What were your original intentions for The Feral Generation and how close is the finished film to what you originally intended?
“I started researching the script back in 2005. I basically just wanted to do a love story in an unconventional setting. I came across an article in a British newspaper which talked about how the Home Office had released statistics which showed that there were up to 60 people aged between 16 and 24 in every inner city in the UK living lives similar to those depicted in the film. The press had dubbed this group 'the feral generation'. I knew when I read that article that it was definitely the perfect backdrop - and title - for my unconventional love story.
“So I did some meticulous research, speaking with homeless people and drug addicts as well as people who had been sexually abused and raped. In fact, pretty much all of the experiences spoken about by the characters in the 'interview' sections of the film are very close to the stories told to me by the people I spoke to during my research. When I first wrote the script I envisaged making it along similar lines to my first feature film Teenage Wasteland, ie. self-financed for a few grand and starring unknowns. But of course, the opportunity came to make it at a higher level than that so needless to say the finished film is everything I wanted it to be and much more.”
How did you get two well-known TV actors aboard and how did that benefit the production?
“I'd always been a fan of Brooke Kinsella and Ray Panthaki. I had thought of Brooke for the film when I first finished the script. I had seen her many years earlier in a film by Peter Kosminsky called No Child of Mine. I think she was only about 13 at the time and she played a young girl who was abused and it was an incredible performance. I'd followed her career with interest since then so when I finished writing the character of Nikki I knew there was only one actress who I wanted to play it.
“So I tracked down Brooke's e-mail (through means probably more in keeping with a stalker than a film director!) and e-mailed her, telling her all about the script and the character of Nikki. She got straight back to me and was really enthused and interested in the role. So I sent her a script and she read it straight away and loved it. What I didn't realise at the time was that she was, and still is, a couple with Ray Panthaki in real life. Ray had just come off co-producing Kidulthood which was a gritty urban drama. At the time he'd been reading a shitload of similar scripts, looking for his next project. Brooke passed him The Feral Generation and it was right up his street. So Ray indicated his interest in playing Vincent and I basically bit his hand off, having been a fan of his work for many years.
“I remember when I first met them both in a Covent Garden hotel in London. The minute they walked in I just knew I'd found my leads. Then spending a lot of time with them I noticed a real natural affection between the two of them and realised that with such a genuine chemistry they were gonna make my job a lot easier! It's strange really but from the first time I met them I had no doubts in my mind whatsoever about whether they could carry the film.
“A lot of people knew them from the soap EastEnders but I was more interested in them because of some of their great independent film work and TV dramas. But EastEnders did give them a pretty high profile and with Ray coming on board as a producer on the flick I think their profiles were a big help when it came to raising the budget. I don't think our investor would have been so keen to put so much money in if we had cast two inexperienced unknowns in the lead roles.
“But at the time none of that occurred to me. I cast them because I think they're two of the most underrated actors in Britain and I couldn't picture any other actors as Vincent and Nikki. I now feel very proud that they not only agreed to do the flick but gave such passion and commitment to the roles. If they don't win awards for their performances next year I pledge to run through Swansea city centre wearing nothing but a cheeky smile!”
What did you learn on Teenage Wasteland that you were able to apply to making The Feral Generation?
“I learnt how to be a director making Teenage Wasteland and certainly learnt by my mistakes. I never went to Film School or had any education on how to be a director so that film was my learning curve. I can't really go back and watch Teenage Wasteland now because I'd just be critical, knowing so much more now than I did then. But I think it's important as a film-maker to make mistakes on your first production because you become a better director for it. I think you're in trouble if you make a perfect flick first time out because you don't learn anything. In hindsight Teenage Wasteland allowed me the perfect opportunity to test drive some of the things I did in Feral, such as counterpointing music and trying to present potentially contentious issues in a non-judgemental way. I learnt so much on that first film that by the time it came to directing The Feral Generation I knew exactly what I wanted and how to get it.”
