Friday, 26 November 2010

'Slaughter is the Best Medicine' Post-Shoot

(by Rishi Thaker)

For those of you who are interested I felt it time to give a few words on those who so valiantly braved the halls of Stanford, the warehouses of Derbyshire and the woods of Riddings all in the name of a film production that has been endeared to all our hearts over the last few months.

I know we still haven’t got the finished article out yet, but the anticipation has been heightened by your participation, and we are beyond the trepidation that follows the consolidation, for a project of such gratification that I offer you my congratulations.

It takes a monumental effort to put a feature film together and for the most part that is exactly the kind of effort we have received. I won’t hide the fact that this film production has been testing on many scales, but nothing is worth doing if it isn’t a challenge.

If you cast your minds back to June 19th/20th 2010, some of you may remember the question marks, the uncertainty, and the nervousness that will have undoubtedly occupied your minds as you auditioned for this film with a working title called, ‘Slaughter is the Best Medicine’. But you all came and had a go at trying to land a part in a film that from the onset was to have zero budget attached. Despite all our attempts to put you off by insisting there will be no money or expenses paid, you still were curious enough to take a gamble and more importantly take this seriously. And as we always claimed that the best improvisers were likely to get a role, there was another underlying factor that wasn’t made clear, but paramount to our decision too. This was that you needed to have that special personality that would make you give 100% to this film, without arrogance but with youthful exuberance. You needed to have the Stickmen Pictures personality, and I am so glad to say we got it right with you guys. You don’t need to read these words to understand what I mean, as you only had to experience the enjoyment of the Wrap Party on 12th Nov 2010 (some two and a half months after our woodland shoot) to understand what I mean. Barring the absence of three of the main cast (and this absence was totally justified on all three cases) every one was present and well. The camaraderie was beautiful and it was like you had never left the set. This kind of situation doesn’t come along very often and it’s a credit to you all that we all had some of the moments of our lives on this production (and the film’s not even out yet). I can say that I will take the memories of the past few months all the way to when I’m finally asked to choose Heaven or Hell (I think because of Asch I’m going to have to go for the latter!)

Now that’s the vomit stuff out of the way, so without further ado here are those ‘words’ I promised you earlier on yourselves.


Nigel aka ‘The Veteran’ – Nigel had the pleasure of taking lead in a feature film. What I enjoyed most about Nigel’s contribution to this film was his humour. In my opinion Nigel can improvise scenes extremely quickly and well, and his character Vet has a seriousness which intensifies the film. Thus Nigel needed humour to break the intensity so that this film didn’t end up being the Passion of the Christ. I know Nigel found it a huge challenge to take the role, but that came with the territory of leading a feature film. I can conclude that Nigel worked through this challenge like a soldier (ironically) and never let the role get the better of him. Nigel, I hope on reflection this experience will teach and spur you on to new and exciting film ventures as you brought a wonderful presence to this film.

Chris aka ‘Dustbin’ – Comedy is an exceptionally difficult thing to achieve well. If we ever need to have a laugh or a smile, the one instant thought a Stickmen Pictures faithful would have is Chris Battelle. Now I’ve blogged about the talents of CB before, so I won’t repeat myself, but what I will say is that CB is the light of the party for us. On screen he is comedy genius, and it’s no different off screen. Chris loves to make people laugh. My hope is for the world to one day get that special opportunity that was afforded to us all with Chris’s presence on our set. Congratulations with the birth of your baby girl. Natalie will be immensely proud of her dad when she’s old enough to see this film.

Gibney aka ‘The Cobra – As an individual who regrets nothing, we secured an outstanding performer in Andrew Gibney. In the beginning I could see Gib querying within himself as to whether he was doing the right thing by turning up to the auditions despite his well documented yearnings to make it onto film. And whilst the character of the Cobra came naturally, I believe that Gibney’s acting talents have huge dimensions that experienced film-makers would give their right arms for. Off screen Gib had a great desire to bring his own ideas and a drive which helped plough through the work. I think we have scratched a beautiful surface of potential here. Maybe one day we will be able to look forward to the reality show, ‘Cooking with Cobra…’

Ben aka ‘Big Bastard/Quail’ – Presenting you the star of ‘Die Hard in Derby’, we secured a major coup when 6 ft 2 plus Big Ben (sideboards et al) accepted the role of BB. Ben is a wild man enclosed in a teacher’s body. There is something about Ben which draws us all in, and this allows him to get away with anything from primadonna behaviour to ‘Fart Wars’ (don’t ask). Ben’s personality is larger than life and almost all of his ideas for BB were taken on, such was the potency of every thought that entered his mind for the character. Ben was fully aware that his character of BB could have easily fallen by the wayside in such illustrious company, but from the moment his heart was in it there was no chance on that ever happening. Ben, thank you for showing us all top class character play.

