[Image courtesy of Dave Herd]
The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains is a hilarious web series which can be downloaded for free on The Multiverse Channel (YouTube), and stars a veritable Who’s Who of the current comedy circuit:
Ricky Grover is best known for playing Andrew Cotton in Eastenders but he is back to remind us that he is also one of the funniest and well respected acts in comedy with the launch of his new Comedy Shuffle club. In a nod to his East London roots his new club is in London’s only super casino in Stratford.
If you’re in need of a good dose of comedy then this could be just what the doctor ordered. The black comedy feature film “The Limelight” features an A-Z cast of some of the UK’s finest talent. Take your tissues with you though as you’ll be crying tears of joy and sadness.
If you thought comics have an easy life, with not a care in the world, think again. Writer/director and star of the movie, Glen Maney has been on a mission ever since he first came up with the script some 15 years ago. He wanted to show audiences just how much it really takes to be able to stand up on a stage and give it your all, regardless of what awaits you when the spotlight fades. That doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing any comic relief here though. Far from it.
The film itself will see its official release on the internet on the 20th of May. What better a time then to speak to Glen as he reaches the summit of a mountain he has been clambering up for so long.
I thought I’d leave it to Glen himself to get the ball rolling:
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PPSF – The script itself dates back over a decade and you did in fact sell the option to script in 2001 but came up against financial problems as a massive 2 million pounds was required. Where did the idea for the script come from? Had you written any scripts prior to this?
I’d been on a creative writing course and I’d also been writing my own comedy for some time,so I knew how to basically structure a script and develop characters although to be honest this is something that improves over the years. I’d written a script about a pub football team which came back to me virtually the day after I’d sent it to agents, but when I read through it again, they were right. It was rushed and under developed.A script has to be developed and developed until you’re happy with it.
I sent ‘The Limelight’ , which at the time was called a pretty cheesy ‘Tears of a Clown’ off to about three agents and one of them placed it.
PPSF- On writing the script did you have most of the actors in mind or did you choose the cast at a later date? I understand Ricky Grover was originally cast as the lead. How did you land the protagonist’s role in the end?
I sort of had Ricky Grover half in mind for the lead when I wrote it. I’d met him when I first started doing a few alternative gigs and he was so encouraging and we had a mutual love of boxing, so we hit it off straight away. I’d seen a lot of comedians live but when I saw his act at the Comedy Store I thought to myself ‘How is this guy not a household name?’. He was known in comedy circles and had a following for his BULLA character, but he wasn’t as well known as I felt his comedy deserved, so I thought he could bring a humour, an empathy with the man and woman in the street, out of what was a pretty pathetic character in my script.
Ricky read the script and loved it. When I sold the option, I put his name forward for the lead role, as it was envisaged that a couple of million budget was going to be attached.
Three years later I got the script back as the option had run out.I was talking to Ricky on set,when he was making a pilot to raise funds for Bulla The Movie (eventually Big Fat Gypsy Gangster) and he said why not make it yourself. He agreed to come on board.
It soon became clear that Ricky wouldn’t have the time to play the lead because he’d have to turn down a lot of well paid work to do it. We never had much of a budget and Ricky was chipping in with that as well! (His own expenses – Cast and Crew breakfasts etc), so I suggested he play Al Moran (The Monster Manager). Ricky wasn’t that enthusiastic because the character is a bit of a monster, but looking back now Ricky is one of the few people I know who could have got away with being menacing and vile whilst injecting humour into the character. I think he does a great job.
So we advertised for a Gary Shand (the main character) and had a few actors audition but no one really captured the essence of what I was looking for. I was assisted at the time by Steve Hammal and Paul Long who were friends I’d made some shorts with under a heading of The Giggle Factory and whose opinions I respected and they both looked at me one day and said, ‘You should play him yourself’ .At first I didn’t want to do it but I did a screen test and whilst you’re never happy with yourself on screen, I thought I could get away with it. So I was cast! And loser Gary Shand was born.
PPSF- The lead character Gary Shand must have been a really difficult role to get yourself prepared for as you describe him as an ageing, struggling comedian fighting depression, alcohol dependency, schizophrenia and a marriage break up. I presume you have little in common with the role you played.
Ha,Ha. You presume right. I’m an ageing comedian (coming up to my prime!). I’ve had the odd struggle in life and sadly, I’m divorced, but that’s where the similarities end. Gary Shand is a mix of a lot of characters I’ve known in my life, both on the comedy circuit and off. People have asked who it’s based on and it is genuinely not based on any one person. In one way it was difficult to get into the role because I hadn’t experienced any of his weaknesses personally but in another it was drawn from people I recognised to such an extent it was easy.
