Having your film cherry-picked to premier at a major film festival is understandably a landmark occasion for any upcoming director. However amidst the coffee-fueled late nights and controlled chaos of putting together a debut feature, it can be an easy thing to overlook.
“I’m trying to think where I was,” recalls Guy MyHill, director of oddball dramedy The Goob, a project supported by our very own iFeatures programme. “I can’t remember,” he says finally, pausing for a moment. “Normally with certain pivotal things you know where you were. I know where I was when the Berlin Wall fell but I can’t quite remember the moment when I found out we’d got into Venice,” he laughs before adding some slight guesswork, “I’d have felt good. I’d have felt really chuffed!”
It’s this kind of light-hearted warmth and charm that Guy injects directly into The Goob; a story set in rural Norfolk’s (perhaps undersung) stock-car racing scene during one balmy summer. Here, we meet Goob Taylor (Liam Walpole), an inbetweener who finds himself at odds with his mum’s new local-hero hubby, forging a special relationship with local migrant worker Eva as a welcome distraction. “It’s a coming of age story really,” explains Guy, eager not to give away too much, “it’s a little about stock-car racing and it’s a little about the migrant pickers who come and work the flat lands of Norfolk.” The region and the picturesque landscape it offers become the unofficial star of Guy’s debut, reminding us just what sights rural England has to offer. “I did a documentary for Channel 4 on the local Norfolk stock-car scene so I knew the world of that and it always excited,” remembers Guy. “I knew I wanted to feature that in some narrative so it was just a question of tying those elements together but things like the landscape and the atmosphere around that particular part of the UK were paramount,” he says. “Norfolk’s visually just spectacular.”
With his scene set, all Guy needed next was his cast, all of whom required one important skill. “It’s a really tricky accent to pull off,” reveals the director, “we wanted authentic Norfolk people and to have some fun with it. Hannah Spearritt from S Club 7, she’s a Yarmouth girl so it was great to get her in and a couple of builder mates of mine, they all had that accent.” Of course, the story’s success hung very much on the shoulders of its titular character and finding the Goob was no easy feat. Luckily, newcomer Liam Walpole arrived just in time. “Liam’s just got this extraordinary physicality and quite an ethereal look, so he was just perfect,” enthuses Guy, “in truth, trying to find him it was getting quite close to the wire. We had teams of people out going through all the market towns in the county and then one of the crew just bumped into him and bingo’. We had a list of people but we just knew in our hearts we hadn’t found the right one yet. When we saw Liam there was just this great feeling,” he says.
Liam and Hannah join a cast that boasts Prometheus actor and long time friend of Guy, Sean Harris, Luther’s Sienna Guillory and up-and-comer Marama Corlette, whose CV already includes Guardians of the Galaxy and Maleficent. It’s undeniably an impressive calling card for Guy, one which was supported by our flagship low-budget feature film programme iFeatures, in partnership with the BFI Film Fund, BBC Films and Creative Skillset. “My producer Mike Elliott and I had been trying to get a few things off the ground for a couple of years,” says Guy on hearing about iFeatures, “he knew that one of my ideas, the seeds of it which became The Goob, had a really strong regional component to it and he knew that iFeatures had this regional identity, so it just seemed a good fit.”. As for the process itself, “I had an absolute ball,” he adds, “It’s like the FA Cup, you go in and people get knocked out. Obviously you’re aware that there’s going to be this regular cull but there’s nothing you can do about that, it’s out of your control.
“What was great was that there was a really strong camaraderie between all the teams. You spend a bit of time together in various get togethers so you get to know people and that was just fantastic, I really enjoyed meeting the other filmmakers,” says Guy. “We had great support across the board. From the first bits of scribbled script that was presented to them, to the very end in the edit, in the sound dub – people were encouraging and supportive. It was just a great experience for me and played out in a really warm and friendly atmosphere.”
Looking forward, Guy is reminded once again about The Goob’s Venice Days debut. Is he worried that a film with such a regionally English flavor might not resonate with European audiences? Not really. “Norfolk’s got this sort of flat quality, there’s no where else like it in the UK and I think somehow it translates to a European feel,” he suggests. “People I know from Europe that have seen it have said it’s got a mainland Europe sensibility so I’m hoping that it will translate. I’m looking forward to it,” he says, before quickly grounding himself, “ i’ve never been to Venice before so I’m hoping I have enough time to explore the place. It’s just a wonderful opportunity.”
For more information on iFeatures, iShorts and the film opportunities we currently have available, visit our Film Section.