Set Point Pre Production

As with most projects, they tend to be in development well in advance its production, even productions prior to that. This was the case with this project, it was already in development before shooting Hurdles. It was mostly in the mind with a few basic ideas written down on paper.

I knew who I wanted to play the lead and had been talking to her about the idea which she seemed like she agreed. But closer to the production I didn’t hear from her, so… The idea for this film came from my friend and investor Bronwen Jones. She always had this idea of a person being some sort of detective in her spare time, I liked it and developed it. I gave Bronwen my word that I’d shoot this film after Hurdles and I stayed true to that. So Set Point had been in development for about a year before it was shot in March 2014.

Development within the script changed a lot throughout its drafting. Firstly the plot started out about a pretend spy targeting a person for a reason I couldn’t figure out. And then it developed into two people meeting a putting on a persona to get what they want from each other. And then it developed into a lady using her killer insticnt to target rich men and take all their money. This idea about the money theme was quite well received, but was developed further to a plot which stuck. The detective was out to get something from somebody, revenge, the film is a revenge story.

Title’s for the film changed along the way with each draft. It started out with ‘Stroking Quietly’. That was the first working title and the title which stuck for a while. It was supposed to mean somebody always stroking the surface of their intentions, as a detective/spy does, and quietly because the character was pretending to be somebody else. I was proud of that title,  but it was bound to develop as the script does. Then it was called ‘Rough Stroke’ which I was very proud of and had good feed back on. It was still touching on the stroking the surface element,  but because the story had developed into a revenge story, the title manifested ‘rough’ because the act was harsh but still soft on the surface. By this draft a whole tennis theme had been brought into the story because the characters were going to meet at their local tennis club and in turn tied into the title. A tennis player could play a rough stroke, so the title had three legs. But then right before the final draft the film found its title ‘Set Point’. It made the most sense because it played into the tennis theme and the actions after the characters meet. It is the most fairest title to the story out of all of them.

I wanted this film to be something I hadn’t done with regards to its genre, a thriller. I felt it worked well the spy theme. Growing Pain was a comedy/drama, Hurdles was an action/drama. Set Point was originally going to be a drama/thriller, but I was getting bored of pushing out drama’s so I changed that theme to a comedy. It was more of a challenge because for me it is easier to write drama than a comedy, so I wanted to stretch myself. And it isn’t easy to write good comedies. In some drafts, the jokes seemed forced and over the top, so the they had to be reworked a number of times. But with close scrutiny from my script editors the comedy became more polished and plausible and the result was a hundred times better. I can say from the script process of Set Point alone, I really learnt the ways and techniques to write good comedy without it trying too hard or becoming exaggerated. Plus from the very first draft my writing style to this film was always quick fire dialogue, inspired totally from the opening scene in the excellent movie ‘The Social Network’. So I was proud of the final draft and the dialogue throughout the entire script had pace the way I wanted it.

Originally I had the idea of the opening scene of this film to be shot in the Kew Gardens neighborhood, because I had been there and fell in love with its affluent yet lovely vegetation destinations. I had the idea for the film itself to be set in Hammersmith, by the river as I had been there a few times and felt an affluent yet rural vibe in that part of London. There was something about West London.  But I wanted to steer away from the Notting Hill areas as I had already shot there with Growing Pain. I was going to be moving down to the South West, and it made sense to choose Richmond because it is one of the most affluent and charming places in South West Greater London. I have friends that live close to there and had been to Richmond a few times. I was a done deal.

There were five locations in total for this film. The tennis club was in Muswell Hill. I had been in contact with two other tennis clubs but chose the one I set out for and that was the Muswell Hill one. It is in a middle class area and that suited the story. The flat I was going to rent a hotel room, but eventually used a friends flat and it looked superb. It was modern and clean looking to suit the characters and story. The coffee shop I had spoken to a place in Richmond, but eventually decided on another place in Richmond because the first place was too close to a main road and would have put the sound guy through hell. The place we went with was on Richmond Green, better for sound and feel. The town center shots was perfect in Richmond for all it’s affluent and middle class backdrops. Then finally the bar scene I made a deal with an up market bar in Beckenham. The place worked for the stylish factor and once again suited the characters and story. All these locations were to suit the premise; a middle class area with upper/middle class people. All the locations were co-operative and done me very fair prices.

