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The making of Wormholes

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James Eaves won an IAC Diamond and Best Story Award and Ruben Crow won Best Acting at BIAFF2016

Still from 'Wormholes'.

How it began

Wormholes started with a trip to a local Indian restaurant - an evening spent with a few friends talking over ideas for future film projects and we noted at the time the fact that the restaurant had two sets of staircases – a feature that we thought lent itself neatly to the staging of a traditional British farce.

The conversation moved on and I thought nothing more of it until a few weeks later I happened to watch one of my favourite childhood films, Back to the Future … and thus the idea of setting a time travel comedy in an Indian restaurant was born.

The script went through a number of drafts over about 3-4 months but the central narrative (that of a man looking for the best way to propose to his girlfriend) remained the same.

The biggest challenge was solving the paradoxes of time travel in such a way that enabled the hero to get the girl and not be trapped in an alternate timeline or surrounded by other versions of himself. But it was a fun script to write because you could play around with the same pieces of action from different people’s point of view.

Still from 'Wormholes'.
Still from 'Wormholes'.
Still from 'Wormholes'.

Comedy inspiration

The last two films I’d made had been pretty dark thrillers, so I knew I wanted to write a comedy. In addition to my love of time travel stories, I suppose the greatest comedy inspiration for the film was Fawlty Towers – I wanted it to have that kind of madcap energy. There’s a bit of Basil Fawlty in the character of Babu, but rather than ranting and raving at the world, Babu has this boundless positivity and romantic innocence in the face of certain disaster which makes him as likeable as he is idiosyncractic.

My Dad passed away in 2011, just before I started writing Wormholes. He was a talented musician and artist himself and nurtured my love of the arts throughout my childhood. He actually appeared in the very first film I made (just after I left school) and I think he probably regarded some of the darker material I’d made subsequently as ‘interesting but not really his cup of tea’. Wormholes would have been his cup of tea, and so the film is dedicated to him.

Finding the location

With the story in shape, I passed it to my long time friend and collaborator, Michael Bickerton. He liked the concept but we both knew that the film would stand or fall on our ability to find the right location. The restaurant with two staircases never answered my phone calls, but fortunately we found another restaurant on our doorstep that were not only happy for us to film during their opening hours, but had a whole floor that we could use complete with its own bar, toilets and backroom space. The staff bent over backwards to help us throughout the shoot, and have become firm friends ever since!

Still from 'Wormholes'.
Still from 'Wormholes'.
Still from 'Wormholes'.

Titles

Mike and I came up with the idea of doing an animated title sequence akin to the opening of Catch Me If You Can or one of the Pink Panther films. It was something we’d not done before and felt like it would set up the right tone for the film. In the end I designed it using Apple’s Motion software, learning how to do things as I went along. It was the last piece of the film to be completed and took a couple of months to do – not least of all because I wanted to use an art deco style font for the titling and rather than buy something, opted to design each letter individually. The music by Fergus Davidson also played a huge part in this process, as everything had to be timed perfectly.

Still from 'Wormholes'.
Still from 'Wormholes'.
Still from 'Wormholes'.

Casting

Casting Tom and Victoria proved simple – Ruben and Zannah (who are married to each other in real life) have long been friends of mine and as professional actors themselves, were happy to jump on board. We then set about trying to find someone to play Babu, and by calling up a few local actors agencies, met Tariq (Taz) for an audition. It was one of those situations where the actor walked in the room, and you immediately felt the character was standing in front of you – something just clicked, and although Taz’s experience to date had been minimal, he brought so much energy and excitement to the role, working with him proved to be an absolute pleasure. Smaller roles were filled by local actors, some of whom had worked with me on previous projects as well as amateur dramatics enthusiasts from my local village. It was a great ensemble cast and the atmosphere on set was always relaxed (well, almost always).

Preparation

We were lucky to have access to the location several times before we went for the shoot and we took full advantage of this. First of all Mike and I blocked out different scenes, took reference photos and worked out where each scene would be shot. This then allowed me to storyboard the entire film which proved indispensable for cast and crew. Then about a month before the shoot we spent a couple of nights with the principal cast rehearsing key scenes. In particular we had time to develop the relationships between Tom and Victoria and Tom and Babu, which really helped bring the comedy alive on screen.

It was a lot to get through

We originally secured use of the restaurant to film over five days, but we decided after an initial edit to go back for one day of pick ups. It was a lot to get through, particularly as we had to work around the availability of the cast all of whom had other commitments. Mike was in charge of recruiting the crew and getting all the equipment together, and was also our patient and dedicated DP. Mike and I have worked on various projects under the banner of Dragon Community Projects for nearly 15 years, so there’s a shorthand between us which makes it easy to get things done – I couldn’t have made Wormholes without him.

Still from 'Wormholes'.
Still from 'Wormholes'.
Still from 'Wormholes'.

From a technical point of view the biggest problem was the fact that we were shooting from 10am to 11pm each day, but the action in the film is supposed to take place on one evening between 7.30-8pm. So we could only shoot towards the windows until about 6pm each day. We also had to stick orange gels to all the windows to maintain the correct colour balance with the lights we were using inside, but the tape kept on slipping - it was a bit of hassle for our crew, but nothing we couldn’t deal with.

Music

Fergus Davidson has scored my last three films and has become a key member of the creative team. On each of the projects we’ve worked on, I’ve given him a rough cut of the film and told him where I think we need music. He then goes away and composes a whole bunch of stuff which we chop and change around until we get the final score. He’s also a professional flautist and the Wormholes score has several pieces which feature Fergus on the flute. Bringing the music and the pictures together just lifts the whole film to another level and Fergus did a brilliant job enhancing the comedy and romance through his compositions.

 

- James Eaves

 

James Eaves won the IAC International Award (Youth) at BIAFF in 1996. The film was called Blind Faith and he made it with another good friend from school, Richard Jones. Richard and James went on to make one more film together in 1999, and have remained firm friends. They are currently collaborating on a feature script called Recluse, which may be the next thing they make, depending on funding!