Dan Pringle is a British writer and director whose debut feature film depicts a kebab shop owner driven to vigilantism by the offensive, late-night drinking culture he witnesses. Dan took some time to sit down with STARBURST to discuss acting drunk, fake arms and not eating kebabs.
STARBURST: So, the first question has to be: are you a kebab man and how do you take it?
Dan Pringle: I’m actually a vegetarian now, but whether that’s come from making the film or not I couldn’t say.
Did the writing process involve a lot of on-the-job research then?
Yeah, it did. It was quite eye-opening as a lot of what we saw ultimately ended up in the script, seeing things from the other side of the counter.
There a lot of montage scenes showing the “wildlife” that comes out in our late night, drinking culture. Anyone watching who has ever been out will relate to much of what you show and we wondered how much was written from experience?
Wildlife is a good word ! A lot of the actual footage is real. We went out and stood on the corner of streets with lots of activity and just captured what happened in front of us; punters just doing their thing. A lot of the scripted stuff is from first-hand experience but there was a lot that we couldn’t put in the film as you just wouldn’t believe it goes on.
You tread a fine line with your protagonist, Salah, but really there are no nice characters in K-Shop and no-one seems to learn any lessons.
There was the opportunity to show some redemption with the Steve character who ends up chained in the basement, but I thought it was just too poetic. It made more sense to have him simply regress which was really the more natural way to go. And no, there isn’t a lot of personal development.
The Sweeney Todd reference is clear but there also seems to be a Taxi Driver-like vibe. What were your influences?
You know, I’ve never actually seen Sweeney Todd so I only know the crux of the story, but Taxi Driver is probably my favourite Scorsese film so I naturally drew from that. Similarly, British films like Dead Man’s Shoes. There’s that social injustice tone through it and it could easily have been a taxi driver who endures the same things as Salah does in the kebab shop. I’m not making comparisons between Scorsese’s film and mine at all, but there are similarities. It’s those unspoken of, unsociable hours that these characters populate. I’d like to think Salah has a tad more humanity that Scorsese’s psychopath, but I might be wrong.
What sort of response have you had to the film, as we could imagine some parties taking exception to the portrayal of a night out – it certainly put us off – and equally anyone who watches K-Shop and thinks “that looks great!” shouldn’t actually be going out at all!
It’s been largely positively received given that K-Shop is a damning indictment of that culture. Interestingly some audiences have seen it as being classist; the Radio Times had the opinion that the film was aggressive in its deconstruction of the working classes. The intention was for it to be a playful observation of that life rather than incite a class war. On the whole, most people seem to come away thinking that this is an unpleasant world and one that needs reform in some respect. I wouldn’t want to label anyone who comes out of the film wanting a night out or a kebab, but they’ve kind of missed the point a little.
You don’t make any specific references to the town in K-Shop. Was that an early decision?
We filmed everything in Bournemouth, which is where the film company is based. We wanted to make it fairly non-descript, though, as this is a culture seen in any town or city across the country on a Friday or Saturday night. You’ll experience the same things that we show in Glasgow or Watford or Blackpool.
The effects are incredibly realistic given your budget. Did you have fun deciding what to do?
Jenny Nelson was the special effects artist and she’s worked on things like Holby City so she’s used to this stuff and we came to an understanding of how to do it properly. We didn’t want to just throw everything in and realised that if you just show some fleeting glimpses the whole thing is more effective. Once you’ve shown it once you don’t need to do so again. We were very conscious to show less than more. Also, everyone knows what their arm looks like, so if you concentrate on that and do it properly it has a greater impact.
Your cast play drunk very, very well…
The dynamics of the scenes were set out clearly for each character, but the way in which some unfolded varied. The guys brought their take to things. Playing drunk is actually really difficult; if you watch drunk people they’re just trying to give the impression they’re not drunk so they over-compensate. Everyone smashed it though.
What will we see next from you?
We’re working on a dystopian political thriller in the same vein as Children of Men…
So a reality show then?
In the post-Brexit climate, it’s becoming more of a documentary than a feature film now! Hopefully we start filming in Wales next year. It follows a border guard who realises the immigrants he’s rounding up are being experimented on rather than sent home.
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