The Last Job – by Matthew Loudon

From script to screen with two weeks in-between.

The originally “untitled” virgin shorts project came about of need as much as want. Previously having not worked on a short for over a year, and having directed/produced, and often edited, somewhere in the region of 80 commercials since (from tour videos and film trailers, to 60 man shoots for MTV and SKY to name a few) I was extremely keen to refresh myself by working on a short.

I had actually forgotten about the Virgin Competition which “Champions Undiscovered Talent” in the form of a competition for films under 2:20 in length, but I received a reminder e-mail that the deadline was in two weeks. I thought this was an excellent opportunity and I dived on it straight away.

I began brainstorming ideas with a close friend of mine Nathalie Zyntek, who is an excellent writer. We had already been working on a script for a longer short film and a feature, but I was keen to put something she had written on screen as soon as possible.

We came up with the concept of the film relatively quickly after throwing fun ideas around. I have generally found comedy, in one sense or another, conquers all, even within horror films and drama.

So we devised the bare bones of the plot and Nathalie went away wrote the script and we were away.

The benefits of doing commercials is that you get to work with a vast range of talented people and you start pulling together a core team of people who you can depend on, and who deliver excellent results.

The team was assembled pretty rapidly and everyone was keen to help out on the project, for which I will be always grateful.  Clashing timetables and busy schedules aside we looked to be on course. The other reason for doing a short in this format was that I was well aware these talented people were busy so I had to ensure I didn’t push my luck with their kind donation of time and equipment.

Ryan Hopkinson, now a very good friend of mine after working on a few commercial projects together, had recently bought a Canon 5d Mk II, which I had previously seen in action in another BRAG production “The Bath” producing some stunning results.

Ryan kindly came on board the project as 1st AC with his camera. The production value from such a relatively small piece of kit was invaluable to the production, and it handles low light situations amazingly. You get the feeling that the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers and even the Neo-realists would have loved to have had a chance to use this bit of kit.

Finally the last piece of the pre-production puzzle was the actors, the key ingredient to such a dialogue heavy film where time is short, and little physical signals are everything.

Also from “The Bath” I met Gresby Nash, a particularly excellent and convincing actor who I wanted on board for the lead role. Phil Brodie I had met a year before on another short I was working on and his swagger, confidence and screen presence has stayed with me since. I contacted both of them hoping I could catch them between their work on the I.T crowd and Merlin respectively. They read the script and were keen to come on board.

The script itself had been written with a pub in mind. The Fox and Pheasant on the Fulham Road was a bar I frequently visited and had the old school pub landlord aesthetic to it that lends itself to the mood I wanted to create in the film.

Obviously having no money I knew we were very lucky to be able to shoot at the location and from the outset I knew time would be a constant issue, as we had to be finished by 11am for the punters to come in. We couldn’t arrive any earlier then 8am, so the timescale of 3 hours was set.

Preparation was key in order to achieve the best out of the time we had so the few days before the shoot were spent chatting to the actors, finalising accurate shot lists and going through the storyboard on location with the D.O.P David Byrne (over a pint of course).

The day was upon us and everyone pulled out all the stops. The cast and crew were fantastic. My faith in the talent of the crew was well founded and yet again I was amazed at how much quality was brought to a production by casting the right actors, who don’t need to be pushed and pulled through the scenes, but take the roles into themselves and organically make the characters come alive.

I was extremely happy.

After the wrap and a quick pint I dived into the edit room with Nick Jones, a long standing colleague and friend.

We had to deliver the final cut for Music, Audio dub and Grade within 48 hours.

43 hours later I was delighted with the cut. The acting, shots, lighting and atmosphere meshed extremely effectively and the script that was written a week and half ago was alive off of the page.

The post production time on this film was incredible. Steve Browell, recently off Alice in Wonderland kindly said he would help out and his input into the film in terms of audio deepens the texture no end, this guy is the best. Noel O’Reilly came on board to score the film, and added his own unique brand of fun to the music, which helped to emphasise the denouement of the film.

By Friday, two weeks after the script had been written, the finished film was uploaded to the Virgin Site, just in time for the deadline (which was then pushed back a day…..go figure).

The film will be going to other festivals, and as you can imagine was a very enlightening, rewarding and overall excellent project to work on.

Please have a look at the film and enjoy. click here to watch the film


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