The funny thing is that people seem to identify with him. I think that’s because we all know people who suffer from one of his problems, if indeed they haven’t suffered themselves.
PPSF- A fair few popular British comedies have had a very dark plot to them such as The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Wilbur (wants to kill himself). Why do you think Brits are so good at drawing humour out of the darkness?
I think our comedy in particular is born out of the need to escape depression. That’s how we handle things. If something major happens, some awful event, how do we usually get to hear of it? The news? Occasionally, yes, but more often than not,the text jokes start coming! There’s humour in every situation if you look for it. Some atrocities I can’t find any humour in, but we make a quip, not necessarily about the event itself, we brush ourselves down and we get on with it.
I once had two coach loads of Americans walk out of a gig because I said (three years after 9/11) I love those Americans but I don’t understand them. In a recent survey 23% of Americans said they wouldn’t fly again after 9/11. What I can’t understand is why they are still using buildings! A British crowd would have handled that even if it had happened on British soil. It wasn’t being disrespectful to the victims of 9/11. It wasn’t meant to hurt. It was a quirk that I found funny, so I said it. So the answer is I think we Brits are good at laughing at ourselves and we use humour better than anyone else to cope with tragedy. Let’s face it, we’re always dealing with tragedy. Why? I don’t know.
PPSF- Apart from Ricky Grover, you have got some fabulous talent working on the project. Tell me a bit about the cast and crew you got involved and how they all fit into the puzzle?
Well I knew Patrick Monahan from when I first gigged on the alternative circuit and we’d got on well. I thought he was funny but more importantly a nice guy and with a low budget feature it’s important you all get on and there are no prima donnas. I was loking to cast a good looking, funny, younger comedian and Patrick fitted all the boxes. Could he act? I think we found he could. The feedback on his performance was excellent.
John Robson who I got involved with the film because he has a great eye for detail and had overseen a few music films for his artists at Vandalism 360, had shared a flat with Mark Monero (formerly Eastenders –Wild Bill ) and was close friends with Phil Nichol and Craig Campbell, who I knew from gigs but not to any great degree. He wanted to use their talents and as we looked through the script there were perfect roles for them with the time they had available.
I was good friends with Jay Sodagar as we’d worked for the Laughing Horse together on lots of occasions and as we needed an Asian landlord, I got him involved. He looked at the script and said,’that’s not stereotyping is it Mr.Maney!’ He said it with a smile though and was onboard.
The leading lady we auditioned for, and Sonya Roseman had the look I wanted.
Steve Hammal who is as good a cinematographer as you’ll find and has a great name in advertising films and corporates is a good friend and has been for years and he agreed to do some camera work for us, as did John Cattle (Wight Trash) who makes his own extreme sports films and Simon Higgins from Sky God Films who’d made the critically acclaimed ‘This is Asa’ about a young boy who tragically died on the Isle of Wight. John Robson knew Simon and we both knew John Cattle.
We hired another professional cameraman and sound recordist via Talent Circle and called in all our contacts for favours with other roles like make-up etc.
So that’s the story really. Basically EVERYONE involved loved the script!
PPSF- In the end you managed to record the film for 50,000 pounds from your own earnings, 1500 pounds from Screen South and financial assistance from family and friends. This was on the back of the defunct National Film Council having refused to fund the project, in favour of other, more essential projects, such good old Harry Potter. That’s a pretty big risk to take (you, not the National Film Council). You must have been extremely convinced that your film would have a certain degree of success.
How then did you go about making sure the project would have the best possible team working on it with the now restrained budget you had to work with? I heard John Robson even said that you must be the only film production company who doesn’t have a camera.
I’m laughing thinking back to that. Yes,I bumped into John in the street on The Isle of Wight where we both lived although he had a flat in London. He asked what I was up to and I said putting a film together and starting a film company. He had read the script a year earlier and loved it. I asked him if he wanted to be involved because of his experience with music videos. He asked what equipment I had. I replied none and his answer was ‘’Brilliant. We must be the first film company not to own a camera! Yes, I’m on board! ‘ It’s worth pointing out that the next day we went out and bought two cameras, lighting and sound equipment and with Steve Hammal, John Cattle, Simon Higgins and of course our paid crew having their own equipment, we were more than well stocked from the equipment angle.
We had a good experienced team in place and their track records spoke for themselves. We felt very lucky. The amazing thing was they all loved the project too. They’d go to work and then come straight to our set, as and when the actors were available.
I believed that the story was a strong one and one that audiences of all ages would relate to but I honestly didn’t think the costs would escalate the way they did. We’ve spent £760 on London Travelcards alone and over £4000 on travelling expenses! Just to buy breakfast, lunch and dinner for a crew of say ten film crew and five actors in the centre of London for example costs more than you realise and then you have to put them up in a hotel. I remember me and John Robson sleeping in a car to keep the costs down! The costs just escalated.
