With Taking Stock I wanted to make a film with a playful, fun, comedic tone that people could relate too. I started writing the film during the recession and financial worries were on a lot of people’s minds, they still are in this austerity/Brexit era, so there is a gentle topical resonance. Yet it also gives a kind of release from that worry too. Which we also need. Kate, the heroine who drives the film, (played by Kelly Brook) is an unlikely bad girl, she is struggling at the start of the fim, having lost her job and her boyfriend, she goes for a quick fix. I wanted a female lead, an ordinary young woman who has a joyous indomitable spirit. I wanted the film to have a buoyant feel as Kate and her London shop assistant friends come up with their own quick fantasy fix. All her rag tag gang have also lost their jobs. To then decide to rob the shop seemed like an naughty but entertaining premise. To see our underdog heroine who has been treated badly come out on top is uplfting. Of course by the end Kate has learned, there may be better ways to fix her problems, but we have had fun on the journey.
Kate is taking control. She is finding inspiration in Bonnie Parker, of the legendary renegade crime duo. Black and white dreams contrast with the colourful vibrancy of the current. Stylistically it is like Kate has walked into the original black and white photos of Bonnie and Clyde and become Bonnie. She escapes into fantasy. She tries to bring that fantasy into reality when she dresses up in vintage clothes with her friends. By the end of the film, after the shock of Nicks betrayal she realises fantasises in reality don’t go according to plan.
In my twenties I lived in Kings Cross and worked in an arty Covent Garden shop. That youthful world of that shop and was the inspiration for the shop and shop assistants in TAKING STOCK. I remember the comraderie but also that feeling of being lost and not quite knowing where your life is going and when it will take off. I also think specifically, young people at the moment are having a particularly rough time of it. In this time of austerity everyone is feeling the pinch, but particularly the youth. Kate can’t pay her rent or her gas bill, she’s just been made redundant. Sponge is on the dole and cant get a job and is being forced into one he is massively over qualified for. Kate at the start is comically desparate but desparate all the same. These economic realities ground the film. Feeling a lack of choice? Casually falling into crime?
Of course the quick fix may not in the long run be the best way to solve your problems and change your destiny/karma! Yoichi and Kate’s street scenes voice this. His character and their conversations are inspired by the no nonsense and warm writings to youth by buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda. Yoichi, Kate’s neighbour and friend doesnt judge her but gives her a different view, she does have other choices, perhaps bringing out her inner “buddha” rather than her inner “Bonnie”, might be a safer and wiser option. Changing karma is about changing yourself. Of course Kate doesnt listen, she knows better! But she reaches that conclusion at the end. Much like in PLAY IT AGAIN SAM she goes the wrong way but gets to the right place in the end.
The photos of the renegade duo come from the American depression era. Though the romance of the crime couple is invoked, the paradox is for most of the film Kate is leading on her own, a Bonnie without a Clyde. Proving, as she says, she “doesn’t need a Clyde”, so it is romance with an anti romance stance. Mat at the start, turns down her down. But in the end, he is the good guy who has to be the bad guy to be the good guy. Sixties comedy heist film “GAMBIT” with Michael Caine and Shirley Mac Claine was inspiration for this. At the end, Mat steps up to be an 11th hour Clyde. They pull it off together. They are a duo, a winning team.
Films that inspired me were the very enjoyable old school caper Ealing Comedies, like THE LAVENDER HILL MOB AND THE LADY KILLERS. I like the gentle, slightly eccentric, whimsical feel of these films at times bordering on farce. Its notsalgic but I love the not too complicated post war, highly entertaining but gently subversive feel. The character Alex Guiness plays in the LAVENDER HILL MOB inspired me for Mat, the seemingly timid banker who robs his own bank. For Kate, films with a distinct female lead, like “NIGHTS OF CABIRI”, “YOU ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW”, even BRIDGET JONES were good to look at. All these women are likeable, have a naivety and bounce back ability. I also love THE LAST SEDUCTION, Bridget, the ultimate bad girl who gets away with it. THE ANGELS SHARE, THE FULL MONTY, THE COMMITMENTS for the group/team camaraderie and films involving ordinary people on a low income with a need/desire for dosh. I explored doing this lighter tone with an extract of TAKING STOCK called SUSHI, winner Subti International short film award, co judged by Venice Days.
I wanted to shoot on location in Kings Cross as it is very real and urban and also teems with life, humanity, vitality and diversity. This is the London I love. The casting of the film is diverse as well. This is the reality and it can blend happily. Immigrants like Yoichi can be neighbours and friends. This is Kate’s world and home, she lives in a social housing flat there. The majestic beauty of St Pancras station is part of the central London feel, but I also wanted to shoot the back streets where there is a close community. Mostly ordinary people living on a low income and living in basic accomadation. People for whom, small amounts of money mean alot. This diverse London view included people who are often not seen in the picture, the Bengali community, the kids playing in the Hillview estate, locals in the park. I loved the way “THE COMMITMENTS” captured its world and scheduled a whole day for myself and the Dop to shoot the mood and atmosphere in Kings Cross.
We spent a lot of time becoming trusted by the local community before so we could shoot in the Hillview estate and the nearby streets and parks and capture the truth of Kate’s world in a cinematic way. In the edit I decided to merge some of the documentary footage of the Kings Cross community into the fictional narrative, so the local community are observing and reacting to the story and become part of it. Its an up beat social realism.
We were working on a low budget, but yet we fully mined the incredibly rich location. If it meant shooting out of locals’ windows to capture the St Pancras station sky line or using the local Kings Cross Barclays bikes for the bike chase because we could not afford cars, or enlisting the paparazzi support on a couple of occassions to stand in a line to close the roads while we were shooting, these always felt like great creative solutions. We also shot in a real shop in Crystal Palace. The vibrant primary colours of the existing stock fitted the energy of the film.
Regarding casting, I wanted a Kate who had likability, comic sensibility and also could be a sexy Bonnie. The likeability was most important; we had to be rooting for her, engaged with her during her mischief. Kelly is a good actress and comedienne and has a very natural charm. For the rest of the cast, authenticity, naturalness and freshness. I rehearsed the film with the actors which helped the chemistry and acting style. Heightened for the comedic caper moments, especially for Kate and Mat, naturalistic for the shop scenes. Kate’s looks to camera were a last minute decision. Breaking the fourth wall brings the viewer in on her scheme...
An original music score was created for the film. David Long’s playful jazz score is a homage to an old fashioned sixties feel. It creates great cohesion for the film and maintains the playful tone through out.
Kate’s tells us the yarn of how she, an ordinary albeit charming out of work actress/shop assistant turns bad to take control of her life. In the end by the skin of her teeth, she is a winner, has come out on top, and we are right behind her. Though her eyes are opened in the process and we doubt she’ll dally with the dark side again!