HeyUGuys: The Special Features on the DVD say a lot about getting the project going. It seems to have all started with Ian Hart?
David Hughes: Ian Hart, [co-star] Paul Freeman, [producer] Margaret Matheson – these are people with incredible careers and they’ve shown incredible generosity to me. I was working in film advertising and I wrote a script [short film A Girl & A Gun]. A guy I knew who worked on film scoring had kids at school with Ian Hart’s kids and said he seemed like an approachable guy in the playground and asked if he could try to give the script to him. He took the script to the school gate and two days later I got a call from Ian Hart. We had a £250.00 budget for the short film. No-one got paid. They just wanted to help a burgeoning director. The full length film had just as miniscule a budget, you can’t imagine how low budget it was.
Now that you’ve made your feature debut, what are your thoughts on getting a film made in the UK at the moment, especially for a first-time director?
There are independent films and then there is this. We are way outside the mainstream, so for a film like this to get an international release with Universal, to go from such humble beginnings to where we are now, we realise how lucky we are. It is very tough and you have to do everything yourself. We used cars that belong to friends, Paul Freeman wore my old suits – we had to make it happen at every level. I wanted to put the original short film on the DVD and I’m grateful that Universal agreed. The leap in quality is noticeable and the DVD can show that leap, it can show others that they can do that, that their film can be on a screen with that spinning globe in front of it.
I tried not to do the hand-held, rough and ready style. I wanted to do something a bit more stylish, to punch above our weight. So we prepped as much as possible.
It certainly didn’t feel rushed or sloppy, or as if you’d said at any stage, “that’ll do”
I wanted to make a modern noir, with that sort of feel, style and production values. I wanted to have aspirations, I wanted to be aimed at that sort of level. Sarah Deane (DoP) and Gavin Burridge (colourist and post-production supervisor) were both key in aiming at that kind of level and working hard to make the best film we could. There were no hand-held shots, we would always lay down tracks for the camera, there were no after-thoughts, everything was planned. We tried to make a stylish film.
Obviously HBS came from the original short, but what are some of your more general inspirations as a writer?
Novels, hard-boiled crime fiction, Elmore Leonard. The stories are not just one man and one woman, there is an ensemble and each has their own part in the story. By having more smaller roles, you can get better actors because you are not asking so much of them, just a few days rather than three months. It was an idea born of necessity, but it worked well.
What are you working on now? What is next for you?
I’ve got an LA manager now. I’ve gone from being at the school gate to being sent scripts. I recognise that I’m not the only person getting them! I’m at the bottom of a long list! I write my own stuff and that’s what I really want to do. It’s flattering when very good writers want you to read their scripts, but it’s a long process – six years since my original short film.
Clearly you enjoyed making HBS, but what part of the process do you find the hardest, or the biggest challenge to your abilities?
I think trying to get the film released and the sales side. You reach a point where you think that maybe this more than just something to show to my mates and then you have a business meeting with distributors and you don’t learn that at film school, so you have to learn as you go. You have to toughen up – no one calls it the film art form, it’s an industry and the film lives and dies by whether anyone likes it. You have to be aware of the market place. At least with so little money involved I wasn’t being second-guessed – I didn’t have a casting committee, I just approached who I wanted to.