Edward C. Parker aka 'Scope' – Right now it’s all quiet on the Parker front as some of us take a punt on where in the world is this intense individual? You’ll probably never guess as it is a well versed habit (and talent) of Edward’s to immerse himself in new surroundings for a set time period whether that is a new country, or in the case of our film, a new person. Edward is an actor’s actor, and delves to the deepest depths of his consciousness to conjure as much material to display his new persona. Edward did not play the character ‘Scope’, rather he became ‘Scope’, and with that he consumed ‘Scope’ thereby leaving us all inspired by such focus. Edward gave a performance with such intensity, that his output charged pace of all his scenes, and this is a natural talent that I felt lucky to have witnessed.

James aka ‘Tracks’ – the man from Peterborough, came with a curiosity that evolved into much more than he would have anticipated in that first meeting which feels like light years away. As James begins to adopt Derby as his choice of occupancy more often these days, I can feel the air of excitement his presence brings. James is a passionate individual who has demonstrated on many occasions his dedication to his love for acting, and this production. James brought a high standard of attention to detail to his character, and always sought for feedback so that he could implement his learnings constantly. It is this humble quality, coupled with a great ability that saw James’ performance endear him to everyone involved, and it will no doubt do the same to everyone who will see him in this. If James maintains his perseverance he will see some great times up ahead in the world of film, and this will be just the tonic he deserves.

Dave aka ‘MLTDF’ – when I first saw Dave from a distance, I mistook him for the local thug, and during that first meeting after he suggested I had decision making skills of a female following a decision on whether or not to accept Dan’s offer of tea, Dave did not look like he was onto a winner. However, after he started acting and began showcasing his talent he was flying. We will all remember the superb Scottish accent Dave took on (you should have heard his Irish one in the audition – superb!) when performing his character, but I think that there is a more important quality to be highlighted with Dave. Not only was he a wonderful team player, Dave brought great insight into the world of method acting. Dave would talk and think like his character after hours, and I can only imagine what horror his Mrs would have gotten in the middle of the night when she may have thought in shock that some random Scotsman has violated their personal space. The devotion to his role enhanced the character of MLTDF from a cameo role, to a pivotal supporting character. And with that came the highest regard for Dave from us all.

Cilente aka ‘Frenik’ – Undoubtedly one of the toughest challenges on this production fell squarely with Cilente. It is a huge ask for an individual to get into a major character, get comfortable with the surroundings she’s never seen before, and act with people she’s never met before one week before the shoot! I was so pleased with the commitment and effort put in by Cilente, which ultimately saved the woodland shoot from delay. Looking back (even though we thought this at the time) you can all see how it would have been nigh on impossible to re-organise this. However the bigger thing for me was how much Cilente committed herself to every moment she played Frenik. It really made Cilente’s introduction to the cast seamless, which ultimately benefited everyone associated with this production. Cilente has always given it her all on the films I’ve made with her and a role like Frenik was just the kind she deserved. A truly wonderful effort.

June aka ‘Goldie’ – When June secured the role, we had a discussion on what Goldie was all about and our eventual conclusions were that Goldie would arrive on screen in moments with little to no dialogue. This coupled with the sexual mystique that makes up the character of Goldie was always going to be an awkward thing for us to ask in a person without making them think ‘Hey we just want to see a bit of ass and then you can go home’. June never misunderstood. She realised early doors what kind of paradox’s fell with the character, and committed 100% to delivering a vision that would not only get the pulse racing but keep the questions from the audience coming. June once quoted something loosely along the lines of if you believe in something, you must devote everything to it and that’s exactly what she did which is a great example to us all. This aside we must not forget all the help June provided to the crew as she helped with the food (I’m thinking barbeque!), with some of the make-up, and she even provided her own offspring to help with the shoot! June is a hardworking artist who deserves all her successes.

Andy/Cash Flagg aka ‘Conway’ – Andy is a writer. His talents extend to film producing, directing and more recently acting. However, at Andy’s core I believe his creative stream of choice is that which he pours into a script or a novel. It is this core which I think allows Andy to bring in an original perspective when it comes to putting across his other talents in this case acting. But at risk of going on and on and putting you to sleep about why I relate to his philosophy I will try and get to the crux of the importance of Andy’s input. Here we have a genuinely talented artist, who has much to offer if his shackles are removed (and in some cases I believe these shackles take the form of Andy’s own modesty). When he came rolling onto set to play the part of the callous Conway he brought a depth that fans of the 1980s action movies will relate to. This is what the film was founded on and Andy delivers with aplomb. I think in the future if Andy still decides to try his hand in acting, as he slowly finds new ways to bring his core creative stream to the fore he will be happy to find that there are whole new audiences waiting to see him.

