Q&A with Rene Pannevis
Rene Pannevis directed Jacked, starring Thomas Turgoose and Charley Palmer Rothwell, through London Calling in 2015. The film was nominated for a Crystal Bear at Berlin and picked up an Audience Award at Lille. His debut feature will shoot in 2017.
Tell us about your work/career as a filmmaker before you made a London Calling short.
My London Calling short was my first film out of film school. I graduated with a big debt so I initially worked as an editor for two years at a production company in London.
Why did you enter London Calling?
I still didn't make enough money to make a short film so I really needed the support of a funding scheme. I wanted to make a short in London so I googled London + shorts + funding and yes, Film London came first!
Tell us about the short film you made and why you wanted to make it?
Jacked is about two kids who steal cars for money, and find audio cassettes of a dying man. One of the kids gets emotionally attached to the tapes and wants to return the car. I grew up in a neighbourhood where friends of mine stole cars. One day they couldn't get a steering wheel lock undone, and out of anger they broke the visor and stole music tapes. That image became the inspiration for Jacked. To me it was important to bring the focus to the owner of the car, and how awful it can be when your car gets stolen.
How did the development process help you?
The script is the most important part of your film and it's great that the London Calling development process really focusses on that. It was great to start off with a screenwriting lecture and then have script development session with other teams. Every change we made with Film London along the way paid off in the final film.
What was the most important thing you learned through the London Calling process?
Jacked was my first film with a higher budget. My films in film school were more around £50, so a higher budget means a different production process. It was the first time I really had a producer and a casting agent. I dealt with an agency to get a great DoP, and with another agency to get great actors. The London Calling process gave me a professional experience more similar to what you'll get in the professional film industry and that's really helpful for the further development of your film career.
Did you have a mentor and how did they help you through the process?
I had no mentor, but I did have co-writer Ashish Ghadiali to bounce ideas off, which was really useful. I think it's helpful to listen to anybody who is closely involved with your project.
Do you have any favourite moments from the shoot?
We laughed a lot on the shoot. The car, an old Indian jeep called The Tata, became a real character on the shoot. The police pulled her over because they thought it was stolen, and we had to jump start the car all the time. In the meantime, I saw Thomas Turgoose duct tape together my make-up artist and wardrobe. Then I couldn't find the spark plugs for the scene and had to run to Quick Fit to get replacements, which they initially didn't want to give me because they thought I was going to steal a car! Too many good memories.
What happened after you made the film - what kind of response did you get from the festival scene and industry?
It's great to have an audience come to you after the screening and talk about your film. The premiere was at BFI London Film Festival which was a fantastic start. It's great to have your premiere in your own town because many people from the industry contacted me after they saw the film. Then the film played at a couple of other big festivals and I got approached by a talent agency. Don't expect the agency to instantly provide you with immediate work, but they help a lot with meeting other people.
How has the whole experience helped you as a filmmaker?
During film school I never felt I was a filmmaker, I felt I was a student. After London Calling and going through that professional production process, I felt much more experienced. It boosts your confidence and helps you to push to your next project.
What are you up to now, and how has life changed since making Jacked?
My biggest dream finally came true. I'm developing a feature with the Film London Microwave scheme, shooting around spring next year. In the meantime, I'm currently shooting a feature documentary, The Other Fellow, with my director friend Matthew Bowyer, and trying to gain a foothold in the commercial world, though that's really tough.
What advice would you give to anyone making a short film?
Ask yourself why you want to make that film. The more you are attached to your material the more unique your film will be.
Next week sees the latest in our series of Film London Labs, and the first of 2020, once again at We Are Social Studios in Finsbury Square. This time, we explore the creative possibilities of that little thing in your pocket – your mobile phone.