Feature: CLEANING UP with the Guerrier Brothers

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Cleaning Up Feature

In 2011 the Guerrier Brothers’ short film Cleaning Up (starring Mark Gatiss and Louise Jameson) won best thriller at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival; it was subsequently awarded the Shortcutz London Film of the Year 2012. Realising that there was potential to do much more with the story the brothers, Simon and Tom, are about to take the next step and explore the world of crowd-funding. In this feature we explain who the Guerrier Brothers are, introduce Cleaning Up and explain how the brothers are taking the next step.

Who are the Guerrier Brothers?

Simon Guerrier (recently interviewed in Starburst #390) created and wrote all 6x1 hour episodes of original series Graceless, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra in July 2012. He's written numerous books, audio plays and comics for Doctor Who, Blake's 7, Being Human, Primeval, Robin Hood, Dark Shadows and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Thomas Guerrier has produced and directed more than a dozen documentaries for BBC Worldwide / 2|entertain as well as a slate of corporate and charity films that include the National Trust, Orchid and University College London. Prior to being a director he worked in special effects on the Batman and Harry Potter films (see his IMDb entry for more details)

As a team the brothers have been making award-winning short films and documentaries together since 2009. Apart from Cleaning Up they have also produced The Plotters which was short-listed in the Virgin Media Shorts awards and played in more than 200 Picturehouse cinemas throughout the world. They released Wizard starring David Warner in March 2013 in which Lisa Greenwood (The Hour) also appears.

What is Cleaning Up?

Cleaning Up is the story of Mr Jackson, a hit-man played by Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, League of Gentlemen, Doctor Who writer) and his landlady Mrs Pellman played by Louise Jameson (Tenko, Doctor Who, EastEnders, Doc Martin). Starburst caught up with Louise Jameson who had this to say about the film:

“When I saw the script I was taken by how exciting it was and the strong story arc for both the characters. My costume was probably the funniest I’ve ever had. Filming had to be rushed because it was such a shoestring budget. When I saw the film after the post-production work it took my breath away. Short films are so hard to do; they’re like the haiku of the film industry. I hope Cleaning Up has the success it deserves.”

The film pairs Louise’s landlady against Mark Gatiss’s sophisticated and debonair hit-man. Despite its brevity the film manages to be in two acts and it is in the second that we get to see Louise’s outrageously flirtatious performance against Mark’s increasingly clipped and proper business-like exterior.

Louise had this to say on working with Mark:

“We’d always wanted to work together. I remember Mark coming up to once, many years ago, at a Doctor Who convention in LA. Ever since then we’ve always intended to work together and finally it happened.”

There is a Doctor Who connection running through Cleaning Up – the cast also includes Tracy Ann Oberman who appeared in two episodes of Doctor Who and, in a brief cameo role, Nick Briggs who is the voice of the Daleks and also the executive producer of Big Finish.

The Big Finish Connection and funding the next stage.

There is a strong link with Big Finish as Simon Guerrier explained:

“Tom and I have based a lot of our working methods on the way things are done at Big Finish. We try to make things fun when we're recording, and make sure there's a good lunch, while being professional and trying to produce something good. Cleaning Up is a Big Finish film and both films used actors and crew I knew (or pinched) from there. In fact, a couple of actors we got into our films then got jobs in Big Finish plays as a result. We should charge a commission!”

The connection goes even further: the film is now available to buy and download from the Big Finish website in two versions (one with extras). Any money made will go towards funding the development costs for the next step. Simon gave more details:

“We're obviously not expecting to pay for a whole film from selling the short, but we hope to raise the development funds that will get Cleaning Up into production. That would cover research costs, developing the screenplay, budgeting, scheduling, and all the other things involved in raising finance and agreeing sales and distribution. Just having lots of people buy the short will help us build a convincing case for the movie.”

Big Finish are well known for their audio work and also produce some books. Starburst asked Nick Briggs for his view on whether or not this was just an experiment or a possible new avenue for Big Finish in the future:

“Big Finish was originally set up as a film production company in 1996. Jason Haigh-Ellery first of all was able to co-finance, or rather rescue, a Doctor Who themed spin-off about Sontarans, called Shakedown, starring a clutch of Doctor Who actors, including Sophie Aldred. His next plan was to make a straight-to-video release called Phoenix Ryan, written by Paul Cornell, also starring Sophie. See our book, by Simon himself, Bernice Summerfield - the Inside Story for details!”

As Nick went on the explain Big Finish have been involved almost since the beginning, offering some initial seed-funding for the original shooting. In the end money was needed for post-production work which was provided on the strength of the first cut of the film. To quote Nick once more:

“Jason basically took a risk on the Guerrier boys, based on his previous experience of Simon's work for Big Finish. We knew they'd do a good job and we were very pleased with how it turned out. Really nicely polished work!”

Apart from the creative aspects of making Cleaning Up Simon and Tom have also had to become business men in a hurry – something that particularly impressed Louise.

Tom arrived at the final approach to crowd-funding after extensive research. The success of other projects such as The Plotters opened the door to various industry events and the opportunity to meet people also involved in novel funding approaches. As Nick Briggs observes:

“If this works for Cleaning Up, there's a lot of potential for other projects.”

Tom also had this to say:

“Going via Big Finish does make it different from most crowd-funding schemes in that we're not asking for donations; we're selling a short film. What we've done is take the campaign model crowd-funding uses to raise funds as it's a brilliant way of engaging with an audience.

So we get to promote the short film, the feature and Big Finish dipping its toe into film production. Each of those three things should hopefully generate the interest and development money we need. If it works then there is a lot of potential for Big Finish to pursue other projects in the future. That said Simon and myself are aware that crowd-funding is something that only really works a couple of times. With that in mind we need to ensure this one is a big success.

And finally.

Having seen Cleaning Up we’re keen to follow it on every step of what we hope will be a successful evolution into something bigger and will keep you informed about opportunities to become involved.

In this case it is simple – visit the Big Finish web site for more information, have a look at the trailer and then why not buy a copy of the film for yourself and be part of the process. Don’t spoil the ending though!

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