I recently got the chance to talk to Paul Coppack about his involvement in indie film, ‘Tash Force’. Here, Paul talks about how he got involved in the project in the first place and what’s coming up for him in 2012…
Hey Paul. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Tash Force’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
‘Tash Force’ is a mockumentary about the hopeless Tash McDermott (Mark Woodward). He heads the Football Intelligence Unit in Blackburn, Lancashire. He attempts to go undercover to seek out a notorious football hooligan known as Nightmare. A Journalist follows him as he blunders his way through his daily tasks, demonstrating his old-fashioned views of the world while accidentally offending everyone along the way.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a nameless re-occurring football hooligan, he is more mischievous than violent though. In the credits, I am credited as ‘Shifty F##ker’, obviously on IMDB it’s just simply ‘Rioting Hooligan’. I am not really an actor though, and it’s certainly something I won’t be pursuing.
The character only exists because of our low-budget and the ease of keeping the project down to a skeleton crew. I only appeared in the scene in which I was baptized as Shifty F##ker because we needed somebody to keep the door ajar as Tash entered a block of flats, I was only used as a prop, walking past him as he entered the building, Mark ad-libbed the Shifty F##ker remark as we passed and that’s where my character was born… that’s if you want to consider him a character.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I started producing Michael Booth’s second feature after ‘Diary Of A Bad Lad’, it was another low-budget, but more conventional movie called ‘Bar Stewards’. He brought in myself and Wiggy (Ian Wiggins) to help him. We all didn’t really know each other at the time, but Mike was impressed with Wiggy’s little YouTube film that he had uploaded called ‘Tash Force’ – he thought he might be a good person to bring on board with his latest project.
I checked out what was basically an amateur video with a bloke in a grey wig talking to a DV Camera. Initially I wasn’t that impressed, but considering Wiggy had no filmmaking background, there was a pretty good character who got funnier after repeat viewings.
The plot was basically a piss-take of a Donal MacIntyre documentary made about infiltrating the Chelsea Headhunters. It was quite inspiring considering all the cast were supposed to be working on the train tracks. The daft little film had also built up a loyal fan base too, particularly in the Blackburn area and online hooligan forums.
As we filmed ‘Bar Stewards’, it was always our intention to remake ‘Tash Force’ afterwards, maybe distributing it ourselves or putting it on the Pleased Sheep Forum for people to enjoy. ‘Diary Of a Bad Lad’ has just been distributed by SafeCracker Pictures and Wiggy just showed them ‘Tash Force’ just off the cuff. They said they wanted to distribute it as soon as possible, so we knuckled down and started adapting the remake.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
I think it’s the film’s appeal. I know it’ll be Marmite, it’s quite broad comedy-wise for our tastes but we purposely made it like that while making it for the ‘Green Street’ and ‘Football Factory’ audiences. Yet, my 70-odd year old Grandma loved it as it references to that brand of northern comedy which the younger teenage generation wouldn’t pick up on at all. Personally I like the random references to forgotten footballers from the early 90’s.
The film stars Mark Woodward, Ian Wiggins, Neil Adams, Darren Bedson, Clive Bonelle, Alison Booth and Nick Breakspear – with Michael Booth onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
You can be forgiven for not recognising any of the names above, the most notable in that list is Clive who has appeared in various TV series’, he was in ‘Awaydays’ too, a British film about football hooligans set in the 80’s.
Our most established actor is Steve Garti, a very experienced TV actor who plays a barman. He has done pretty much everything from… well everything… ‘Emmerdale’, ‘Life On Mars’, ‘Corrie’ etc… I last spotted him in ‘Trollied’, that supermarket sitcom which starred Jane Horrocks on Sky last year.
The star of the show is obviously Mark Woodward as Tash though, he is a college teacher in real life, but he is so funny and a lot of people are amazed he isn’t a professional actor or comedian. He is very talented and humble, but very busy, he is always doing something. With ‘Tash Force’, we went into production with basic script, I was amazed with the stuff he spontaneously pulled out from nowhere during takes. This is how Wiggy and Mark made the original, basically making it up as they went along with a simple scene outline. We just filmed three or four takes and Michael Booth worked with the best parts in the edit.
