Casting with a Difference: A Conversation with Jack Spring for Destination: Dewsbury
DESTINATION: DEWSBURY is a daring piece of filmmaking – made on a small budget, with an average crew age of 21 – with irreverent, shockwave comedy that aims to fill the void in the UK comedy mainstream. With a touch of staple English sitcoms, iconic film comedies and a wild imagination, the film is a blend of exciting talent and tone. Director and co-writer Jack Spring sees the film as a “middle-aged version of The Inbetweeners. It’s got real heart and strikes a comedic and emotional chord with a huge spectrum of people; it’s a proper laugh-out-loud comedy that touches the heart”. In the modern age of superhero blockbusters, reboots/remakes and endless sequels, DESTINATION: DEWSBURY is a fresh, bold comedy that harks back to the timelessness of a good laugh at the cinema!
With a relatable ensemble and a wild adventure that they embark on, you’ll be hard-pressed to forget the journey – which is packed full of laughs but also tugs at the heartstrings at points.
The film will have two sensational premieres to mark its theatrical road trip – the first on Saturday 23rd February in its hometown of Dewsbury (Showcase Cinema Batley), and its UK capital touchdown on the 24th February in London (Prince Charles Cinema). Attending the events will be the film’s main cast, director Jack Spring, and special guests.
Jack is Britain’s youngest feature film director. He dropped out from university after becoming disillusioned with his ‘Film & TV’ course and started Hello Hot Tubs and maxed out his student overdraft getting first hot tub. The company did well so Jack and his team were able to go back to investors a year later, eventually raising the money 18 months after starting. Jack made the movie aged 19 at a budget of £150k. His next one is being made at the end of the year, at a budget of £750k. And he has a seven-figure budget film in development with a major studio. Jack is a rising star, of that there is no doubt, and more information can be sent across with a truckload of more unbelievable stories.
In our interview, Jack tells The Fan Carpet‘s Marc Jason Ali about making the film, why he chose to make DESTINATION: DEWSBURY, his plans for the future and what impact he thinks Netflix has on Cinema…
What was it about Destination: Dewsbury that made you want to get involved?
It was my kind of project from the start really, it’s my baby. I dropped out of university, did a year at York and didn’t like it, wanted to go and make a feature film. So I dropped out, kind of worked out, basically due to the government tax breaks that £150,000 budget was tax supported so we raised that money, and yeah we started developing a script, the sort of script that if I saw the trailer for the film I’d go and see it, so a kind of Inbetweenersy rude crude schoolboy comedy that I love that hasn’t sort of been done since The Inbetweeners, so tried to replicate something along that lines, like (with?) middle-aged men, I’d go out drinking with my dads and his mates every year in Grimsby and I just found them hilarious (because?) they’d laugh at the same stupid sort of jokes as I would.
So yeah I just kind of cobbled together lots of little bits and ideas together and we worked on a script for a year while I went away and raised the money, so yeah it was kind of a natural process it wasn’t a case of a script landed on my desk and said “yeah let’s do it” so we put together a film that really was kind of ours I guess.
Okay great. You mentioned there that this was inspired by in part by The Inbetweeners and hadn’t seen something quite like it, so what was the initial impetuous of the actual story?
In terms of actual story, you know, it’s not a kind of groundbreaking story really, it’s four middle aged blokes go on a road trip across the UK to go and see their dying friend one last time. So the reason we wanted to do the kind of road trip movie is because I get very bored at films that are slow,
A road trip movie because by the nature you’re going from location to location, it doesn’t really ponder around much. And then I thought I love The Inbetweeners, Four Lions and Borat are three of my favourite comedies, all of them lack some heart somewhat, like The Inbetweeners Movie in Australia dying by a car you don’t really give a fuck. It’s like… I wanted to do something that was really funny but also had a deep kind of meaning to it, yeah we brought in the whole the mates dying, will they get there on time?, and kind of them all going through their midlife crisis and then kind of dealing with that together, yeah.
Great. Is the comedy genre where you’d like to stay or do you have ambitions to do as many genres as you can?
For now comedy, I think it’s always hard to predict too much in the future, you know, never say never but, you know, I’m only 22, I don’t know much else in terms of like what I’ve been through in my life, haven’t been to war, I haven’t fell in love, lost family members but I know what makes me laugh and I kind of comfortable with that and if it makes me laugh then, you know, you might, it if makes me laugh, you know, me being a 22 year old male and your something similar then your probably going to find it funny as well.
