Debuting at LOCO Film Festival later this month, ‘Little Big House’ is one of five short films developed and produced through Creative England’s iShorts ‘Funny Girls’ scheme.
Set behind bars, this comedy short follows a group of banged up bad lads as they try to reclaim some precious cargo from a recently deceased inmate. Despite featuring a predominately male cast, this ‘Funny Girls’ short was written by ex-prison worker Cat Jones and produced through Idris Elba’s Green Door pictures.
To find out more about its gestation process and development, we spoke to Producer Fliss Buckles about confined space comedy, the best ways to work with recognized talent and the team’s time on the Funny Girls scheme. Read the full Q&A below…
Your writer Cat Jones has experience working in prisons, as a team why did you feel this setting was right for comedy?
Cat has worked in prisons for a number of years and the reason she was asked to get involved with ‘Prisoners Wives’ was due to this experience. She has worked with some really interesting characters along the way and each time you meet someone new in prison (I've worked in prisons for the last few years as well), you are taken by how keen they are to tell their story and when humans are faced with adversity, this is often accompanied by gallows humour. Young offenders in particular can be very funny, and the black comedy that this allows you to explore makes a prison setting great for comedy. There is a sense of camaraderie that exists to help survive prison and a lot of 'us' and 'them' in the day-to-day banter between prisoners. This seemed like a good place to start, which is where the stand-off between Liam and Turnkey came from.
How did actor Simon Greenall get involved with the project?
When we were casting, Simon's name came up in conversation so we sent the script across and he really liked it. We just about managed to get the schedule to work as he only had a limited window of availability when we were shooting. We're so glad we managed to make it work though as he was brilliant and really brought Turnkey to life.
From your experience, what can emerging filmmakers do to ensure their project gets the attention of recognised talent?
We had quite a bit of interest from recognised talent along the way and it was availability that meant we had to cast the net wider. We had some really positive comments on the script and that's all you can ask for. If that is strong, people will want to be involve if they can be.
Once a star is attached what advice would you offer for working with recognised talent for the first time?
Work closely with their agent - they know them best and be clear but polite (and succinct) with information that needs sharing. Keep them in the loop on only the matters that directly concern them so as not to clutter up their Inbox and potentially irritate them before you even meet them!
Idris Elba is listed as an Executive Producer - How did he get involved with the project?
Cat and Idris have been working together for a number of years on a project they have in development with the BBC. When we were looking for a co-producer for ‘Little Big House’, she had a chat with him and he liked the idea and loved the script when he read it. So Idris's production company Green Door Pictures came onboard and he acted as Executive Producer. The team at Green Door was great, offering sound advice at each step along the way.
What made iShorts ‘Funny Girls’ appealing to your team and what made you want to apply?
A scheme designed for women was immediately attractive and add to that the comedy angle too and it seemed rude not to! Cat had been keen to direct her own short and when this scheme came along, the timing was right and there was the seed of an idea to develop. Given her experiences of working in male prisons, it was important for Cat that she create a representation of that world as authentically as possible. This added a further interesting angle for our pitch, in that the protagonists are predominantly male, yet the writer/director is a woman.
How did the funding and support you received impact the finished short?
We would not have been able to make the short without the amazing support of our mentors at Creative England. Celine Haddad and Peter Parker have both been instrumental in us getting over the finishing line and whilst tough at times, it has been a huge learning curve and an experience that has taught us a great deal at each different stage.
Has being involved with the scheme helped to open doors within the industry?
Yes. We have been able to gain such a wealth of experience from some key members of the production team because they loved the scheme and wanted to offer their support. Our post-production was done by The Farm Group who have been amazingly helpful and overwhelmingly patient with us during quite a grueling post-production phase. It's so reassuring to know that such an established post-house is prepared to support emerging talent – it gives you an incredible boost to be working in the same space as some huge shows and talent. In terms of opening doors for our careers, the showcase has only just happened but we had some useful conversations during the event and we've already been contacted since, so it has definitely helped make some introductions.
What do you have planned for Little Big House throughout 2016?
Well beyond the official premiere at LOCO it will hopefully putting in an appearance at a number of festivals. We really want people to see it, not least because we genuinely believe that putting kids in prison is a really bad idea and if that makes just one person who sees it consider that point of view then it's done its job.
‘Little Big House’ will screen at LOCO Film Festival 2016 on April 26th. Head here to book tickets.
- iShorts Funny Girls