We had things like monitors, tapes, lenses and even hard drives to buy. There wasn’t the terabyte hard drives of today available when we first started! Anyway, the point is, the costs just mounted and before you know it you reason to yourself that you’ve spent too much to lose so you plough even more money in! I didn’t realise how much it’d all cost until the end! That’s the truth!
PPSF- All in all, the production process has gone on for five years. That is some serious dedication. Was there any time where you felt like packing in as it just seemed as though it would never get finished or were you always confident that you would reach where you are today?
There were LOTS of days when I thought it wouldn’t be finished! We had a hard drive, that wasn’t backed up, literally set on fire in front of our eyes and we had to go back and re-film. There were days when we’d get to a location for a second day of filming and overnight there’d be things like roadworks springing up! There were too many days to mention but there was such a commitment from everyone and so much goodwill, I had a sneaky feeling that one day it’d be finished.
PPSF- After all this time, what five words would you use to describe the entire process and the finished product?
Exciting, Frustrating, Humourous, Infuriating and Funny.
PPSF- Based on some of the reviews the early screenings have received it looks like the long journey has well been worth it with comments such as “The Limelight will make you cry but will also make you laugh and make you laugh like you haven’t for a long time”.
The film got it’s national premier at the London Independent Film Festival on the 20th of April, this year. How well did that go for you? Are you happy with its reception so far?
To be honest I’ve been blown away by it’s reception. Let’s be honest, we’ve made a small little independent film and to be getting reviews like the one you’ve stated from an independent film critic is just so pleasing it’s not true. The film won’t be for everyone and we’ll have bad reviews to come as well, I’ve no doubt, but yes, we’re pleased.
The reception to it at The London Independent film festival was more than we could have hoped for. You always hope that you’ll make a film that captures people attention but when you do it’s so gratifying I can’t put it into words.
PPSF- Something I must ask you. At the end of the trailer we see a guy walking around with his pants around his ankles? Can you enlighten us about that or will we just have to watch the movie to find out? It’s definitely got me intrigued.
Intrigued is good and yes you’ll have to watch the film. One secret I can let out though is that he was bloody cold! No porn film auditions for Gary Shand that day!
PPSF- The film is released on the 20th of May. It’s being released online via your website. How exactly will that work? What will people have to do to get their hands on it? Will it be available worldwide and do you have any intentions of releasing it on dvd/BluRay?
For a small film like ours the big problem is enough people knowing about it. We are initially going to distribute via a company called Distrify. David Wilkinson of Guerrilla Films has been of great help with his advice and knows the film market better than most. The film can be downloaded or streamed worldwide for a small fee via our website, you’ll literally go to the site, press buy the film, decide whether you just want to watch it on stream or actually download it and pay with your card there and then. People can also sell it on their website wall for a small income stream if they so wish, so it’s a good way of spreading the word with very little marketing budget.
We’re going to see what the feedback is like before deciding on a DVD run. It’s in our heads to do a limited edition after it’s done the festival rounds. We’re entered into some pretty big festivals worldwide that specialise in Independent film and I think a DVD release would come after it’s done the rounds in those.
PPSF- If the film garners the same kind of reception from the general public as it has from critics to date, what do you have planned for the future? Have you got any more scripts up your sleeve or are you going to focus more on your stand up career for the time being?
I have a few scripts up my sleeve and I’m working on a project with a Director called Malcolm Mowbray who co-wrote and Directed a film called ‘A Private Function’ many moons ago and has done a lot of film and t.v. I’ll tell you more once it’s set in stone.
I will be doing some stand-up but I won’t say concentrating on it as I enjoy performing but my true love is the writing of comedy.
PPSF- I mentioned earlier that the National Film Council rejected your film in favour of Harry Potter. Nows your chance for redemption. Let us know why we should all be watching the Limelight rather than a 3 hour wizard fest. (I think I left the easiest question til last here).
Well hopefully you’ll laugh more and relate more to the characters. It’s real and yet it isn’t. I HOPE it’s an emotional rollercoaster and we’ve relied on a strong script and good performances rather than a load of expensive CGI to make it watchable. Not that you’d want to see Gary Shand flying through the air on a broomstick anyway! Not a pretty sight!
My advice is,if you’ve seen Harry Potter, go and watch The Limelight and then you the viewer decide for yourself. We hope you enjoy.
A screener of the film was well received by the board of the Los Angeles Cinema Festival so it looks set to make it over the pond any time soon. We’ll keep you posted.
You can also check out a trailer for the movie on the website but I must warn you that you are in for a bit of strong language. I thought that might get you clicking on the link a bit quicker…. If you liked this article please show us your support and come and visit us over on Facebook.