❉ We talk to Will about his feature debut, working with Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll and other projects.
Will Jewell is the Brighton-based writer and director of brilliant new feature film Concrete Plans. Set in the Welsh countryside a group of builders find themselves working in an isolated farm for a young aristocrat. When the aristocrat can’t pay them, things turn bloody. I talked to Will about the film, his past and future projects and working with Paul Hartnoll of Orbital.
I first asked Will about the gestation of the new film and if it was Will’s first feature. “Well I did a documentary feature about 10 years ago about the Brighton hip hop scene (called South Coast). The current film took about 7 years from beginning to end which is ridiculous when I actually think about it. Ages ago I’d written a short film around the portacabin scene. The low budget filmmaking thing of not too many characters, isolated locations. I had this idea around people playing poker and there’s blood on the floor – something had happened, but you don’t quite know what. I’d written it as a short film. It sat on the shelf. Then me and my producer (Rob Alexander) who is from Wales…well we were just sharing a little office in Brighton that was full of filmmakers. I took that short and imagined how the characters had got there, what had happened after etc …grew it out from there! I gave him a 5-page idea. It was then a long journey. About 6 years. ”
I told Will I thought the isolated locations in Wales worked brilliantly. “It was perfect for it. I always thought well it just needs to be somewhere stuck on a mountain remote. I’d originally thought it would be set in Dartmoor. Rob had done the Gary Numan feature Android In La La Land and The Man Whose Mind Exploded so two features and he thought let’s put something to Film Wales. We went to Wales and when I saw the scale of the mountains I went wow. It was a kind of happy marriage. Our last scene in that portacabin though I think that was the biggest cheer of the whole shoot. You’re trying to get a crew and cast in this tiny space and it stunk in there by the end of it.”
Was the class divide thing between the corrupt aristocratic Simon and the builders always a theme? “Funnily enough I was watching Black Stuff on the Play for Today repeats on BBC 4 the other night and I thought I must have seen that when I was a teenager I realised there were so many trace elements of that in there. I didn’t want the film to be “Oh let’s have a thriller and people go off on one” without there being a good reason for it. I’ve always liked social realism and Ken Loach. The class thing was in there from the off really. I’d also worked on building sites as a teenager and there’s a hierarchy. I realised also there’s a lot of sort of western tropes in there. It was very much these kinds of weathered guys out in the rugged land, facing injustice and fighting back for what’s theirs. We shot it in only 15 days so maybe that doesn’t come through as much.”
I asked about the brilliant cast assembled for Concrete Plans. “Well there are a lot of Brighton connections. Jimmy (James Lance) I’d worked on a short called Killjoy and then on Man In Fear. I’d always had him in mind for the Richard character. Steve Speirs who’s Welsh, he lived in Brighton for 18 years and Charley Palmer Rothwell (Patsy Palmer’s son) grew up in Brighton. I was so happy with our cast. An ensemble’s tricky but it gelled. Goran who plays Viktor is a lovely guy, he was in Last Panthers. David Thomas is the vicar in Gavin and Stacey and was in Twin Towns. I was lucky to get this cast.”
Will’s previous work had included This Time Next Year (Holly Dempsey’s first major role) and the short film Man in Fear starring Luke Treadaway and Tim Healy. I asked about upcoming projects. “Man in Fear was meant as a taster for a feature. We needed to do something first so now after this feature that’s next up. I’ve also written a feature idea which is about doping and enhancement in athletics.”
I asked Will about his background. “I started in Leeds as a town planner. I used to play in bands a lot and I was never the worlds greatest musician. A lot of the lyrics I turned into short stories and I started writing scripts. I’ve written for Huffington Post I did some comedy stuff for them. Doctors on TV – bits of Horrible Histories and then the feature documentary South Coast about 10 years ago. That had a weird journey of being very underground and niche and then being kind of embraced by the establishment. It screened at Glastonbury and did well at a lot of film festivals. The Daily Telegraph picked it up as their film of the year and then the Barbican did a special screening”
What was working with Paul Hartnoll of Orbital on the Concrete Plans soundtrack like? “He was great. He’s from Brighton and we had a mutual friend who’d said he’d been working on Peaky Blinders and doing soundtrack stuff. Working with him was very rewarding actually. A bit full on because he was going on tour and he was trying to score a film that we were still editing so that was a little bit stressful. I could communicate with Paul regarding the music (with me being in a succession of rubbish bands). Paul is very filmic as well: “Have you seen this film …have you heard this track?” It was a meeting of minds really. He’s going to be releasing the soundtrack. One interesting thing that happened was we had a first test screening of the film and there were pacing issues, so we edited montages. The first one we called the “simmering montage” and the next one is the “boiling montage” before it all kicks off. Paul could musically interpret that, so we had things like synth loops rising like a boiling pan. At one point Paul was tuning concrete mixers!”
Concrete Plans is out now on all digital formats.
❉ Signature Entertainment Presents ‘Concrete Plans’ available on all digital platforms from 23 November 2020.
❉ James Collingwood lives in West Yorkshire and currently contributes to the Bradford Review where he has interviewed Kay Mellor, George Layton, Tim Booth and Jeremy Dyson among many others. HisTwitter is @JamesCollingwo1