A Field in England,

Ben Wheatley, Alex Zane & Edith Bowman talk Jameson DISS & the state of the film industry. Ben Wheatley talks A Field in England & updates us on High Rise & casting Tom Hiddleston - In CONVERSATION

Sunday, April 06, 2014 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Ben Wheatley in conversationLast Saturday I went along to the Jameson Empire Done in 60 Seconds Global Final which as expected turned out to be a great evening celebrating the aspiring filmmakers whose 60 second films ran in the competition. The DISS competition culminated with David Smith being crowned the winner at the prestigious Jameson Empire awards the following evening for his incredibly entertaining Done in 60 Seconds version of There Will Be Blood.

Along with some other film type people I was fortunate to chat with some of the the Done in 60 Seconds judging panel specifically Edith Bowman, Alex Zane and the man in black himself - Ben Wheatley.

The chat was lighthearted with lots of laughs being generated by Alex Zane's sharp wit and Ben Wheatley's black & bone dry humour, whilst Edith Bowman kept it grounded and focussed. Ostensibly we chatted about the importance of initiatives like the Jameson Empire Done in 60 Seconds competition, their judging criteria, recent films they have enjoyed as well as the status of the film industry. But I couldn't resist sneaking in a couple of cheeky questions to the notoriously (albeit rightfully so) very reserved* Ben Wheatley about his much anticipated upcoming adaptation of J. G. Ballard's influential novel High Rise. I have met Ben a couple of times and is never too keen to talk specifics or details - so I was really quite chuffed at his frankness when discussing things at the roundtable. *Wheatley actually expands on his reserved approach towards the end of the chat.

Wheatley follows Steven Spielberg who adapted Ballard's Empire of the Sun and David Cronenberg who took on the controversial Crash. With a tale that seems tailor written for Wheatley's style. Things are going to get insane. From the book's synopsis:

The unnerving tale of life in a modern tower block running out of control. Within the concealing walls of an elegant forty-storey tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on 'enemy' floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for technological mayhem...In this classic visionary tale, human society slips into violent reverse as the inhabitants of the high-rise, driven by primal urges, recreate a world ruled by the laws of the jungle.

Film is kind of an art and shouldn't be analysed like that,”
                                                             - Ben Wheatley


High Rise

The unnerving tale of life in a modern tower block running out of control. Within the concealing walls of an elegant forty-storey tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on 'enemy' floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for technological mayhem

...In this classic visionary tale, human society slips into violent reverse as the inhabitants of the high-rise, driven by primal urges, recreate a world ruled by the laws of the jungle.

Ben Wheatley


J.G. Ballard, Amy Jump

Tom Hiddleston

Jameson Empire DISS Finals 2014Jameson Empire Done in Sixty Seconds 2014 Finals
See: DISS 2014 UK Finalists Films See: DISS 2014 UK Finalists films
See: An inspiring talk from Ben WheatleySee: An inspiring talk from Ben Wheatley
A Field in England Premiere - PhotosetA Field in England Premiere A photoset
Sightseers Premiere - PhotosetSightseers Premiere A photoset
Tom Hooper talks Jameson DISSTom Hooper talks Jameson DISS
Why are these kind of initiatives like the Jameson Empire done in 60 seconds competition so important for young and upcoming filmmakers?

Ben Wheatley: I think any kind of exposure for film is good and it's really encouraging to see people putting in the effort to make stuff. I have always been a believer in having to make stuff off your own back it's how I've got anyway - by making short films and putting stuff on the Internet and moving forward from there.

That is what attracted me to participate I have been asked to go on panels and all sorts of things but have never done so because I wouldn't like to be judge my peers but something like this is great it's not judging it's more like encouraging. I think any kind of encouragement we can give to talent is good.

Edith Bowman:  … and having a platform for entrants like this backed by Empire is great. I did this last year and seeing the worldwide appeal that it has with entries coming from so many different parts of the world and seeing the high quality and diversity of film making is exciting.

Alex Zane: I think there is a motivation aspect to it. Look given the option I would quite happily sit under my blanket in my pants eating pizza and watching Game of Thrones everyday but with something like this - people can be cynical about competitions but I think if it motivates someone who wouldn't otherwise pick a camera and think, you know what I'm going to make this. Being motivated by a competition is a great idea.

What in particular are you looking for from the entries?
Alex Zane: Awesomeness! in one word awesomeness! Last year the competition was so strong. Edith and I were here last year and the entries was so great and it is wonderful to see how different areas of the world interpret a movie and then redefine that movie as 60 second film.

I remember a Chilean Spider-Man entry which was just so off the wall and had such a sense of humour that was very specific to the people who made it that we sort of sat here and thought WTF? Did we just see? But it was so wonderful at the same time.

