Interview: Andy Thompson, Director of KILL KEITH

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Kill Keith, due out on DVD March 26th, is a hilarious blend of satire, romance and fantasy, with a smattering of bizarre and gory murders starring everyone's favourite TV celebrities – Joe Pasquale, Russell Grant, Tony Blackburn, and of course, Keith Chegwin. Starburst caught up with the film's director, Andy Thompson to find out more...

Starburst: So, tell us about the initial response you had when you attempted to get such a prestigious cast.

Andy Thompson: Well, the film is very much tongue in cheek, which is one of the hurdles we came across initially. People thought it was a film that revelled in celebrity, whereas we're actually poking fun at celebrity. Some celebrities wouldn't do it because once they read the script it was obvious we were having a bit of a laugh at their expense, but those like Keith, Joe and Tony really got it. They seem to be the kind of people who don't take themselves too seriously and go with the flow and it benefits from that. Quite a few people turned us down. I mean, It would be different if we were Ricky Gervais asking them to appear in Extras, they understand where Ricky's coming from and his popularity makes it credible to take the mickey out of themselves, whereas nobody knew us, and they didn't know where we coming from. I think people had to take more of a leap and a gamble. Some said they would do it, then after reading the script, decided against it - some turned us down flat. In the end, we got enough people on board to be able to make the film work.

Andy Thompson on the set of Kill Keith

SB: Did you have anybody come up to you afterwards and say “Why didn't you ask me?”

AT: We definitely got a few people like that - like Les Dennis - who said exactly that after the première, and he would have been perfect (there is a great gag in the film with Keith attempting to gain entry to the studio without a pass, despite their being a life size standee of him in the foyer. “Look – It's me!” To which the security guard replies “You could be Les Dennis, Bruno Brookes or Bobby Davro”)

SB: How did you come up with the Tony Blackburn gag? (In the film, he is played by Joe Pasquale's son, Joe Tracini).

AT: Well, that's a real Marmite moment! We showed the film to some test audiences, so before we did the edit we wanted to get peoples opinion on where we were going wrong, where it was slow. It was a really useful process, we found there were whole chunks of the film that just weren't working so we re-cut those bits, and even took some out. The Tony/Joe gag was a real divider. Some loved it, and some were just confused. We liked that – it became a bit of a talking point. The truth is that was born out of only being able to get Tony for two days - which was great because all the celebrities gave their time for free - but when we were writing it, we really needed him for about 6 days. So we thought how do we get around this? So we came up with the idea of casting it differently, and getting someone in who looked nothing like Tony. He never quite understood it himself, and when he turned up onset he had learnt all of Tony's lines, which makes perfect sense - why wouldn't he? We had to explain that he wasn't playing Tony – you're playing Tiny Burnblack. We were like “Don't worry about it”.

Tony Blackburn as Tiny Burnblack

SB: Do you have a favourite set piece in the film?

AT: The bits we had the most fun with were the dream sequences – in particular the superhero one – that was great fun to shoot. With those sequences we could really have lots of fun with because they are so out of the box. They're a bit crazy and enabled us to have a bit of fun. One of the funniest sequences to shoot was in the basement – another dream sequence – when Danny (Marc Pickering) is locked in the cage and Keith is doing the pole dance. It was so off the wall, and I think that was our second day shooting. We're at Pinewood, and I'm thinking this is absolutely absurd! There were times when we were just crying with laughter. We had a lot of work to do in the short time and with little money, so it was a real stretch. We shot for about 4 or 5 weeks, but we did have so much fun.

SB: How was your experience directing solo for the first time (Andy's first film was co-directing the 2009 film The Scar Crow)?

AT: Co-directing was harder! It's tough because it’s like running a business, ultimately someone has to say no, and if two people have different visions, then you end up compromising and you’re going to end up with a slightly diluted and confused film. Film making is very much a team medium, but ultimately it's one person's vision. If there are conflicts and differences of opinion, you need one person to be able to say look let's go with this, let's go left instead of right, I enjoyed the process of co-directing, and that was the first film I had directed so I didn't have a comparison, but now having done the film on my own its so much easier. What we ended up doing when I co-directed with Pete (Benson, who is also Kill Keith's co-writer) was we divided up scenes so in the end it was just easier – you direct these scenes, I'll do these, so we didn't really end up co-directing, it ended up 2 peoples films stuck together.

The Scar Crow (2009)

SB: What's your favourite horror film?

AT: You know what; I'm a not huge die hard horror buff. I went to see The Woman In Black last week, and I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed that sort of fun, ghost story. Horror seems to sort of moved into the sort of blood and gore led, and that's fine but that whole idea of just playing with your mind and spooking you - more traditional story telling - to see that again with The Woman In Black was really good, and it was nice to see that has a 12A certificate, because although it was really scary it was for young people. They are protected a little too much from that emotion and it's really part of growing up. But I'm more into the comedy than the horror. Although Kill Keith is sold as a kind of horror film, it's much more than that. It's more of a romantic comedy horror. I think we got a good balance. My next film will be more comedy than horror so still sits in that genre.

SB: Is this ‘Frank In Staines Monster’ film I have read about?

AT: We're in the process of trying to raise some funds for now – we hope to be shooting that film at the end of the year. It's a modern day version of the Frankenstein story – but set in a chip shop in Staines. It’s very much in the same comic lines as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Kill Keith - I love that kind of sense of humour

SB: How do you see the current state of the UK film industry?

AT: I think it's pretty strong at the moment, there's a lot of films being made - maybe not as many as five years ago - but what we're finding is producers are being more inventive and they are making really good films on much tighter budgets. The advent of digital has really made it that much easier to realise their films. The Canon 5D is an amazing camera, and costs a lot less to buy than renting tons of equipment, which is what would normally happen. There's a strong audience out there, the box office numbers are going up. I know DVD is struggling a little, but VOD is increasing enormously – there's still a healthy market, just slightly less money around to make those films

SB: Kill Keith had a very limited release at UK cinemas last November, how did that go?

AT: That was very tough. It was a learning curve for us as producers and film makers. We thought we had it in a certain amount of screens, then at the last minute numbers changed. The competition for those screens is so high because there is so few of them. The studios have huge budgets to spend on marketing and ultimately the cinemas only survive if they put bums on seats. The marketing for that falls to you, not the cinema. As a very low budget film, we just can't compete with the million pound spend of the blockbusters. We had to rely on good PR. Going to limited screens was more about creating a marketing profile for the film. If you're in the cinemas, the media takes the film more seriously. So it was important to get a really good profile for the film, building up towards the DVD release.

SB: Thank you for talking with us, Andy.

Kill Keith hits all good stores (and probably some bad ones too) on March 26th


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