I’m the target audience if you like. So yeah, the next one I’m doing in June which has got quite a bit bigger budget is called Three Day Millionaires it’s a bit more of a drama it’s about trawler-men in Grimsby who come back to land for three days and go on an almighty bender and then run out of money and it all kicks off, but that’s cool.
Alright. Obviously casting is very important for a film like this, what was it about the central friends that said to you “yes these are the perfect people for the roles”?
Yeah it’s a pretty mad story, the way that I cast is very different I think, directors are really lazy in the way that they cast, especially on low budget stuff, you’re not dealing with stars, like for the next one we’ve got BAFTA winners on board and working with big British actors and a different kind of process that I’m not as comfortable with, because you don’t actually get to meet them before offering it to them.
But with this one we made requests on Spotlight and then there was 4 or 5 hundred responses for the main roles and then there were 4 or 5 that I thought were real and still amused by the end of the tape and I did an immense amount of internet stalking on all of the guys I thought could to play the roles, and then two or three I met them in the Wetherspoons outside Victoria Station. By that point I’d done some what I call script analysis, where I work out the characters spines, give them a reason to get up in the morning to make as much money as possible or to impress your dad, win an Oscar whatever, everyone has one. And so I’d work out for each character what their spine was and then I cast the actor who I felt was a real person and had the closest spine as possible.
Then we went on a camping weekend and one of the characters Gaz who spine is for example to care for the around him, the four guys I thought are kind of pencilled in and told them there where pencilled in and said “we’re going on this camping weekend” and by the time we woke up the next day, all hungover, Gaz had made us all breakfast and coffee and I thought “alright yeah I’ve got his spine right, he cares about the people around him”. So yeah it kind of went through that process with all of them and yeah got my lads and then we lived together for two weeks during rehearsals and I think it’s important if you’re playing mates on screen, particularly mates that have been mates for a long time, that they are mates, and yeah we had an incredible couple of weeks up in Dewsbury living there while we rehearsed and then shot it.
Great. So it ended up becoming quite a family atmosphere then making the film?
Yeah absolutely it kind of had to be, the average age of the crew was 22 and people where being paid like 100 quid a week just because we all decided to put all of our money on screen, it doesn’t look like a £150,000 film, we kind of sacrificed our personal wages to make the film the way we wanted to, putting money to departments to make it look as good and sound as good as possible and, you know, we where eating pot noodles and sleeping on air beds quite a bit it was fun. First World problems eh?
(laughs) Yeah, but it sounds like a good time though.
Yeah really stressful, it was a horrible shoot (laughs) it was working 14 hour days, eating nothing, you know, a lot of kids scrambling a film together, and I look back at it and I was chatting to the guys at the weekend, people who came on as extras their telling my little stories from set and when they’re telling the stories from set I remember it, but I just look back at it as one big kind of blur, it all happened so quick on an adrenaline high, you’re not really sleeping very well because you’re thinking “oh what’s going on the next day”. Yeah it was nuts, yeah it really was, it’s really hard especially because we shot it two years ago, so yeah. It’s hard to look back but looking back the amount we learned, we did a lot right, we did a lot wrong, everyone’s gone on to do really cool stuff, so yeah just really happy for them.
Great. So do you have any moments that kind of stick out for you when making it or not really?
Yeah there are. We did one scene…..have you seen the film?
Yeah it was funny.
Yeah so the toilet scene where he drops his phone down the bog, we shot that in a primary school car park in a portaloo and like just the way that Matt played it it just made me…..the amount of times I had to bite me knuckles so I wouldn’t laugh I made myself bleed I biting so hard, so I tried not to ruin a take and like give it like….yeah that was hilarious. There was three or four bits where Matt Sheahan who played Peter the teacher he would just do stupid shit, because we had two weeks rehearsal, the second week the guys had a lot room to kind of play and, you know, came up with all these little sketches, like the whole “black baby” stuff wasn’t in the script, the whole where he’s holding Anna at the start and falls over in the class room that’s not scripted. It’s all…he was kind of like (can’t make out) these little sketches they came up with where just hilarious.
Okay. So a lot of room for improv?
