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[Interview] – “London’s Finest” Director Discusses Filmmaking Process & His Upcoming Release “The Little Mermaid”

 

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Posted August 28, 2017 by

 
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Director Chris Bouchard’s resume includes some very recognizable titles. His first project was the acclaimed Tolkien adaptation The Hunt for Gollum, which garnered almost 15 million Youtube views. Based on The Lord of the Rings, the short is set in Middle-earth, when the wizard Gandalf the Grey fears that Gollum may reveal information about the One Ring to necromancer Sauron, so Gandalf then sends ranger Aragorn on a quest to find Gollum. Now with critics and fans waiting to see what he does next, his follow up features include London’s Finest which is being released by Gravitas Ventures on August 29 and the live action The Little Mermaid for which he directed alongside Blake Harris starring Shirley MacLaine. Below Bouchard discusses those upcoming projects along with Gollum.

One of your first big breaks came with the Youtube hit The Hunt for Gollum. Did you have any idea that project was going to become such a success when you were making it?

Actually the reception for Gollum really came as a big surprise. I had hoped that, after two years making this film, and after all of us putting our hearts and souls into it, that the online community might give it half a chance and not completely obliterate it for daring to adapt this material. Rings fans are notoriously hard to please, and the net is full of trolls, so I was really apprehensive of what the response was going to be. On the day of release, SCI-FI-LONDON premiered the film simultaneously with the online launch on both Dailymotion and YouTube, and when we came out of the premiere screening, I was sitting with my team in a restaurant, and none of us would dare to check online to see if anybody was actually watching our film. We were all too nervous! Eventually though, one of my producers picked up her phone, and checked the film’s website. Her jaw dropped. In just a couple of hours there had been thousands of messages from viewers, sent in to the film’s website with wonderfully supportive and kind words about the film. Suddenly the rumor was spreading. People had got it. They had somehow connected with the heart of the story and what we’d put our lives on hold for two years for. And within 24 hours we had several million views. The website even went down under the load. Suddenly I had American national radio and some Hollywood types calling me up to talk about it. So the response was quite overwhelming. For me I am just thankful that people responded to the spirit of what we were trying to do, and believed in my vision to adapt this little known part of Tolkien’s mythology.

Do you have a funny behind the scenes story you can share about making The Hunt for Gollum that fans might enjoy?

One of the funny moments on set happened when we were shooting the orc battle scene. At the end of the 4th day in the forest, when I finally called wrap, we had about 16 war-weary orcs in full costume. They had been grumbling a lot about sweating whilst being made to run around the forest and be killed time and time again, take after take… Normally the orcs were quite a good spirited bunch of actors and stage combat experts, but they were getting rebellious and also really getting into the cockney side of their characters. As soon as I confirmed ‘that’s a wrap’, exhausted myself after a grueling shoot, they all turned to me, roaring and charged at full speed screaming ‘GET THE DIRECTOR!’ I didn’t stand a chance. I was bodily lifted above their heads by the biggest one (Gareth, I think) and carried through Epping Forest like some kind of trophy, until I was dumped unceremoniously in a nearby river. Luckily I managed to drag a few in with me for good measure!

How did you become involved with London’s Finest?

London’s Finest began when I was working for Framestore in London on visual effects projects, and they had seen The Hunt for Gollum and were willing to support and help fund a very low budget feature film. I decided to restrict myself to the crime genre, because my film ideas tend to be massive multi-million dollar epics. I had read this rather cheeky drug dealer story by Thorin Seex, and really got immersed in the weird and wacky humor of these unlikely wannabe gangsters. I contact him for permission and pitched the film and we got funding enough to get it produced on a tight guerrilla style budget. I brought in my actor and longtime collaborator from The Hunt for Gollum, Arin Alldridge who also acts in the film, and then suddenly we were away.

What was one of the biggest obstacles you had to overcome when making London’s Finest?

One of the biggest obstacles was making sure the actors or crew, were not mistaken for real drug dealers or criminals. We spent lots of long nights shooting in industrial areas that you’d normally prefer not to hang around in, with the actors and crew sitting in cars to stay warm. We tended to be hanging around at 3am in abandoned industrial areas and we had to check in with the police regularly to reassure them that it was only us and that we really were shooting a film, and not shooting anything or anyone else. It didn’t help that actors would forget to put their guns down when they went outside for a cigarette break between takes, and we had to keep a close eye on them for that!

How long did it take you to shoot London’s Finest?

It took a good few weeks to shoot. We were shooting night shoots for about 3 weeks, I remember on London’s Finest the challenge for me became one of directing the actors and helping them find their way through a lot of fast paced dialog with strong accents. There’s a lot of unusual characters here, and plenty of comic timing that needed to work. I learned a lot about directing actors on that film actually and we put our cast through some tough ordeals, difficult shooting conditions, and some heavy duty sleep deprivation during those night shoots. We’d always do a quick run-through rehearsal of the scene first thing in the morning before the actors went into make-up, and have a bit of fun with it. But after that everything was strictly professional. Some of the funnier moments came out of those ‘on-the-day’ blocking rehearsals that ended up in the final edit.

Do you have a favorite scene from London’s Finest? Can you tell us what it is and why it’s your favorite?

GIRLFRIEND & GUNS SCENE:

The Girlfriend & Guns scene. I love how this scene introduces you to the Welsh Jamaicans and their playful sense of humor, opposite Sirus who is crapping himself about never having used a gun before. The Yardies have a few choice words of advice and comfort for him, but then he gets in more trouble when his girlfriend walks in… It’s quite a playful scene to get to know these characters with. It was one of the first scenes we shot in the film in a typically tiny London flat.

What can you tell us about your upcoming film The Little Mermaid?

Basically, our take on The Little Mermaid story goes back to the original Hans Christian Anderson fairytale. We were asked by the studio how we could re-imagine this story in a different way to the Disney one we all know, but with its own sense of believing in magic, etc… So it became about a mermaid working in a traveling circus in 1930s Mississippi, where everyone thinks she’s a fake. It’s about her own link to the old fairytale from one hundred years before, and the idea that she could even be the mermaid from the old story, cursed to walk the land for a very long time.

This film really has a lot of heart and soul and has been a joy to be part of. As a collaboration between producers, actors and two of us, my main focus was directing the live-action scenes and the visual aesthetic there with my DP Neil Oseman. The film includes some impressive visual effects and a full circus, plus some incredible underwater sequences, with our mermaid Poppy Drayton. Poppy was wondrously cast. She really is a mermaid. She can do some absolutely amazing tricks underwater, and she can hold her breath for an impossibly long time. I do think there’s a really enchanting story here for kids who still believe in magic. And for a few big kids too.

Should fans going into The Little Mermaid expect to see any similarities between this film and the original animated film?

Well, of course I think fans shouldn’t expect this to be at all like Disney’s version. It’s very much it’s own story. But if you’ve ever imagined what might happen if the old fairytale was true and mermaids existed, then this film is well worth checking out. It’s got a really sweet message to it, about freedom and self-belief, and being the person you want to be. It should be released some time towards the end of this year.

What advice would you give to upcoming filmmakers?

The best advice I received, was that when the going gets tough, keep on making films however you can. Even better – keep writing and honing your screenwriting skills. Time spent writing your scripts is never wasted, and doesn’t cost as much as shooting film. The hardest challenge is getting the script right and ready before the shoot, and one that’s often rushed or over-looked. So yes, work on your screen writing craft first. Find good stories to tell. Find something you believe in. And go tell it.

You can watch London’s Finest on Amazon here!

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Interviewed by:

Chris Miller
@Impact24PR
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