Some of my crew members didn’t participate on this project because of fee reasons, so I rounded up another crew once again. It took effort and a lot of CV’s but I got there. Valerio, the DOP on Hurdles was coming back, as was Aine the 1st AD and Kostas the sound designer, who was also going to do the sound on production because Javi, who did that role on Hurdles was on another project. I had a couple of casualties with regards to the make up department, but they were replaced with the talented work from Ashley and Vani who fill those roles. Marcello, Valerio’s friend filled the 1st assistant camera position, my friend Matthew was enthusiastic to be involved in the project and he took over the clapper role. I had a super runner on this film, Andoni and a new editor Yannis coming on board as Goran, the editor on Hurdles was committed to other duties. So I had to stretch myself to find new people and pulled through with that. Plus as my films grow, the quality has to grow and that comes with more departments filled with professional people in those departments. That is the only way to make a better, more professional film by having multiple visions to create my vision, so it was more learning and growing for me.

The lighting and equipment department was a lot better on this film too, and once again contributed heavily to the quality factor. I had budget to rent equipment this time from a professional rental company and we got three excellent lights. Also camera equipment, which was better for the quality of the final picture on the screen. Once again more money for better equipment means a more quality end product, and I feel I succeeded there.

Casting the characters is always the fun part. Also hard work because you have to sort through applications and hold the auditions. My filmmaker friend Amy helped as the casting assistant on the audition day. I already had the role of Marie cast which was to be played by my friend Helen Meadmore as I promised her a part in a project of mine, so that role was hers. So the auditions were for the remaining three characters Amy, Thierry and Kristina. My friend and soon to be long term colleague Faye Sewell was cast for the role of Kristina, but unfortunately she couldn’t do it because she was committed to another project. I love Faye’s work and she was apart of my two previous films Growing Pain and Hurdles. So she had to pass this one. The audition’s were solid, the day was busy and all the performers turned up except for one. My friend Lucy Laing and colleague from Growing Pain applied and I got her in for an audition for the role of Amy. It turned out that she came in second for the role, but after reassessment and development Lucy won the part and very deservedly too because her audition was wicked.

Thierry went to the actor Alexander Devrient. It was between him and another actor, but Alex got it because he had more all roundedness and a killer instinct for that role which the other actor lacked only slightly. So I was pleased with that choice. The role of Kristina went to the superstar Joanna Ignaczewska. She originally applied for Amy, but Kristina had her name all over it. After watching her showreel and looking over her application, it was a non brainer and also an ideal casting for Jo. The character was Russian and in the end Joanna was more suited to that than a British character, just on this occasion. She also ‘looked’ just like Kristina. Extras was another task I had to get right because of the bar and tennis scenes in the film. Luckily I gathered them, but also I had to utilize some of my crew to fill those roles, which you have to do sometimes on a set, and it payed off. Also my friend and script editor Rob Craine helped out as an extra for the bar scene. He is always involved in my projects one way or another, he is a close friend and business friend.

Two rehearsals commenced when I had the cast confirmed. They were very useful for the team to get used to working with each other and the script. Also good for team bonding, as we went for a drink and food afterwards. It is only a short film so the teams time together is limited, so it was nice to work and socialize before the shoot. And for me it was good to work with ‘grown ups’ as my last two films focused on actors playing teenagers, Set Point is focused on actors playing adults in their thirties, so it was a change and challenge for me too.

Budget for the film is always the thing which you have to have in place before pre production even begins, and I had it all there. This is courtesy to all my hard work at my sales day job, so it is money well spent. It came to the same expenditure amount as Hurdles. And once again my investor friend Bronwen Jones was happy to help out a little with finances. A good friend and her help is greatly appreciated.

-NB

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