Yes and no. I guess comedically yes but all the improv kind of happens in rehearsal so that by the time we get on set we’ve kind of made our decisions and, you know, you feel that as the director you have three or four little back up (can’t make out) going wrong. But yeah we where so comfortable coming on to set because we had two weeks rehearsal and as I said to you that’s almost unheard of really (on that budget?) that and £100,000 in the next film so I can (can’t make out) with these actors, producers are not happy be a diva and stamp my feet about.
Okay. So obviously Netflix and streaming services like that have taken the world by storm, what do you think the future of cinema is?
Good question, I think it’s a million dollar question or the ten billion dollar question (laughs). I don’t know, it’s not going anywhere is it?, you know, it’s a…..I look at radio as a kind of……radio shouldn’t exist anymore because of the technology that we have and the options that we have, but people listen to it because it’s a medium people enjoy, you know. And watching a film on cinema rather than a laptop is different, you can hear it properly you can see stuff you wouldn’t see otherwise, it’s just nice to immerse yourself, you pick up your phone and you don’t’ like, your just there with a big screen and all your senses are being ticked where as if you’re listening to something on your laptop, it’s not the same. It’s good, it’s great and I love it because it means film-makers like myself or someone in Australia can watch my film, whereas if you have a theatrical release it’s not online anywhere or on DVD or whatever, you know, people wouldn’t see it, and even inevitably in a weeks time it’ll be on Pirate Bay and people can see it, as a film-maker it’s like you want as many people to see your films as possible and it’s internet in general has helped that very much generally. It means there’s lots more competition, you know, people….there’s lots of people that are now making films and putting them online, you can watch them for free and they won’t pay to watch your film and that’s alright and that’s what comes with it, you know. Yeah “I don’t know” is the answer (laughs) but yeah it’s a medium that won’t go anywhere.
No it’s true it won’t, there always be some sort of cinema experience always.
Absolutely, but it’s just so different from any other…….the argument should really be is TV against Netflix, scheduled TV, who now actually sits down and plans a day around the television schedule, you don’t you watch it on iPlayer or Netflix or whatever, because they’re essentially the same medium, you’re watching stuff on similar size screens, you can now watch Netflix on your TV probably vice versa.
Yeah they’re the ones that are competing against each other really I think, cinema people if you want to go watch a film you ain’t going to wait six months for it to come out on Netflix, you’re going to go watch it in the cinema if you really want to watch it, whereas if it’s on 9 o’clock BBC One and then on Netflix because they all get released pretty much the same time, just watch it on Netflix.
Yeah absolutely. With the film do you see a follow-up to it or would you like to make more in this universe?
It’s funny, the lads told me at the weekend they’d been writing Destination Dublin (laughs) 70 pages in by all accounts (laughs), I think it would be…..yeah one day, depends how it turns out and how well it does upon release in the kind of unlikely event that it probably blows up, but yeah it might take more of a kind of front runner in my mind of the next two projects, we’ve got a cast attached, we’ve got finance attached and I’m out here until the end of 2020 really.
Yeah, who knows, I’d love to, there great fun to work with but ultimately it comes down to “is there a demand for it?” if Destination Dewsbury doesn’t do very well, why would people go and watch another version of it?. That’s quite a business pessimist isn’t it? Christ. But no, I’d love to to Destination Doncaster as the third one (both laugh) it would be a strange act of the universe created a different kind of process, you know, yeah it’d be fun, I’d love to but I don’t know the answer.
And for you just finally, what are you working on next?
There’s Three Day Millionaire in June, a £1.1 million budget, we’ve got some cool guys attached, BAFTA winners, a couple of the guys from This is England, a load of kind of Skins, Misfitsy really cool kind of ensemble cast and one big Hollywood name, I’m not allowed to say who which is really annoying, but we shoot that in June, a seven week shoot, it’s about trawler men who come back to land for three days and they got three days to smoke all their money, take a load of ecstasy with the girls who work in the fish factory, the lads they go on a massive three day bender and they get the call on Sunday telling them the fishing industry’s fucked? and they ain’t going back to sea so they kind of plan to perform this heist which, yeah, gets interesting.
Cool. Sounds interesting. Well I wish you all the best with everything thanks for your time.
Anything else you need as well, feel free to give us a buzz mate. Thank you very much for your time, thank you very much for your interest really appreciate it.
DESTINATION: DEWSBURY is released in select Showcase Cinemas now. For more information, please head to Showcase Cinemas.
Cast and crew handles: Director @JackSpringFilm; cast @tomgilling75 @mrdanshelton @foreverkeogh and @MattSheahan