Tag Archives: Almost Married

The little film taking on Inbetweeners 2 and Mrs Brown without knowing it

Ben Cookson

Ben at 2014 Almost Married premiere

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 AwardsPublic 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.”

Ben (second left) with other winners at the Marbella Film Festival

Ben (second left) with other winners at Marbella Film Festival

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 poster

Blurred will be a much darker film than Almost Married

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.

“In Leicester.”

“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.

Ben is working on another film

Ben’s second film might be his third one…

“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.”

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New movie “Almost Married” directed by a man who almost had only one eye

Philip McGinley and Emily Atack in Almost Married

Philip McGinley and Emily Atack star in Almost Married

Last night I went to the May Fair Hotel in London for the premiere of Almost Married, a movie starring Philip McGinley (Game of Thrones) and Emily Atack (The Inbetweeners and Dancing On Ice). It starts a limited cinema release – and has a simultaneous digital release – tomorrow.

Before last night’s premiere, I asked writer/director Ben Cookson: “What’s it about?”

“It’s about,” he said, “a guy who comes back from a stag weekend with a sexually transmitted disease.”

“So it’s a comedy?” I asked.

“It was… err…” said Ben, “It became a comedy. It had to be.”

“Autobiographical?’ I asked.

“Biographical. Not necessarily my own. The stories I’ve heard: it’s not an isolated case.”

“How much did it cost?” I asked.

“I think the official line is $1 million. We lost some regional funding so then it was a case either looking for another region to back us or just do it on a tighter schedule.”

Almost Married was originally scheduled for a four week shoot but, because of the last-minute partial loss of funding, it was shot in 18 days (three 6-day weeks).

(From left) Philip McGinley, Ben Cookson, Emily Atack, Mark Stobbart on stage before last night’s Almost Married premiere

(From left) Philip McGinley, Ben Cookson, Emily Atack, Mark Stobbart on stage before last night’s Almost Married premiere

“Within the first three or four days,” Ben told me, “we realised we needed to use a 2-camera set-up otherwise we weren’t going to get it done.”

Ben graduated from Bournemouth University with a First Class Honours in Scriptwriting after winning the Alan Plater Award for Best Screenplay.

Almost Married got off the ground when he met producer Lionel Hicks in a toilet at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Some stories are best left dangling – leaving the reader wanting to know more.

“I never really had any ambitions to direct,” Ben told me. “I just wanted to write stories.”

Like many another writer-director, he directs to get the script closer to his vision.

“We shot a 15-minute teaser in 2011 to help raise money,” he told me yesterday, “and then we shot the film independently in March 2012 with no distributor or sales agent in place. That’s about as independent as you can get. And then, when you get a sales agent or distributor, they’re going to want to make changes, which is why it took a lengthy time to get here.

“In the edit, the original cut was just under two hours which they liked but which for a comedy – which is how it’s being packaged and sold – is too long. They wanted it nearer 90 minutes, which I understand. Shortening it was a difficult process. We went from two hours to 90 minutes and then I fought to get it up to 97 minutes.”

The new film directed by Ben Cookson

The latest film directed by Ben Cookson

“I went to AFM (the American Film Market in Los Angeles) for the first time in November last year and managed to get a manager off the back of it. We got on and he really likes the idea of my next project.”

“Which is?” I asked.

“It’s a romantic thriller set in Paris about a fashion photographer who’s left with severe double vision after a mugging. It’s about his relationship with a young woman he meets in hospital.”

“And the relevance of the double vision is…?” I asked.

“Well,” said Ben, “it completely debilitates his career and… Well, I had double vision myself. I’ve still got it to an extent. If I play pool or snooker, I have to play with one eye closed, because it goes double vision at the top and the bottom.”

“How did that happen?” I asked.

“It was originally from a trauma,” explained Ben. “I got got hit in the eye with a pool cue… My eye and cheekbone were affected for about ten days… The socket of my eye was replaced by polythene and a few screws. When the doctors correct it, your brain has to learn to put the two images from your two eyes back together again and it’s pretty debilitating but it also drives you pretty insane. It’s 24/7. You can’t do anything. You can’t read; you can’t write. If you make a cup of tea, you’re pouring it all over the table because you see two cups.”

“Will there be humour in this movie?” I asked.

Ben Cookson

Ben at the Almost Married premiere

“It’s pretty dark,” replied Ben. “It’s more… How are we billing it?… It’s Blow Up meets Black Swan or maybe more Blow Up meets Leaving Las Vegas.

“I want to try and get the double vision across visually. Tinnitus of the eyes is the best way of describing it. I’m talking to DoPs (directors of photography) about ways of doing it in-camera. When you see double vision in films, it’s usually done in post production: it’s just two images and that’s not representative of what it is actually like to have double vision – because everything moves on a bit of an axis. Everything’s all out of kilter.”

“So it’s not,” I asked, “like me watching a 3D movie without wearing 3D glasses?”

“Not quite the same,” said Ben, “but it is as nauseating.”

“How long did your double vision last?” I asked.

“For six months at least. It’s really hard to measure, because it’s so gradual when it improves. You wake up every day thinking Oh, it’s just the same, but it’s actually incrementally getting slightly better. For six months, I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t work or do anything.”

“You must have had trouble just walking down steps,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Ben, “it’s like being paralytically drunk but without the enjoyment. And all the time. And you can’t drink either, because what’s the point?”

“You must have thought when it happened: I can never be a film director.”

“I dunno what I thought. Christ! You think Worst case scenario is, if it stays as bad as it is, I’ll have to get rid of one eye. It would be better to be blind in one eye and function. But I didn’t have to do that.”

There is a trailer for Almost Married on YouTube.

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