Let’s talk a bit about you Paul. Apart from being an actor, you’re also a writer, producer, director, cinematographer and editor. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
Well firstly, I’m not an actor, I am normally plonked in front of the camera if I am needed, (i.e. if we don’t have anyone else). I’m a glorified extra most of the time. It’s very rare that I have lines. I consider myself just as a film-maker, I don’t specialise in anything, I’ve never produced or directed a big budget production but I tend to get involved with anything. I’m not into the business side of things though, I leave that to other people.
Though it is acting that got me interested in the industry I suppose. Finishing high school I fancied myself as an actor, but when I looked at the college prospectus I saw that the Performing Arts courses involved singing and dancing… I couldn’t sing and dance. I turned the page over and saw a picture of a guy holding a big-ass camera, suddenly that appealed to me.
I completed my BTEC then got my BA Hons. and started a video production company called Shooters Media immediately with some college friends. We entered various 48 Hour Film Challenges and made some successful shorts. In Sheffield, we won Best Acting and Editing for ‘Jennie’ in 2003, we won Biggest Scare and Best Sound for ‘Learning To Drive’ in Dudley then got runner-up and eventually winning the Northern 48hr Film Challenge in 2005 and 2006 with ‘Betrayal’ and ‘Curiosity’.
I always knew I was capable of making entertaining films, however, I tailored them for the competitions. The secret is – make a simple storyline for the tone of the competition, with a beginning, middle and end, it’s doesn’t matter if there’s a twist. Juries seem to like that. Though the Average Joe Public might not find your film that special, you may win an award.
I jumped at the chance when Mike asked me to help out with ‘Bar Stewards’ and then eventually ‘Tash Force’, making features is a totally different kettle of fish to shorts. I think it’s knowing that more people will watch it and judge your work – it makes you want to spend more time perfecting it. I really wish we had more time with ‘Tash Force’ though, but it was important to get it ready for Euro 2012, otherwise it wouldn’t sell.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Keep busy, keep in the film-making circles and get involved with as many projects and new people as possible. I brought in Stephen Rigg, one of the other producers of ‘Tash Force’ after a lad I knew from college asked me to give him a lift on his low-budget film they were working on – ‘An Actor’s Life (Less Ordinary)’… It’ll probably never see the light of day commercially, but Riggy has been really helpful on ‘Tash Force’ with the organising and planning, something I saw when I worked with him previously.
Get on Facebook too, I know some people don’t like it, but it’s a great tool to get last-minute locations, production runners, makeup artists and props. I don’t think I could make a movie without Facebook now. It’s good to keep tabs on what other film-makers are working on too as well as promoting your own project.
You’ve been in a number of different TV and film projects – which actors / actresses have been your favourites to work with so far and why? Any good stories?
I worked with Stephen Rigg on a project with Ewen MacIntosh and Jason Manford recently, but producing ‘Bar Stewards’ has been the most enjoyable thing I have done. We were shooting it on-and-off from about 2006 – 2010. We would get together every weekend and just laugh. It stars Chris Finch and ‘Tash Force’ writer Paul Birtwistle and there was a real camaraderie. We would look forward to every weekend, it was great. I would urge people to make a feature with their friends, even if it’s just for yourself.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
I’m not sure. I suppose Ricky Gervais, Bear Grylls and Derren Brown. I like their TV shows.
What is your favourite holiday destination and why?
Nick Breakspear who plays Barry the Shopkeeper in ‘Tash’ has taken me to Israel a few times to shoot his projects. That place is special. I’m not religious at all, but Jerusalem is my favourite city. It has everything, it’s like the centre of the world.
What is your favourite word?
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Michael Booth and I were discussing a few projects last year, we also have ‘Bar Stewards’ which is 99% there, it was put on the back-burner when ‘Tash Force’ went into production.
I have been making short films with my other film-making colleague Paul Sparkes with the reed.co.uk Short Film Competition. We are quite busy making promotional and corporate videos, so we put time aside every year to make a short. In the first two years we made it into the finals. We are in the semi finals for this years. Fingers crossed will make it in to the top 12 out of 500 entries – which might be the vehicle for other projects.
Thanks for the interview!