Shaun Robert Smith & Craig Conway | BROKEN

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Broken tells the story of a young woman, Evie, who is on the run from her past. When she takes a job caring for tetraplegic John she realises she must confront her demons, while dealing with a whole new set of problems. We sat down with director Shaun Robert Smith and producer and star Craig Conway to chat about their new film, and how far you need to go as a low budget filmmaker.

STARBURST: Is it true that you guys slept at the house throughout the whole of filming? Was that all part of your “method”?

Shaun Robert Smith: [laughs] That’s what we tell people!

Craig Conway: There was just no budget for hotels really.

Shaun Robert Smith: Actually, it just made sense and I think we would have done it anyway. It was such a great experience. The film is about a carer, and her work for a tetraplegic, and I actually slept in the carer’s bed. It really helped us absorb the atmosphere as this is a very dark, claustrophobic film. And we also had to get up early to get started.

Did all the cast and crew sleep there?

CC: Just us two. Because I was acting in the film, with producing I didn’t have as much time as the other actors to devote time to lines and so on. It gave us chance to talk about the character and how to attack him.

Because your character Dougie is pretty unpleasant.

CC: He’s not the kindest of men to be honest, no.

SRS: He’s loyal.

CC: [laughs] That’s it, he does it all out of loyalty. He’s certainly not a romantic lead by any stretch. The house itself was actually the childhood home of Mel [Raido – John in Broken] which was pretty bizarre.

SRS: We were actually struggling with the location. I’d originally written it to be set in a large manor house but they all wanted £2000 per day which was ridiculous. Mel then said his childhood home was up for sale so we went to see it. One thing that was great for filmmakers was that it had one of the largest landings we’d seen so we could get all the shots we needed as an awful lot happens in those hallways.

CC: We were about a week away from shooting as well when we got the house, so we still had all the prep and design to do. Initially, we spent a day there and suddenly this house, which at the time was all white and beautiful became our canvas.

You didn’t have an estate agent knocking on the door then, wanting to do some viewings?

CC: We did say they could come but they never did.

SRS: It did sell during the time we were there, though.

CC: Perhaps we’ll drop them the DVD off to show what we did to it.

SRS: [laughs] You could do it in character. At the end of filming, it was Craig who had to put the house back together as that was the deal we had. We’d changed it a lot.

Was that within your producer remit?

CC: It actually was! The art department did so much to the house but they only had two days at the end to put it back as it was. So, I was there for days afterward after everyone had gone, just cleaning floors.

SRS: As low budget filmmakers that’s what happens. You’ve really got to put your crew and cast through much more than you would on a Hollywood film for next to nothing. You have to think twice as hard as a producer because you have to make the best film you can from the little money you have. £75,000 was all we had for the production budget.

CC: Shaun made the short film and we then asked for £50,000 to make the film. In the end, we were given £75,000 which we were over the moon with. Basically, by the time we’d planned everything out, and got the crew together we knew we only had 17 days to shoot the film. From the moment we were greenlit through to the end of the film was just a 10-week period. We tested ourselves to really go for it and make it collaborative.

You can often tell when a short film has been made into a feature as it feels stretched. How did you avoid the obvious pitfalls?

SRS: It was an issue but the short had so much crammed into its 20 minutes that making the feature allowed the story time to breathe and the characters to develop. It gives weight to the intensity of the film.

CC: Usually when you read the script for a short, you get the sense the writer has tried to do too much. Shorts are a different thing altogether and there’s a skill and a craft to making one. With Shaun’s there was a bloody good story first off, but there were also the beats that would lend themselves to a feature if allowed the time to develop. You have to allow the characters and the dialogue to live and then capture it. For some people, Broken might be too slow, but that’s part of the story.

Finally, Craig, is it true you were a crawler in The Descent called Scar? And which one was Scar?

CC: It’s true – I’m the one who gets a torch in the mouth at the end! When Neil [Marshall – director of The Descent] asked me to do the film, he also asked me to choreograph a lot so as a thank you I got named. No-one would ever know who I was, but it was a nice touch.

Broken is available on VOD now.

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