Jak aka ‘Prof Black’ – Jak has monitored Stickmen Pictures for years from many angles. This has been his first in front of the camera for us and it was a gratifying experience. Jak has good experience in stage acting, and he was able to utilise that extremely well into conveying Professor Black. What was interesting was how easily Jak managed to slip into character that was an absolute arse, but that is in no way a reflection who Jak is (you knew I was going to get that one in!). Watching Jak incorporate himself into a character is a joy to watch as he will mutter the dialogue repeatedly as if he is having an internal battle with the words right until the point he wins, after which he will provide feedback. In a way it is like a mad scientist at work, which probably reflected why Jak fitted the character of Prof Black so well. Now Jak can claim he has viewed Stickmen Pictures from every angle, and I hope he has felt as excited about this, as we have to been in his company.

Dan aka ‘Bennet’ – Normally I tend to avoid talking about Dan as he’s usually bi-blogging with me, thus leaving question marks over the credibility of any comments on him. However I wanted to make some comments specifically around Dan’s acting and thus the major reason why I’ve done this blog on my own this time around. Dan loves acting, and is like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to the opportunity of acting. Sometimes, this excitement scares everyone else in the candy shop but over the years Dan has curbed his enthusiasm but still kept it fresh. Bennet was the best opportunity for Dan to explore his talent and whereas in the past Dan comes out to save us from casting issues, this time we felt the role was ripe for Dan. Dan gives much thought to putting a character across and is always full of ideas to make the character believable. It does not phase Dan as to whether the ideas are accepted or rejected, he will keep thinking and bring a method to his character. This is a great quality that hallmarks the cornerstone of Stickmen Pictures and underpins how much this production company is propped up by this one talented individual. Bennet will be a memorable moment for many viewers and this is due to Dan’s great imagination and commitment to his moment. Well done mate.

I would like to give a mention to Paul H, Phil and Mick’s Cousin Mark. They make cameos in the film and have really helped us in part of the film we didn’t have as much of chance to focus on. They came in at short notice and gave focused performance as well as help us with some of the foreign language that was required. Phil even lent us his car for a shot which worked really well!


Amika aka ‘Asch or that noise from Leicester’ – Asch is an enigma. She can be quite something to take at times and has a high spec motor powered engine which runs her jaw that even Arnie himself in all three Terminators put together would struggle to defeat. But this is exactly the characteristic we needed to keep this film running on time as you all so keenly felt. In contrast Asch is full of energy and ideas and sometimes being an assistant director shackled that instinct. It is for this reason why I think Asch did a wonderful job on this production as she sometimes went against her grain here to help complete this film. Those of you who really know Asch will understand that she is honest to her core and will tell you how she views things straight down the middle. It is difficult to find this kind of honesty when you’re working on a project that is so close to your heart as it can be tough to take but she always made sure that we never took the easy way out. It has really kept the integrity of the film intact. As well as this she even contributed to the storyboarding which relieved a lot of stress and improved our planning. All this coupled with Asch’s catering responsibilities really made her contribution invaluable (it saved us money too!) and I really think we would have had a lot of issues without her. We owe you so much Asch and we cannot thank you enough for your continued support.

Mick aka ‘Mick/Swiss Army Mick’ – I think multi-talented Mick did just about every single job going on this production. Mick was recommended by Dan and Andy (who confesses, “I would never think of making a film without Mick”) and I certainly got to know exactly what they were talking about. Mick can solve any problem. I mean any problem. You could show him a rash and he would somehow find a cure, and that’s the kind of ability Nasa would give their right arm for. Mick’s input in pre-production provided many solutions to many of our problems such as the bunker, chest shot, props and locations to name a few. Then on the shoot he helped with the make-up, camera for a whole scene, sound and even played an extra (twice!). And if this wasn’t enough he somehow found time to take some of the most extraordinary pictures you will ever see over the course of the whole filmmaking process. He has captured every emotion, every action and every reaction on stills and these really are of the highest order. We are lucky to have such talent standing side by side with us and his pictures will put the promotion of this film in excellent shape. Mick is now trying his hand with directing his own film and I know that if his dedication to that film is even half of what he gave to Slaughter he will have a quality picture to his name, and that will bring him the great success he deserves.