Edith Bowman: They've got a minute to impress you in whatever way that is. For me - it's something that grabs me it whether it be visually or sound or makes me laugh, something that makes a connection in a minute that sometimes isn't easy to do. But there were a lot that did

Alex Zane: What I hope tonight is that someone can make me cry in 60 seconds. I don't cry at anything in real life but put me in a cinema! I laughed a lot last year so today I'm hoping to cry.

Are there any trends or big influences that you noticed in this year's entries?
Edith Bowman: They were a couple of Gravity entries.

Alex Zane: ... as you would hope

Ben Wheatley: The Artist has broken into the global consciousness and that is good

Alex Zane: I think we can agree that 2013 was a phenomenal year for cinema in general so we have this huge mine of great sources to  - I don't want to say parody, because only some entries are parody,  but, what is great is that - some people mine them for laughs, some people have a different take on it  altogether, some people pick up on one thing and turn it into something else - it forces you to tell you a story in 60 seconds.

Edith Bowman: It's really interesting to see what people focus on in 60 seconds whether it be the theme of the film...

Ben Wheatley: . or a moment or if they can compress the whole movie into the 60 seconds which seems to be a very current sub genre - 60 second films which compress whole films I've noticed a lot of that on the net recently.

Ben you broke ground with A Field in England in terms of narrative as well as with distribution - almost a year later on what are your thoughts on simultaneous multiple platform releasing ?
Ben Wheatley: I think it's different horses for different courses it depends on what the film is. If you have enough clout to open up on every screen in Britain then that is probably what you should do.

It is all about how far people have to travel to see a film that is what we found. When we released Down Terrace it got brilliant reviews but it was only on at the ICA. We did alright but I think there is a rule of thumb that people will only walk for 20 minutes or travel for 20 minutes to see a film, beyond that they couldn't be F'ed and that's fair enough.

So that's why people put the Skyfalls on a 1000 screens, so people have an opportunity to see it - but if it's a smaller release like A field in England then a multiple platform release makes a lot of sense. Then you have the momentum of that moment rather than spreading it really thin across months and having a tiny bit of concentrated press at moments

So I was really chuffed with it having that big audience for the free TV launch was great and really helped it.

Was there an entry this year that you think could be a film in its own right?
Ben Wheatley: Gravity, I really hope they make that into a feature film.

With its perfect timing, this quite possibly got the biggest laughs from us, of the whole evening

Edith Bowman: Well it is kind of hard to say as they are all based on feature films - but there are definitely ones that I would like to see more of if they had more time. There are those creative moments when you do  feel it's only a minute and I would love to see more of this

In in all fairness during the judging Edith did return to this point and say that she felt that Ritesh Varma's Modern Times would be interesting to see as a longer film.

How do you think the industry should go about nurturing  these young talents and encourage them to go on to make amazing movies?
Edith Bowman: I don't think you can rely on the industry to do that. As Ben said earlier it is about self-motivation as well, it is about making stuff and getting it out there.

Ben Wheatley: There has never been a mechanism for that really. I think people have to get out there and make stuff. If there is a problem - and the boring convoluted answer is that – it goes back to VHS destroying rep cinemas. You need to have an audience that will go see films, for everyone coming up they need someone to show their stuff to - if there is nurturing that needs to be done - it is there.

How you regrow that audience from scratch I don't know because everyone is used to seeing it for free online now . So now no one will pay for it - so there's no business there.

So you can't crawl up in tiny baby steps through low budget movies that make a little bit of money any more because you are either making The Avengers or you are making nothing at all. That is a problem but I have no answer for it.

Edith Bowman: A really good recent example of keeping at it  - is the Svengali thing. The way they constantly put out his little vignettes of a story, really believing in it and getting people to watch it , that got people talking about it which then got people interested in funding a full feature length version of Svengali. Which is a great story of how the feature film came about.

That is a really good example of just getting on and doing it and not relying on anyone or anything else to give you that foot or leg up it is just doing what you want to do, believing in it and sticking to it.

Not to stray too far from that is there a film that each of you have seen recently that moved or excited you?
Ben Wheatley: Last Tango in Paris which I watched last week.

Alex Zane: Jaws is always good.

Edith Bowman: I was just talking about it last week and I watched it again. It is absolutely heartbreaking, but The Selfish Giant is mind blowing brilliant and not enough people saw it for whatever reason. I think it's a really important film.

