“It’s like a mini-studio,” explains producer, Terry Stone, “It’s like Pinewood Studios, but having the lot, and you just play on it all day”.
Stone, and his producing partner, Daniel Toland have taken over the 74 acre site to film their latest movie, the Julian Gilbey helmed, credit-card-fraud-flick, Plastic.
“You’ve got the main stately home over there, and that’s doubling for all the interiors, like the Dorchester, and then doubling again for the Marie de Guise.” Adds, Tolland, “We’ve got a fantastic art department. It looks incredible in there.”
The flexibility of the space, and the skill of the art department is remarkable given that it’s not a purpose built studio. Over the course of filming, in addition to serving as high-end hotels, it’s doubled as a university and a prison. As well as providing production offices, dressing rooms and everything else the team could need.
Of course, the one place the campus couldn’t double for was Miami, so for the primary cast, and several of the heads of department, the first week of production was spent in the blazing Florida sunshine.
“It was just a good way of bonding with the other cast members really, throwing us in at the deep end.”, reveals Alfie Allen, who plays Yatesey. Although several of the cast had met previously, that trip out to Florida gave them all a chance to get to know one another properly, “Obviously you’re in a foreign place, and you’re tourists, so you’re just reverting back to a childlike state almost. We were all just mucking in together. It was great.”
Based on a true story, Allen’s involvement, along with that of his cast mates, Ed Speelers, Will Poulter and Sebastian de Souza, only came about as a result of some canny thinking during the film’s development.
“The original guys we were going to use were in their thirties,” reveals Stone, “a load of thirty year old blokes going around doing credit card fraud, it’s OK, but there’s nothing cool about it, and there’s nothing funny about it. We tried to inject humour into it, as well as making it younger.”
Some may dismiss this kind of thinking as cynical, but for Stone and Tolland, who have spent the last few years building the scale of their productions, from the 2010 micro-budget pic, Shank, through last year’s £5m heist flick Get Lucky, and now to Plastic, which according to IMDb came in at £10m, commercial appeal, as well as international sales, are paramount.
“I think now, the goal is to make more commercial, international films, that are in line with the stuff that comes out of the states.” Stone continues, “You can’t make them on three, five-hundred grand, or six hundred grand. I know people say, ‘Paranormal Activity was made for fifteen grand, and The Blair Witch was made for thirty grand, but they’re sort of one-off films. I think, in reality, you’ve either got to be very lucky, and be in the right place at the right time to have that success, but for everybody else, you have to spend a certain amount of money.
“You can’t make a five-hundred-grand, million pound film that’s going to tick all the boxes and translate around the world. They’ve tried to do it with the rom-coms here, and they haven’t worked, and they’ve tried to do it with the British gangster films, and they don’t seem to travel. Same with urban films.”
One part of this international appeal was the film’s action; something that was new to BAFTA Rising Star Award winner, Will Poulter,”I’m constantly learning stuff,” he confides, “and experiencing stuff, and discovering things about the way films are made – and you’ll see actors perform a line, and it’s only until you actually put yourself in that scenario – they perform that line shooting a gun out of a car – when you get the opportunity to do that, you realise how difficult it is to do that line, because you’re thinking about X, Y and Z, and you learn you have to do it in a certain way.”
That action, combined with the atmosphere director Julian Gilbey fosters, means that filming is quite fast-paced, as Poulter’s cast mate, Ed Speelers explains, “This is very much about creation, and it’s a very visual thing. Trying to get that right, trying to get the feel of it right, it’s a very high energy way of shooting. It’s good fun, but it’s non-stop. If you ever work on a Gilbey film, it’s always non-stop.”
And while the film industry likes to portray a veneer of effortless glamour, the truth is that shooting a movie like Plastic is hard work, ““I wake up at crazy-o’clock – normally, not today, which has been nice – then I come in.” Poulter reveals, “I go straight into make up and costume, and then we might head to one of the locations, or the sets we’ve built here. Do a rehearsal, do a block through. Piss around with Seb and Ed and Alfie – there’s always a lot of banter with them – and then we shoot the day away.
“We’ve been doing a lot of night shoots. A lot of split days as well, so for example, like today, you come in at eleven, and you’re finishing at one or something like that. Or you’re coming in at three or four, for a five o’clock start, and you don’t finish until four or five in the morning the next day. So that’s kind of the average day,” And while that schedule might sound gruelling, Poulter is quick to add, “but it’s been really enjoyable.”
This, he puts down to his cast mates, “I think having people like Alfie, and Ed, and Seb and Emma on set, makes it really enjoyable experience”. And he’s not alone. The one constant in the interviews and conversations on set is how close the team, particularly the cast, have become. And the hope is that this translates onto the screen. Certainly Allen thinks it will. “I’d say the relationships that you see on screen in this are weirdly quite real, in real life. There’s definitely been acting involved, but we’ve had a lot of dynamics in real life to draw upon.”
Plastic hits cinemas on the 30th April.