Loz aka ‘Isralite’ – Mr Laurence Caulton is a nice boy. If I had a good looking daughter (of the age Laurence would be interested in) and Laurence took her out for dinner I would know that despite all his male yearnings, Laurence would be respectful of her and show the most honourable of behaviours. Laurence will always look to do the morally right thing. Stickmen Pictures has become something of an obsession for Loz over the years and he seems to thrive at any opportunity to get involved. So much so that we turned to Loz for help during much of the pre-production where as from those early days Loz’s role was limited to sound capturing. When someone as pure as Laurence shows a continued interest in something there must be a wholesome quality about it. Knowing that Laurence regards Stickmen Pictures so highly and that he will give 100% each and every time he’s involved is to know that Stickmen Pictures not only has great personnel associated with it, but great personnel as part of it. Those individuals who may feel slightly uncertain of Stickmen Pictures in the beginning, always warm to us when Loz roles into town as his attitude is so positive and he is the easiest person to talk to. Loz is probably wondering at what stage I’m going to take the mickey as I normally seem to do in my blogs regarding him, but on this occasion I just want Laurence to take the plaudits he so richly deserves. Thank you for all your help from location to sound to grip boy to whatever else. It has been and is still very much appreciated. Next time I ring you shout it out over the phone. You know what I mean.

Baldy Chris aka ‘Baldy’ – In order to raise the bar in regard to sound on this feature we turned to Baldy. Just to make it clear, ‘Baldy’ is a self-inflicted nickname by Chris and it’s probably because he likes to wear no hair. Baldy is passionate about music, and he uses this passion to delve deep into what makes great sound. Technically, Baldy is the best person we have worked with in regard to sound, and he simply knows every little detail going in this domain. However, Baldy hasn’t had a lot of experience of sound in film-making (I believe the only other time was on short film Across the Styx) but he has learnt extremely quickly due to his passion. In every growing organisation you need individuals to take accountability of their areas otherwise you just don’t grow. We could place our trust in Baldy and this speaks volumes. Baldy is now embarking on the sound edit phase, another new experience for Stickmen Pictures, and hopefully with the dedication he has shown the film will benefit greatly.

There are many other ‘Slaughter’ members that I would also like to mention as their input has been key to the success of the shoot. Parimal took the role of clapper board man and general crew hands for the 3 day woodland shoot and although this may not be a built up as some of the other roles, Parimal’s attention was key to helping us move along quickly. It was a task that we cannot underestimate and we are reaping the benefits of this well worked discipline from Pari. Frosty also helped us for a few days and his willingness to lend me a hand will always be appreciated. Even though at times Frosty had little to do, he never ruled out his help. Ryan helped a good deal in pre-production with some of his great ideas and even ended up as an extra on the film. Ryan did ultimately become busier with his own personal commitments as things hotted up for the shoot but his participation has really benefited this film. Rik, Asch’s little bro (who has ‘identity’ issues because he is a western brown Leicester boy surrounded by people who think they are from Harlem) has grown in stature over the years I have known him. There’s still a bit of grooming work to do for which I will take account for but I was very pleased at his willingness to help the production as he set about doing whichever job was going. I’d like to call out Sachi who really helped on this film too. She assisted myself and Asch through some of the continuity areas and learnt a great deal about the detail of film-making. What Sachi is talented at is application and I am excited about what Sachi will apply in light of her experiences on this film. Cimeon (June’s lad) also put in a shift on this flick and I guess he learnt a lot about the field in which he is aspiring to get into. Hopefully when Cimeon collects an Oscar he will recount his experiences on our humble (but coy) production. Vars needs a massive show of gratitude. Not only did he help with the sound capture, he also lent his voice and expertise in sound to the production. On top of this he let us party at his place (along with Dan) and is ever happy to accept my continual presence at his home when I arrive there to do the editing with Dan. It must be annoying to see my face there constantly but I have never been made to feel unwelcome by Vars. I want to also thank Nathan (my cousin) for securing the lovely Stanford Hall for our warehouse scene. His perseverance (a wonderful talent of his) paid dividends in securing that place and he also fed some of you on that shoot with tasty Indian delights. Last but certainly not least I want to give a special mention to Nikki, who let all 30 plus of us onto her estate over 4-5 days to shoot most of our film. She is a remarkable lady who made this whole difficult process unbelievably easy for us and we cannot thank her enough. I hope that the beauty of her property will be appreciated on film, as much as it was when we were there.

Well there you have it. My thoughts on a project yet to be complete. I have tried to capture as many people in this as I could, but sometimes it’s not possible to give every single person a mention on a blog. If you have been involved and not mentioned I can assure you that your input has been greatly valued and you will appear on the film credits.

Myself and Dan have spoken at length of how this has been and is still proving a gratifying film making experience. We want to re-iterate what a pleasure to have worked with you all. Let’s hope 2011 will bring you your just rewards.

Good luck.