Neilson Black began writing New You in 2008, it was the third full length script he wrote. Originally the idea was about an obese woman with an eating disorder, developing from obesity, to bulimia and then full on anorexia. So the original story was about the cycle of the illness. Janine becoming a model was in the original draft as were a lot of the original characters such as Darcy, Taylor, Greg, Photographer and Chances. But a lot of elements had to be cut such as the obese theme partly due to budget reasons.
The title never changed, ‘New You’ withstood the test of time, ten years. The premise has always been the same as well: a person wanting to change their life for something new. When the film was at its development stage, a few things did alter and the script needed refining. Just before pre-production there were too many things going on in the script and a direction needed to be chosen. It was either going to be the eating disorder route or the fashion route, Neilson chose fashion and the eating disorder theme became a side-note to the draft which became the shooting script. Plus, out of all the scripts Neilson has written, New You went through the most drafts, approximately fifteen.
What physically put New You into action was the inspiration of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2016 movie, The Neon Demon. Coming off the back of Neilson’s previous featurette (medium length) film Paradis which was made for around £6000, the seed was planted – a micro budget feature film could be made for £20,000. All that was needed was a script which could fit within that amount of money. The Neon Demon was responsible for Neilson looking into his script locker, dusting off the New You cobwebs and removing it from the shelf. Both films share the same backdrops of modelling/fashion world and the project didn’t look back since.
Of all the different directions, twists and turns New You has gone through up to its finished form, it became a film about the pursuit of a new life, set in the fashion world where the protagonists dream and obsession is to be famous through modelling.
From start to finish, production took one and a half years: beginning winter 2016 and ending spring 2018. Neilson’s previous project, featurette/short film Paradis was to be his last short film, at lease for a while. It did the screening and festival run, showing at approximately fifteen uk screenings and six international festivals, winning one award for Best Film. Paradis was by far Neilson and Pattern Maker Films highest accolade to date. After six short films it was time to go for the long form, which was to be New You.
Regarding the crew, Neilson worked again with Satinder Gill, the DOP on Paradis as well as Noela Salvatierra taking on Production Management duties once more (to be Noela and Neilson’s fourth time working together). Charlie McConville (another Paradis avatar) returned to handle the Sound Design. Neilson met Enzo Onorato (Colourist) and Zsani Nyerky (Script Supervisor) on a short film Neilson 1st Assistant Directed and brought them to New You. This was to be Neilson’s first time working with a professional colourist. Other than that the entire team was new blood which was exactly what Neilson wanted: a new team, new experiments.
The casting process was enjoyable one. Most of the cast were sourced from the effective platform Casting Call Pro. It is where Neilson found and auditioned Veronica Osimani, who went on to play the lead role. Veronica was a golden find for Janine: she looked like the character, delivery and range was spot on, they even shared similar experiences in the real life, they were literally a perfect match. On set Veronica is the type of performer that makes the directors job easier with her performing ability – any directors dream.
Casting Janine’s opposite was crucial, and after a few hiccups and hurdles, Neilson worked again with Lily Catalifo to play Taylor. Lily played a minor role in Paradis, but was out front in a main part in New You. She smashed the auditioned solidifying an ideal casting for Taylor. Originally Taylor was meant to be blonde, but that happily changed when Lily came on board, she had the attitude (but more important) the vulnerability which was vital to Taylor’s character. It was a fantastic experience to see how much Lily grew in New You to what she did in her minor role in Paradis.
This was the biggest cast (main, supporting and extras) Neilson worked with on a project, so it was great collaborating with such amazing talent. A lot of them performing on big jobs to their resume: Benedict Holme, Andre Lecointe, Danielle McDonald, just to name a few. The project was a step up in a lot of ways, growth. But, this film would not have got into or through production without Rachael Head, the 1st Assistant Director. She was Neilson’s God-send in production.
