It’s mid June. Somewhere in Soho, behind a hidden door up five flights of stairs, round a corner and through another three doors, a handful of viewers are faced with the ultimate truth: Everyone is Going to Die. And they’re all smiling about it.
Today, a select few are watching a screening of debut writers/directors Jones’ first feature film, Everyone’s Going to Die. With such a morbid subject in tow, you would think that there would be tears in the crowd- at least a couple of sniffles- but this film is no more a tragedy than Harry Potter is fact. In reality, Everyone’s Going to Die is hilarious. Not your classic slapstick humour, but subtle and modest in all its’ comical genius.
Everyone’s Going to Die, produced by BAFTA winner Kelly Broad (Third Star), stars one of Germany’s highest profile film actresses Nora Tschirner, alongside a screen debut at the age of 52 from British discovery Rob Knighton.
An indie comedy with a romantic twist, it was shot over 19 days in Folkestone, England by first time feature DP Dan Stafford-Clark, for a budget of £65,000.
Screened to audience acclaim at festivals around the world, the film will be released theatrically under ‘Everyone’s Going to Distribute’, in partnership with Shear Entertainment and We Are Tonic.
The film sees a man in his 50s (Ray) returns to his seaside hometown for the first time in years, with a dodgy job to do, a dead brother to visit and old ghosts to confront. There he meets a young, foreign girl (Melanie) having her own crisis. They connect, and despite his murky past and her complicated present, help each other find a way forward.
After viewing Everyone’s Going to Die, After Nyne caught up with writers/directors Jones and discussed what it was like behind the scenes of the wonderfully morbid film.
Having shown Everyone’s Going to Die already at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013, you’ve received great reviews. One names you the “best British film of the festival”. What does it feel like receiving such great reviews before the film has even hit UK cinemas?
Obviously it was really good. We’ve done short form work before but never movies. Somehow we ended up in the South By Southwest Film Festival. From that festival we started getting good reviews and then started being asked to attend more, including Edinburgh, which was really surprising as we had no real expectations for Everyone’s Going to Die. One of the best things about showing a film at a festival is that you finally get the chance to show what you’ve created to people who don’t actually know you. Friends and family are always going to be nice and give constructive feedback, but showing a film to a crowd of strangers is a nerve racking thing, so when they turn round and say they thought the film was good too, it was a great feeling. We knew they weren’t being nice about Everyone’s Going to Die because they had to be.
It’s the first feature film you have ever made and it starred Rob Knighton (Ray), a fresh face to the film industry. What was it like working with someone so new to a life on camera?
Because Rob is new to the industry, he’s so easy to work with. He is just such a cool dude and shows no sense of trying too hard when filming. We did a couple of screen tests with him but he was just so naturally talented that we didn’t want to change or shape his acting too much. When working on set, Rob just ‘is who he is’. We would give him a few details about the there and then of the scene and he would just act his part in the moment; it was very naturalistic.
Many have commented on the brilliance of Nora Tschirner (Melanie). Having worked alongside her, what would you say makes Nora such a notable act?
The thing about making a low budget film is you can’t afford to have anyone who behaves like a ‘star’. Nora is a star in Germany, but she’s also really lovely and cool. In some ways the shoot was like being on holiday with friends. She is funny and laid back and that shows on camera too. In Germany, she’s well known as an actress that an audience can immediately relate to. In Everyone’s Going to Die, there’s an element of that; you want to be friends with her, go have a drink in the pub with her. Her style of acting though is completely different to Rob’s. Nora takes a very intellectual approach to her role, she needs to know everything about the person in the situation in order to feel comfortable. Once she’s got all the information she needs, she’s happy and she’s off.
The film is very witty despite the fact that it’s based on the depressing subject of death. Do you think the black comedy within the film reflects the dark humour of your own personalities?
Yes, that is true. The way we see it is that if you can’t find depressing stuff funny, you’re a bit screwed. We never wanted to make a film that was funny just for funny’s sake. We did want to make a point or two with the film, but to do it in a funny way. You hopefully feel better walking out of Everyone’s Going to Die than you did walking in. Plus, dark humour is quite a British thing. In an odd way, we British like to find things like death and grieving funny, and maybe the film reflects that.
Everyone’s Going to Die has been said to “deserve both mainstream success and a long life as a cherished cult classic.” Does it ever you worry that the film becoming “mainstream” may, in some way, lessen the success it has had as a small screen independent film?
It depends what you mean by “mainstream”. Will this film get any Oscars? No. But you make films to say something and, fundamentally, entertain people. Is it therefore good that Everyone’s Going to Die will be more widely shown? Of course, because our goal from the beginning was to reach as many people as we could. When you’re making a low budget film, the aim is for people to watch it and be unaware of the budget, but if you succeed at that you end up getting judged against Wolf of Wall Street or whatever which is pretty tough company to be in. So in some ways perhaps Everyone’s Going to Die should have worn its ‘low-budgetness’ on it’s sleeve a bit more.
You shot most of Everyone’s Going to Die in Folkestone. How did you come across Folkestone and what about it made you want to film there?
We wanted to find a place that wasn’t British looking and that people would not recognise, perhaps even making them question if it was really England. As for how we came across it, it was a family contact who took us round and introduced us to the place. We learned that various people and organisations there were trying regenerate the town using art projects and creativity. When we said we wanted to film there, people opened up their houses to us and seemed really happy to be involved. Their vibe just fit ours which made the whole experience great.
Does it concern you that the incredible cinematography used in the film may cause viewers to only value the film at surface level rather than appreciating the film as a whole with its story line, characters, underlying message etc?
The film isn’t a rom com but there is a sense of romance to it. It’s about a man and a woman and how their relationship develops, and for that to be captured properly, the film needed a romantic feel and vibe which the cinematography really emphasised. Similarly when there are moments in the film that are quite bizarre, a more heightened cinematic look helps the audience to remember they’re in a film world Nonetheless, it can happen that a piece of work – not only film but in any art – is ‘good looking’, it’s perceived as lacking depth. That seems unfair: appearance and meaning are completely independent from one another and therefore should be appreciated differently. In Everyone’s Going to Die, we wanted it to look a certain way and we also wanted it to mean something. The two feed off each other and relate to each other, rather than being mutually exclusive.
In the production notes, you mention how the fact that you were both turning thirty and wanted more from life almost kick started the making of Everyone’s Going to Die. Would you say this concept of age and time passing has been a big inspiration for your previous works as well as this piece?
Well we were working in media where it was quite hard to express ourselves. TV adverts tend to be quite strict and although there is more freedom with music videos, it’s still hard to really get across too many ideas. Making a feature film, there was this sense of release to say and do whatever we wanted. That’s another good thing about going to film festivals and showing the film – it’s so enjoyable to have people listen to and respond to your ideas, and to talk about them together. So this has been a process of us trying not to let time just pass us by, but to get out there and start to say what we want to say.
With the film hitting UK cinemas on 26 June, how does it feel looking back on the journey of the film making?
It feels like it’s been a long time, but we have enjoyed it so much. It was something we had no expectations for and as we started filming, it was just about creating something. The fact that it has been so well received is just a great bonus. It’s really been the best thing ever.
As your work on Everyone’s Going to Die comes to a close, what concepts do you find attracting your attention now? Any chance we will see these new ideas developing into another feature film?
There are a couple of scripts we have on the table currently. Both are similar but different from Everyone’s Going to Die – one is more about psychology and people’s relationships, whilst the other is a bit less realist. They’re both comedies, so hopefully they’ll find as sympathetic and warm a reception as this film has!