Alex Zane: Just to go back to that earlier point - people do see movies in different ways now, like watching them online, and this is something I really believe - they should build more IMAX screens. This is coming from someone who is new to IMAX. I went to see a couple of films in IMAX (one of them being Gravity which Alex expounded on when asked) for the first time and it puzzles me that they aren't more screens like that because the whole idea is that people are absorbing movies in new ways and you can only watch a film for the first time once. Watching on my laptop for the first time, destroys it for me. Cinema is looking for a way to get people say I'm leaving the house for this and I think IMAX is the way.

A long conversation/debate ensues about the merits of 3D film, James Cameron's AvatarClash of the TitansFernGully: The Last Rainforest and Alex Zane crying in the cinema when the Avatar forest flowers open.

Ben you recently announced some big news with the casting of Tom Hiddleston in your adaptation of  J.G. Ballard's High-rise. How did this all come about and what can we expect?
Ben Wheatley: Well there's a book that has many clues in it.

Much laughter ensues, but I guess the subtext is that Wheatley may be aiming to stay very true to the book, or possibly in spirit at the least as he gives it his own original Wheatley flavour.

OK! What took you so long seems as the material seems written for you.

Ben Wheatley: Yeah. Well it has always been a favorite book of mine. It was really random how it kind of happened. You know, sometimes you have to be a bit of a chancer with these things I saw it on my shelf and thought that's good no one has made a film of it I wonder why? I phoned my agent and within three days I was talking to Jeremy Thomas who said - Yeah I've got the rights to it.

And I went oh okay that's cool, and he said yeah. It was that quick really. We looked around to see who would fit the part - Tom Hiddleston. So then we asked him and he said yeah I would love to do that.

He had just made Only Lovers Left Alive with [Jeremy] Thomas as well, so all the planets were very much aligned. Which was great.

I'm hoping it's going to be pretty crazy, the film. It's back to the Ken Russell days if we can.

Edith Bowman: When are you filming

Ben Wheatley: I'm not sure yet it's a little merry dance of regional financing at the moment. We keep looking at the script and thinking I can't quite believe we're getting away with this - but we'll find out.

I was hoping to delve into what level of pressure of expectation, if any Ben felt in his approach to adapting High Rise as J. G. Ballard and particularly the much loved/admired High Rise has a fanatical following, additionally amongst recent Ballard adaptations two were taken on by two giants of cinema Steven Spielberg with Empire of the Sun and David Cronenberg with Crash. As well as if any other casting decisions had been made yet. But we took a different but as interesting route.

Why did you think Tom Hiddleston was perfect for the part?

Ben Wheatley: If you read the book the Robert Laing character is very Hiddlestoney or very Hiddlestonian, I suppose. It's that thing of control, but there's a spark behind Hiddleston of perversity as well. Which he plays full-bore with Loki. There is something about him which is establishment but is also wild,which is what we liked about him a lot.

Part of the joy of the Jameson Done In 60 Seconds competition is seeing which scene entrants choose to turn into a 60 second film. Thinking about your films have there been any deleted scenes like to see  turned into a 60 second film?

Ben Wheatley: Well I of try not to put deleted scenes on the discs because I don't believe in deleted scenes. I always think they are depressing when you watch them on other films. I kind of think - Oh that's what happened with that then or that's really boring. It doesn't really move the story on. There are some, on the Sightseers disc just because they are quite funny and we thought you might like them. But on Kill List and others I have actively fought against it.

Which is a long way around to say I'm not going to answer your question because I try not to talk about any of that side of it - I don't want people knowing how how I approach things, as much as possible. Also we don't give the scripts out so no one has seen our scripts so they can't pick the scripts apart and say ooh they didn't film that bit, or they wrote all that that sh-- and didn't put it in. I wonder why that is?

I'm trying to protect the process as much as anything. Because there should be some mystique in this stuff. Otherwise film becomes a bit like sport and its partly to do with box office sh-- that goes on with people comparing movies and whether they succeeded or not by how much they have made.

Film is kind of an art and shouldn't be analysed like that, as soon as you go here are my workings, this is what I did, this is where I made mistakes people read things into it, like  oh they don't know what they're doing.

For more updates you can follow Ben Wheatley here @mr_wheatley,  Edith Bowman here @edibow, Alex Zane here @alex_zane, Jameson Empire Done in 60 Seconds 2014 Winner David Smith here @daveislink, Empire Magazine here @empiremagazine and Jameson Empire Done in 60 Seconds here #JamesonEmpire60Secs

To watch the 2014 Jameson Empire Done in 60 Seconds entries in all their glory, visit the Jameson YouTube channel: youtube.com/jamesonempirediss


Craig Grobler slow clap
Craig is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also  & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime.  A list of his 133 favourite films can be found hereIf you would still like to contact Craig please use any of the buttons below: 
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