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The making of The Question & Alfie

To BIAFF 2015 results | To Full Making Of Index

At BIAFF 2015:
Jack Spring & Patrick Brouwers won 5-Stars and the Carlin Production Music Award with The Question
Jack Spring won 4-Stars and the Best 60-Second Movie with Alfie

Still from 'The Question'.

Health and safety would have had a field day...

At BIAFF 2014 Jack Spring won 4-Stars and Best Film by someone between 16 and 21 years old, with Doors Opening. That film was part of the triumphant British programme at UNICA 2014 in Slovakia and Jack was there, joining in the Jeunesse Programme where he met and worked with young film makers from other countries, most notably Patrick Brouwers and Thomas Bunink from The Netherlands. He is studying film and television production at the University of York.

Questions about The Question

IAC: Since you are a student I guess the inspiration for the film comes from life?

It's a bit of a strange one really. It's quite well known that the majority of my film ideas I get in the shower (genuinely), but this one was a bit different. We made it as part of the Reed.co.uk 2015 film competition in which the theme had to be 'The Question' so we had a bit of a starting point... We made the most of being students by sneaking into a lecture theatre to film the second half (shh ;). Being students all our money goes on beer so the film had no budget either which is always fun.

IAC: Essentially it is a “twist-in-the-tail” story but you build it into a much more epic event. How carefully was it all planned? It seemed to begin with echoes of the old tv series The Prisoner – do you know that series?

I've seen an episode of The Prisoner and yes you're right! We did quite a bit of planning and knew exactly what we were after. We had a few nice bits of kit (and a wheelchair for the final shot) so knew what we had to play with. The room was very well lit by James Smith so that certainly made everything a whole load easier.

 Still from 'The Question'.IAC: Much depends on your stars and they manage the right blend of determination and short-sighted-carelessness that is perfect for the role. How hard was it to find the right actors? Were there problems? How many takes for the running down the stairs shot?

Hattie, Richard, Stewart and Benji are all actually good friends of mine. I tend to stay well clear of student actors but these guys are good. Working with your mates always makes the shoot easier too as its sometimes a loot easier to communicate ideas to them (apart from Stewart - his Manchester slang is deplorable at best.) I've used them in a few films since and they always do a great job.

The last shot must have taken 15/20 takes. Having Tunbi push Patrick in the wheelchair timed perfectly with them running down the stairs was a challenge. The fight/chase scene up the stairs was actually the hardest shot to get as Richard kept landing awkwardly on top of Hattie and hurting her. Health and safety would have had a field day...

IAC: What sort of brain-storming was done to come up with ideas? Which ones were rejected? Did any “get away” due to problems in the shoot?

I use my trusty 'Team BLM' (Bluelight Media) as a sort of 'writers circle'. So the usual procedure is: I come up with the format and outline of an idea and they fill in the chunks. This one was a bit different. As the theme was already set I let them loose and we all wrote a film. Tunbi's was the best so we went out and made it two days later.

IAC: How big a crew? Where did you find them?

There was a crew of 6 on the shoot. They're all fantastic and I'm very lucky to have them on side. I've managed to pick up on who is best at what they do up in York and have put together a great bunch of people. I like to keep the crew as small as possible so everyone has a big job. Jeremy Hunt who did the score is a real asset too - he's won the Carlin Production Music prize at BIAFF and is a real gem.

IAC: How did you solve the inevitable lighting problems?

The wonderful James Smith. Luckily the lecture hall had a pretty advanced built-in lighting system so we didn't need a whole load of other lights. A few reflectors and a couple of lit shots were all we needed once James had rigged the room.

Still from 'The Question'.
Still from 'The Question'.  Still from 'The Question'.

Questions about  Alfie

IAC: The idea is clever and an appealing reversal of expectations. How long did it take to shoot and edit? What made you think of the interesting transitions?

My ideas come in the shower... This one actually originated from a hungover swim in Malia last year. Paddling up and down the pool whilst looking at the towels on the side made me think of the transitions, but at some point a few months later I came up with the Alfie idea. It's based around a friend of mine Alfie Lanham Brown. I can imagine him writing a letter to his younger self. He actually stars in it funnily enough (the youngest Alfie).

IAC: All film makers love stories of the panics and disasters that happen on most shoots. It makes us feel we are not the only ones the gods hate! Were there any such problems on these shoots?

This one was fairly routine really! One uni room and a track in the corridor. A few lights and the amazing DP Andrew Griffiths did the rest. Patrick Brouwers edited it seamlessly and it all looks very nice.

IAC: And after such great movies, what next?  I see from Facebook that you are working in the industry now. That is great, but will it still be possible to make your own films? (I do hope so.)

Ah thank you... There's plenty more to come. We've shot two shorts in the last month that are being edited at the moment - we've got about 5 in the production pipeline and my first professional film Mr Greaves is being shot in June. We've just been commissioned by a big broadcaster to make a documentary, which makes me the youngest ever person they've commissioned, which is nice. Lots more short films to come and funds have been made available to make a feature. I'm putting that off for a while though, as I want to get better at film making before I spend a lot of someone else's money.

Still from 'Alfie'.
Still from 'Alfie'.
Still from 'Alfie'.

- Jack Spring

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