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British Film Interview:
Joel Frosh Talks To The Filmmakers Behind 'Dead Cat'
Dead Cat is the debut feature from Stefan Georgiou that was recently screened at the British Independent Film Festival. The film is a quirky take on contemporary relationships in London starring Sebastian Armesto and Sofia Dawnay playing childhood sweethearts Michael and Kristen who haven’t spoken in 10 years but are brought back together by chance. I caught up with Stefan Georgiou (director/co-writer), Sam Bern (co-writer/ actor) and Mark Spector (dialogue editor/supervising sound editor) to find out more.
JF: Tell me how you set about making the film…
Stefan: Sam and I have written short films before and this is our first feature. In January 2009 we decided to make a film that we wanted to shoot by September. We decided to write a script, get everybody together and raise the money by a certain date. Whatever we raised at that point we would make the film on. We felt that with our background, our history and our experience, that a British romantic comedy would be an interesting direction to head into.
Sam: Stef and I talk about a lot of stuff. We’ve been friends since we were twelve. One of the things we talk about a lot is relationships; things that work and that haven’t worked and we realised that a lot of the material that we had would work in a romantic comedy.
JF: The group of boys are all very different characters, but you manage to portray a close group of friends very convincingly. Is this something that you discussed when writing the film?
Stefan: I loved the idea that you wouldn’t necessarily think that these four should be friends. They come from different walks of life. Certainly Sam and I have different groups of friends all around us. You know, you’ve got this group here and this group there and in London it just means that there is a melting pot of different backgrounds and I know that I definitely wanted to show that. I wanted the four guys to come from different places as that just makes a richer texture of film.
Sam: In a lot of films you see, everyone is sort of the same. One of the reasons why I grew my beard really big for the film is because I wanted one of them to look really different. So I didn’t cut my hair or shave for about four months before we shot.
JF: Do you think that there is a trick to creating a highly flawed group of friends that the audience still find likable?
Sam: Actually, I’m not sure if we solved that trick. Some people don’t find them likeable. But, part of me thinks that when you go to the films now everyone tends to be sort of perfect and sympathetic. We wanted points where you sympathise with them and points where you’re a bit repulsed by them. And you’re not really sure if you should like them and you end up making the decision yourself based on what you like and you don’t like. That was the idea as opposed to it being spoon-fed.
Stefan: It was something we talked about a lot - people that weren’t perfect. And you know as the opposite to the boys you have Peter who is Kristen’s husband in the film as the third wheel in a love triangle. Usually that character is very unlikable. It’s always supposed to be made crystal clear to the audience that this person is a bit of a dick. But we tried really hard to actually make him likable, which is really tricky.
Sam: But back to the question, we tried to avoid situations where a character would do something and you would be like, “you know what, that’s too much”. We tried to make sure that everyone was honest I guess.
JF: What were the struggles of making a low budget romcom?
Sam: There’s a huge market for low budget horror. Even bad horror has an audience. But bad romantic comedies don’t have a life at all unless they’ve got celebrities in them, which ours doesn’t. We’re not even totally sure that Dead Cat fits in the romcom genre. For us it’s a film about relationships with some sugar around it to make it easier to swallow. I ran a marathon this weekend and Stef has run a marathon too, and in a way it’s like working on a low budget film. It doesn’t matter if the progress is slow as long as you keep moving. It took us four years from start to finish to get to the end of this film and a huge part of that I think is just to keep on going.
Stefan: You really have to hold onto that initial idea that you had of making the film in the first place and to hold onto that for four years can be quite challenging.
JF: To me, Dead Cat seemed like a mix between a Richard Curtis romcom and The Inbetweeners. What were your influences for the film?
Stefan: Well, Richard Curtis must have been an influence when writing the film. You know, whatever you may think of Richard Curtis films, they do have great writing.
Sam: We actually started working on this before The Inbetweeners. I think what we wanted, which maybe The Inbetweeners wanted, was four friends who were relatable and who you could get involved in.
Stefan: We wanted it to have a no holds barred effect. No subject was off limits.
Sam: Which I guess is like the Kevin Smith thing. We’ve always talked about Clerks and how it was made very cheaply and how we could make a similar idea of ‘let’s just see what we can get and then we’ll shoot it’. I love the dialogue in Clerks. I think if you read it as a script it is just great.
JF: A lot of low-budget films have problems with sound. This is a very dialogue driven script, which makes it even harder. How was the mix of dialogue, background noise and music achieved to create a consistent sound for the film?
Sam: When you are running around and shooting really quickly certain things get lost and on our shoot unfortunately it was sound. So when we finished the film, we watched it back and it was difficult to follow the dialogue and when that happens you get an issue with laughs. So we started working out how we were going to get through it in post-production.
Mark: When I first saw the film, I just really liked it and I didn’t think about the sound problems. It was because we liked it that we were like “yeah, alright whatever the sound problems may be, we like the film”. We had to rerecord about half of it, so we got all the actors in. We were extremely wary to preserve all this carefully planned and scripted banter, which is the last thing you want to rerecord. There were all the technical issues you could imagine with overlapping and noise, so we just got actors in individually and it took a long time. We took as much time as we needed and everyone did astoundingly well. Most people who see it don’t even realise its dubbed.
Stefan: I think it is a credit to the film that when you watch it, it is still the banter that is very much a big part of the film’s success.
JF: Tell me a little about the casting process.
Sam: Well, I actually wanted someone else to play Sam. I thought that up until a couple of days before we started shooting.
Stefan: I always knew it would be Sam. I think he was frightened because of the workload. Obviously he was very attached to the material and being in the film meant that he had to look at it from an actors point of view which was difficult. But I managed to convince him to do it. It was a good challenge for him and I think it paid off.
Sam: But Kristen was tricky because Seb is a strong man actor, there is very little weakness in Seb and Michael is quite a weak part. We didn’t write Kristen for an actress so we had to audition. In all the auditions Seb would work the actress round his finger, they’d end up playing to him as opposed to going “No that’s not good enough”. Sophia had actually been at drama school with all of us, and I hadn’t seen her in about 10 years. She came in and just blew it away. She was strong, powerful and able to not let Seb dominate the scene. Like there’s bits where Sophia really easily just says “no no that’s not good enough” and she doesn’t need to shout or scream, instead she just does it with a look. Once we saw those scenes we knew it had to be her.
JF: Is Dead Cat going to be shown anywhere else soon?
Sam: We just finished last night with the British Independent Film Festival and now we’re going to take a break for a bit.
Stefan: We have sent the film off to another 15 festivals so hopefully in the next 6 to 8 months it will be picked up by a couple of those which would be really lovely.
JF: Sam, Stefan and Mark thanks for talking to Britflicks.
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