Is the film intended to make a political/social point or is it just an exploration of character and situation?
“I was certainly interested in bringing the lifestyle of the so called 'feral generation' to an audience and giving them a glimpse into a world very unlike their own. But I didn't set out to direct from the top of my soapbox and make an overtly political movie; I'm a film-maker, not a politician. I hate the fact that people like Bono from U2 try to be so political. That guy is a musician, not Jesus; he should know his place and shut the fuck up about saving the world!
“So I'm not trying to be any sort of spokesman for social issues. I just took a socially relevant issue and made it the backdrop for what I felt were two interesting characters. I wanted to do an unconventional love story between two characters that audiences don't usually see as the protagonists in a movie. In Hollywood now their lead characters aren't even allowed to smoke! I think the notion that protagonists in movies have to be totally ‘pure’ to be relatable is bullshit. Every person has their good points and bad points so as a film-maker why not embrace the flaws in your characters? I think audiences are not given enough credit and are sick of seeing these cookie-cutter, mainstream movies where characters are morally black or white. I know I am. I hope every movie I make will have lead characters who are a little fucked up. It's just more interesting to me.”
How has the film been received so far and what are your distribution plans for it?
“The film has only been seen by a test audience consisting of regular filmgoers and at an industry screening but it's been highly praised by all who have seen it so far. What I've actually found interesting is the conflicting perceptions of the lead characters by people of different ages. I've found that people in their twenties, for instance, really care for the characters and seem to even relate to elements of the relationship between Vincent and Nikki. However people in their thirties and forties find the characters pretty scummy and dislikable. I think that says a lot about the different generations and their perception of the world. Either way, it seems to be unanimously acknowledged that the two central performances are brilliant, even by people who found the subject matter depressing as hell!
“Regarding distribution we've had tremendous interest as a result of an industry screening and are currently in talks with a number of distribution companies. I don't want to say too much but I'm really excited about some of the high profile companies we're talking with and we could potentially have some very exciting news about the distribution of the film very soon. What I can say with confidence is that the film will definitely see a modest theatrical release in the UK by the end of the year. Personally I'm pushing for the film to be marketed like one of Richard Curtis' cheesefest love stories. Then an audience going in, expecting a story about some floppy haired posh twat getting the girl in the end, will have the shock of their lives when that rape scene comes along!”
How did you get attached to the remake of The Driller Killer and what are your plans for that film?
“My production company Masterplan Film Productions got together with Ray Panthaki's production company Urban Way Productions and approached the US-based rights holder of the original film, who had actually been interested in doing a remake of it for a couple of years. So we basically combined our plans and are currently just a few formalities away from finalising the financing. Contrary to previous reports on the net we won't actually begin shooting until early 2008.
“There's a real fashion for remaking cult classic horror films now and there is a frustration amongst horror fans because the remakes are usually needless and inferior. In fact I visited a lot of horror film forums to talk with horror fans when the news of the remake spread all over the internet. It was funny because people would start threads and flame the shit out of me for doing it but then when I got involved in the chats people suddenly became a lot nicer about it!
“But no matter how much some horror fans might dislike the idea, I'm still very excited about remaking The Driller Killer. Although the first film had a great concept I think even Abel Ferrara would admit the execution could be a lot better with a bigger budget and name actors. I know we're gonna create a horror film that does what a lot of modern horror films fail to do - which is give an audience characters they actually give a shit about and a story that actually delivers the scares.
“Because we're not shooting The Driller Killer until 2008 I've been offered the chance to shoot another project on a similar six figure budget to The Feral Generation this year. When it came to deciding what that project would be, I realised that I wasn't finished with the characters of Vincent and Nikki just yet. So the script is complete, known actors are attached and a budget is in place for The Beautiful Outsiders, a sequel to The Feral Generation which follows the lives of Vincent and Nikki six years on from the original. Shooting begins later this year.”
interview originally posted 12th June 2007