Whilst the script was going through its drafts the budget was still being raised. £20,000 was the target and was achieved. However at the end of shooting the production went over budget and further capital was required to get the project through post production. So the total production budget was closer to £25,000. Being Neilson’s first feature film it was essential to have a Producer on board. He reached out to a lot of professionals but was unsuccessful securing anybody, so, like all his previous films he produced it himself. Neilson is proud he raised all the money and produced a feature film entirely himself which is an achievement on its own.
Because there was a bigger budget than any of Pattern Maker Films previous projects, that meant there was more budget for a decent costume and art department; costume department being the companies first. That department was headed up by Nikita Vyas. Elements like this add to the overall quality of the film where small details make it more professional.
New You was shot on the Canon C100 Mark 2. Satinder and Neilson were deciding between the Canon and the Sony A7s Mark 2. Having shot Paradis on the original Sony A7s with impressive results, the newer A7s 2 (when released) was the first choice with its in-trend 4K image capabilities. But. The Canon is a camcorder (cinema camera) whereas the Sony is photographic camera. Even though the Sony shoots 4K, it was still a DSLR whereas the Canon is an entry level cinema camera. However, the Canon didn’t shoot 4K and that was the dilemma. But overall Satinder and Neilson wanted that cinematic feel, and that lied with the Canon.
There were a lot more locations to source on this project for obvious reasons. Luckily the process was rather smooth. Budget constraints restricted the film from securing certain locations such as Taylor’s mansion and a key prop being her sports car. So in compensation, the idea arose for Taylor to live out of a suitcase, so an Air Bnb was sourced. Unless you know someone who owns a mansion or have the budget to rent one, there is noway around this and the door to door approach is near impossible.
Hiring a second and larger studio for the modelling scenes would have been ideal, much more preferred than the one studio that was used for the entire film. This was probably Neilson’s biggest regret on the production. Yes the results could have been worse, but this factor cheapened the film more than any other aspect on screen. A shame, but does remind it’s a micro budget production and was its only saving grace.
Three more interior house locations were required and Neilson called in favours from his brother and two friends who were a great help. An interior and exterior cafe location was needed. Neilson called in a favour at Em and Lou’s Kitchen (who he knows) in Beckenham to shoot the interior cafe scenes and he sourced Fago cafe in St John’s Wood to shoot the exterior cafe scenes. Fago was chosen because the film is set in St John’s Wood and that is where Janine lives and works. We shot inside Em and Lou’s purely for convenience because when you shoot interior you usually need control of the entire space for sound reasons, and that usually means shutting down the entire business for the day, which can be costly. However Em and Lou were happy to help without charging an enormous hire fee – just a bottle of wine and chocolates!
As just mentioned the film is set in St John’s Wood. This area was chosen for the sole reason of its ‘sunny’ and international feel. The second area was Beckenham due to the fact that was where Neilson grew up; so there was a personal touch to the project and both areas have a middle/upper class feel about it; one North of the river and the other South – a deliberate choice and contrast. A decent amount of exterior scenes were to be shot in these areas, therefore addressing the filming permit situation was a guarantee. But once again budget limited the projects necessities, so we had to shoot these scenes with a ‘skeleton crew’ (maximum five people) to stay within the councils guidelines to shoot for free.
The overall feel of the film is to be upbeat and humorous. Neilson is currently on a comedy-type run exploring the genre with Paradis, Set Point and lightly with Growing Pain. It is a voice and style he seems to coming into his own. So this was New You’s approach from the outset. The look was to be clean and bright colours. The recent La La Land was a definite reference point and a style Neilson thought worked well with New You’s setting, story and production design.
Shooting took thirteen days. A single day to shoot the exterior/stock footage, then seven straight days in July and a final straight five days in September. The schedule had to be broken up due to producing man power; it was virtually impossible to get everything done for one straight shooting schedule. Originally Neilson had the goal to have the film shot by August 2017 (massively ambitious and not 100% believed). The more realistic plan was to shoot half the film in 2017 and the second half in 2018. But unexpectedly everything aligned and the entire film was shot by September. This in itself was an achievement to be proud of and Neilson takes this confidence to his next project.