I recently got the chance to talk to Phil Baker about his new film, ‘Hawk(e): The Movie’. Here, Phil talks about how the idea for the film originally came about in the first place and what his favourite films are…
Hey Phil. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Hawk(e): The Movie’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
It’s a mockumentary about a bunch of people making a romantic comedy. There’s a presenter called Philip K Longfellow (Martin Ross) who follows the guys round as they do. The characters are a mix of straight characters and complete idiots, which is where a lot of the humour comes from. The character in charge is called Mike Hawk, and he plays a character he’s named after himself, just adding an ‘e’ to his name, becoming Mike Hawke.
You both wrote, acted in and directed the movie – how did the idea come about in the first place?
I thought I’d give screenwriting a go first. I’d never been to any kind of film school or any kind of acting training, but I’ve always liked films. So as research (procrastination) I thought I’d watch loads of films first, and read a book or two on screenwriting. I noticed a trend in the storylines in pretty much all rom-coms, and wondered what it’d be like to break it in a ludicrous way. So I came up with the idea of this rom-com called “Get Becky Laid”, and it was an awful idea. But then I wondered what would happen if someone was actually stupid enough to try to make it. And that was the idea that became the script, someone stupid enough to make it, someone stupid enough to fund it, and some talented people getting roped in and wondering what the hell was going on.
As the script was being written I thought it might be useful to learn a bit about how films are made, as it might help the writing process. So I bought “Filmmaking For Dummies” and read that. Having read that book, I thought making a film looked easy enough, so armed with a half written script about a clueless idiot making a terrible film, and an entire film education taken from the Dummies book, I decided to actually make it.
How hard was it to put the film into production?
It wasn’t difficult at all, mainly because of luck. It was a lot of work, but not difficult as such. I had a couple of people who were going to produce but they both dropped out so I ended up doing that too, and that’s what made the workload so huge.
My thinking at the time was just get the script as good as it can be, and get a good camera guy and a good cast, I’m from a sound background so I had that covered, and get a good editor, a good make-up team, good locations etc… with all the right people in the right places and a good script, surely it would work…so I really made sure we had the right people, and I think I got that right. Not enough of us with the benefit of hindsight, but we managed it.
I got lucky with finding funding too, with funding and distribution both coming from Genepool Records, and co-director/editor Tom Turner (and all his gear!) coming from Paramore Productions.
Tom was introduced to me by Mikey Parkinson who I’d asked to DoP. Initially Tom was going to help out in a general way and kindly offered to supply his cameras and gear, but in the end became co-director, jumping in and getting things right when I was about to get them wrong. It wouldn’t be the film it is now without Tom certainly.
How would you say this film is different and unique? What tricks as a director did you try to throw in? Are there any obvious influences that viewers will be able to notice?
A lot of people who read the script said it was very quirky. Also very childish at times. We weren’t shy of a fart gag or two, though I was careful about where to put them and not doing it for the sake of it. A fart in the middle of an awkward silence is surely much better than a standard fart when someone sits down. So they’re carefully timed farts. They’re not any old fart sounds either, only the finest made it into the film.
There will be some obvious influences I imagine – the deadpan stupidity of Ricky Gervais and the slapstick style of ‘Airplane’/‘Naked Gun’ type thing. Maybe also ‘Spinal Tap’ too, in that that’s the biggy in terms of fake comedy documentaries. I made a lot of the cast and crew watch that before we made it.
The film stars your good self, Martin Ross, Darren Lake, Chelsea-Marie Gall, Paul Gentle, Lucy Harvey, Kokil Sharma and Michael Terry – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
They were brilliant, it was so good of them all to give up their time to come and do it. They ranged in terms of experience from first timers like Paul Gentle (and myself) to the experienced award-winning pro Darren Lake. They were all great, looking back we got very lucky with that.
Paul Gentle was a gamble that really paid off. He’s been a friend for a long time and is one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. I sent him an almost-finished script asking for some feedback and some extra gags. A few days later he phoned me. He’d been at a cider festival all day and was completely hammered, and despite never having even considered acting before, he wanted to take a break from his office job and play the part of William Yung. I thought it was a great idea and said yes. The next day I had to explain to him that he’d phoned me and got the part in the film. He was a bit surprised and confused and very hungover, but I didn’t let him wriggle out of it. He was great. The only problem was him ruining takes by being so funny that other cast and crew couldn’t keep a straight face.
Let’s talk a bit about you Phil. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I never really decided to get into it like that, I just wanted to write a script and ended up making it. I had been in one student film as an actor a year or so before, being roped in because I looked like a character I think. I wasn’t very good, but I quite enjoyed it, and that got me thinking about writing one. It just progressed from there really, things just seemed to happen.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
I’m not sure I’m suitable to be giving out advice on something I’m so new to…but if I had to, just doing it worked for me. Just write a film and make it. There are books and websites and all sorts to tell you how, and there are plenty of people in the same boat with different skills (and equipment). Just find them, and make films. If you enjoy it and you’re good at it, keep doing it.
What films have influenced you as a director? Any favourites?
I would say in terms of comedy, all the ‘Naked Gun’/‘Airplane’ films and ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ as I’ve mentioned before, but also the ‘Austin Powers’ films. The next film I’m making which is in development at the moment is much more influenced by the ‘Ocean’s 11/12/13’ films, ‘The Full Monty’ and the films made by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
If I could have dinner with anyone I’d be happy, I’m really lonely. Just kidding. Erm…Marlon Brando seemed very cool and switched on. Would be good to pick his brains a bit about acting too. Leslie Nielsen would be another, I can imagine it would be a good laugh with him around. And Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys, cos he’s probably the coolest man in history. They’re making a movie about him at the moment, looking forward to that one.
What are your thoughts on ‘Vertigo’ being voted higher than ‘Citizen Kane’ in a poll done by the BFI‘s ‘Sight And Sound‘ magazine?
OK….I’m really going to show my ignorance now…I didn’t know about that. I love ‘Vertigo’, but I’ve never seen ‘Citizen Kane’. I feel like a fraud now…I’m going straight online to order it.
You should, it’s a great film. What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Finally ‘Hawk(e)’ is coming out! That’s really exciting. I’m also in the development stage of this next film. It’s another feature comedy but a bigger production with a bigger budget. Tom is down again as co-director and I’m down to play one half of a lead duo with Cosmo Jarvis playing the other. Cosmo’s doing really well with his feature ‘The Naughty Room’ soon to be shown on the BBC and his music now being played on Radio 1. Really looking forward to working with him and any other names we can rope into this one! I have to keep quiet on the details, but we’re really really excited about it.
Thanks for the interview!