In a blog in March last year, I chatted to writer-director Ben Cookson about his first feature film Almost Married. Now it has been nominated as Best Comedy in the inaugural National Film Awards. Public voting ends on 12th March and the actual Awards night is 31st March in London.
“It came completely out of the blue,” Ben told me. “I got an e-mail from a friend of mine who said: Congratulations on the nomination. I’ve just voted for you. I said: What nomination? What’s this all about? He sent me the link and I found out Almost Married was among the nominations.”
“How,” I asked, “had you got nominated without knowing about it?
“It’s all done by public voting,” he explained, “and some people – whoever – had seen Almost Married and thought it was worth a shout and nominated it, but it wasn’t my family or mates. if I’d known about the Awards, it would have been, but I didn’t.
“The chances of us winning are almost nil. The films we are up against are pretty much household names – The Inbetweeners 2, Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie – I just found out today that The Inbetweeners 2 shifted over a million DVDs.”
“Still,” I said, “Almost Married is doing rather well.”
“Well,” said Ben, “it’s released in North America this summer – June or July – and I’m not sure when it’s released in Latin America – it’s being handled by one of the biggest distributors for that territory; they did The Hunger Games and The Wolf of Wall Street; so it’s got a good home there.
“It’s also being screened at the Byron Bay Film Festival in a couple of weeks. It’s only been in one other festival – the Marbella one.”
Almost Married won the Best Feature Film award at the Marbella International Film Festival last autumn.
“That came out of the blue as well,” Ben told me. “We were asked to submit the film to the Marbella festival.”
“And now Byron Bay,” I said. “You targeted that?”
“Yes. It sounded like a nice place to go.”
“Do you surf?”
“I’ve done a bit, but it doesn’t look like I’m going. I have to stay here. It comes to a tipping point. You can either look back at the old film – Almost Married – or focus on getting the next one made and two weeks in Byron Bay – as amazing as it would be – is going, in reality, to put me back a month on the next project, Blurred. If I weigh it up, I’ve gotta say I’d rather get on with the next one.”
“And that’s very personal,” I said.
“I can relate to it, yeah. It’s a romantic thriller. It’s a hard write.”
“The emotional and psychological balance?” I asked.
“I could say that, but it’s just that any scriptwriting is hard.”
In this blog last year, Ben described Blurred as being “pretty dark… It’s Blow Up meets Black Swan or maybe more Blow Up meets Leaving Las Vegas.”
“I finished another draft the other day,” he told me last week. “It was 136 pages. So there’s a bit of cutting to go yet.”
“You’re assuming one page per minute?” I asked.
“Pretty much. I’d say we’d be looking eventually at around 110 minutes long, because there’s effectively two stories – a romantic thread and a B-story thread.
“Almost Married was character-driven, dialogue-heavy, with everyday locations. With this next one Blurred – if Blurred IS the next one – then it’s a bit more stylistic due to the nature of the subject matter – It’s set in the fashion world in Paris – a fashion photographer who has severe double vision following a mugging and it’s about his relationship with a young woman he meets in hospital
“I was writing last night. I’ve got into that clichéd work pattern of writing until five in the morning. I try to have better hours but, for the last three or four weeks I’ve been working about 11.00pm to 5.00am, then try to give myself six hours sleep. My father works night shifts, so we’ve been almost on the same sort of pattern.”
“What does he do?” I asked.
“He’s a shift engineer in a pork pie factory.”
“He engineers pork pies?” I asked.
“He’s on the tools. So he maintains the machines.”
“Is that a phrase in the pork pie industry?” I asked. “He’s on the tools.”
“At his age,” said Ben, ignoring the question, “it’s not ideal, because he’s knocking on a bit. He’s 60 now and pork pies plus night shift at 60 years old is not ideal.”
“Where is this?” I asked.
“Not Melton Mowbray?”
“They do make Melton Mowbray pork pies there,” said Ben.
“Do they not,” I asked, “make Melton Mowbray pork pies in Melton Mowbray?”
“Well, Leicester is close enough to qualify.”
“Do they,” I asked, “make Leicester pork pies in Melton Mowbray?”
“I’ll get you a sample, if you like,” said Ben. “We are never short of pork pies at home.”
“I’m a Scotch egg man myself,” I said. “Have you got a date to film the new movie?”
“In all honesty,” Ben replied, “I doubt if we will film it this year. The likelihood is we will have to do a French co-production as it’s set in Paris. We had meetings last year at Cannes. I would hope the creative doc and script would be put together by the end of March.
“But I’ve also been working on another project. A couple of producers approached me with a project they’ve been trying to get off the ground. They saw Almost Married and thought I might be the right sort of director, so they asked me to develop a treatment and, at the moment, we have a creative doc with a fairly solid treatment. There is a chance that might be my second film and I would save Blurred for the third.”
“What genre is this other film?” I asked.
“A present-day romantic drama inspired by true events.”
“Does it have a title?”
“The working title is The Drummer and His Wives.”