchased from the Big Finish website at this address http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/cleaning-up-download-957 . The film can be bought for either £1.99 or £4.99. The £4.99 package includes several special features such as a commentary and a ‘behind the scenes’ video.
Earlier, I spoke to Tom Guerrier (The director), Simon Guerrier (The writer) and Joe Lidster (the script editor) about the film.
Hi guys, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Cleaning Up feels very much like a mix between Hitchcock’s The Lodger and an episode of Tales of The Unexpected. Did you decide prior to the writing of the film for it to have such a classic horror vibe or did that evolve over time spent working on the film?
Tom: I can’t speak for Simon’s writing influences but definitely when it came to realising it on screen we went and watched as many films as possible that involved a B&B setting. I think it’s important to look to past work that covers similar themes as it helps give you a good awareness on whether your ideas will work. It also helps you avoid doing anything cliched. We looked at a lot of British movies so as well as the Lodger we watched The Ladykillers, Get Carter, Shallow Grave and even The Wrong Trousers.
The Tales of the Unexpected vibe I think comes from the fact they’re short stories, which is what a short film is. So again they’re a good point of reference.
Simon: Yes, it was there from the start. Tom did a lot of research on film festivals and what made successful shorts, and found that shorts are often grouped at screenings – you watch five or six together. So we wanted a film that people would remember, even if they’d seen lots of shorts the same day.
We made lists of the films that really stayed with us, and were thinking of things like The Wicker Man and Don’t Look Now. Another key influence was The Lady Killers. I don’t think we were consciously using Hitchcock or Tales of the Unexpected, but now you say it I can’t deny the influence.
Joe: I can’t speak for Simon but, certainly, that aspect of it appealed to me and it was something I pushed. I’m not a fan of gangster/assassin movies – I think I’m the only person on the planet to hate Reservoir Dogs with a passion – so I was certainly happy that it wasn’t a film about how “cool” Mark’s character was. I thought the humour and weirdness of Mrs Pellman and the B&B was something a bit different, very British and, yes, very Tales of the Unexpected.
How did the film come about? Did the idea for the project come from some specific source or more a mixture of things you have seen, read, heard, ect?
Simon: Tom and I were commissioned to make some Doctor Who DVD extras. It was the first time we’d worked together properly, and it seemed to go okay so we were thinking about what we’d do next. Then, at a Sci-Fi London event, I met Charlie Palmer – director on some David Tennant Doctor Whos, and he told me how good making a short film had been for his career. So Tom and I talked about making our own, and what sort of thing we’d like to do. Ever since we were little we’d been talking about the James Bond film we’d make, so that seemed a good place to start.
Joe: I came on board when Simon asked me to look over the script as a mate. I really enjoyed it and was just very excited by the prospect of it being made so I made a lot more suggestions and questioned a lot more of it than I think he was expecting. Luckily, rather than punching me, he seemed to appreciate my thoughts and asked me to come on board as a script editor.
The characters Mark Gatiss and Louise Jameson play are incredibly well suited to those actors. Were the parts specifically written for them or was it more down to good casting?
Tom: Not initially but when they were cast the script was tailored around them. We had a good six months from them signing up to actually filming so the script was worked within an inch of it’s life. When it came to casting we wanted some well known faces and the way we went about getting them was to think of actors who we thought would really like the opportunity to play these types of characters. All you have to offer them at the end of the day is the part.
Simon: No! I wrote Mr Jackson (originally Mr Winston) with Cary Grant in mind, and Mrs Pellman was created to contrast with him. Once I’d written a first draft, we started to think about who might be in it, and then we were working with Lou on a documentary and both realised she’d be perfect. Once she agreed to do it, I asked my friend Joe Lidster to read the script and give notes. He became script editor and it was him who suggested Mark.
Joe: One thing I did push, when we knew we had Louise, was for Mrs Pellman to have more of a personality. There was always a character there, obviously, but I felt she could be stronger. Louise is such an amazing actress that I knew she’d embrace whatever Simon threw at her. I suggested making her funnier and brassier – which, again, ties in with that Tales of The Unexpected vibe.
In the commentary for the film you mention the idea of a series based on the characters feature in the film. How would that work? In more short films or in longer linked episodic pieces similar to TV episodes?
Tom: The reason for making the short was to do something bigger. There is much more of this story we’d like to tell. TV or a feature film is where we’re heading with it.
Simon: This all starts to get into spoiler territory, so don’t read the next bit until you’ve seen the film. The idea is to concentrate on James and his relationship with Mrs Pellman, seeing how she trains and uses him, and how his work with her affects his ordinary life outside the B&B. We also find out more about Mrs Pellman, who she works for and why she does it
And if you still aren’t convinced then have a watch of Nick Briggs and Tom Guerrier talking about the film.