The Autopsy of Jane Doe: tense chiller highlights the health of London's film industry
Date posted: 28.03.2017
This week sees smart horror The Autopsy of Jane Doe hit UK cinemas for a special one-night screening on Friday 31 March, along with a pre-recorded director Q&A. André Øvredal’s ultra-tense, darkly-humorous follow-up to his 2010 smash Troll Hunter, was made in London and produced by a team committed to applying big budget principals to their work regardless of size.
The film has already had audiences at Toronto, the BFI London Film Festival and Austin’s Fantastic Fest on the edge of their seats and has been described by horror demigod Stephen King as a “visceral horror to rival Alien and early Cronenberg.”
Singing London's praises
While the nerve-jangling chiller was helmed by a Norwegian director and is set in the States, it was filmed in Bromley-by-Bow and made full use of our capital’s world-renowned skills base. “It’s a fully international film – though most films are nowadays,” says Rory Aitken, one of the film’s producers and co-founder of London-based production company 42. “It’s a bit ironic, though, that an American film, set in America with American characters gets entirely shot in a warehouse in East London. I think this says a lot about filmmaking in London right now – the quality of crews, the efficiency and dependability of the UK tax reliefs and the ability to finance and produce films here in the capital.”
The film’s director André Øvredal agrees wholeheartedly: “Shooting in London with a London crew was the best filming experience of my life. Their personal enthusiasm for the movie, their attention to detail, professionalism, ability to communicate with me as well as between departments was just amazing. But to me the greatest thing was just the positive attitude everybody had. It was solutions-oriented all the way, across the board.”
Big budget principles
Rory and his producing partner Ben Pugh made their first feature – cult crime thriller Shifty, which stars Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Riz Ahmed – through Film London’s Microwave scheme, which identifies, supports and champions the city’s brightest emerging filmmakers. While Shifty was a microbudget film made for just £100,000, the producers had already cut their teeth working on major-league features, and these formative experiences helped shape work ethic, both for Shifty and their subsequent work on Welcome to the Punch, Monsters: Dark Continent and Nicholas Hoult thriller Collide.
“Ben and I both started out as production runners on film sets for much bigger films,” says Rory. “We did ‘apprenticeships’ under amazing producers like Stephanie Austin, who produced Terminator 2, and David E. Kelley, who created Ally McBeal and Boston Legal. We applied the same quality bar to Shifty, not just in terms of the filmmaking but to all the processes involved in the production. I like to think that if you walked into our production office on Shifty you wouldn’t know we weren’t working on a $100m film. We learned a lot from Shifty in terms of the importance of story and performance, but we’ve always applied the same rigours in terms of process and discipline – I think they apply at all levels.”
The capital's screen industries are better than ever
The film is just one example of the creativity, adaptability and expertise of London’s filmmaking community – an industry that generated over £1 billion of inward investment spend for the UK economy in 2016 alone.
“I don’t want to jinx it by saying that it’s never been better, but I do think it’s a good time to be making films here,” says Rory.“I think there are almost two industries that stand side by side: there’s the one that services high-end productions, which is really successful right now with so many big budget American films coming to shoot here. Simultaneously, the homegrown industry – in terms of British producers making British movies – is also in a good place. The consistency of the film tax relief has been a big help – financiers feel like it’s dependable and something they can rely on to make movies. Then there’s our talent base – you can see evidence of how good our actors, writers and directors are by the number we’re successfully exporting to Hollywood.”
Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: “Seeing the filmmakers we’ve worked with carve out a place for themselves and go from strength to strength is a real pleasure. Considering The Autopsy of Jane Doe has the power to rattle the nerves of Stephen King it’s safe to say that horror fans should mark it down as a must-watch, and we’re all excited to see where Rory, Ben and 42 go next.”
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is released in UK cinemas for a one-night-only special presentation in association with FrightFest on Friday 31 March. This features a 15 minute Q&A with director André Øvredal which was filmed on the 16th March. The film will be released in the UK and Ireland by Lionsgate UK, and will be released digitally on 19 June and DVD/VOD 26 June.