Jessica Hynes, writer and star of Channel 4 comedy Spaced and star of W1A and The Royle Family (among many, many other shows and movies), has recently directed her first feature film, the micro budget seaside-set family drama The Fight.
The movie follows frazzled mum Tina who takes up boxing when she’s forced to find ways to acknowledge her past and stand up for herself and her family.
An assured and clever debut, with excellent performances, The Fight is an entertaining and thoughtful film that highlights the often conflicting ways we try to deal with our problems when we can’t face dealing with the reasons for them. (Check out my review here.)
I managed a brief chat with Jessica at the London Film Festival (LFF), where we talked about the freedoms and compromises of micro-budget movie making – The Fight was made in 12 days for only £140,000 – and her “Kurosawa scene”.
On freedom in filmmaking:
I was left alone, which is this the great advantage of doing a micro budget movie. There’s a certain amount of freedom that you have, and time. The film was agreed in May 2017, I sent an outline – having not written the script yet – to Maggie Monteith at Dignity Films and she said yes, she wanted to do it. We set a date for filming [in] July so I started to work up the script and set up the locations in Folkstone, which is where it was filmed.
By and large I was left alone to develop it and create it, and even during filming [I was] left alone to make changes.
On Eureka! moments:
As I was writing and developing it, and getting closer to the time of filming, I was setting up a lot of the locations in that pre-production period and the ideas were kind of percolating. And then, as with all writing projects, there are a few Eureka moments where you just think “ah that’s how it’s going to be”. And that really all happened within that period.
There was one particular occurrence – we had Rhona Mitra [who plays Amanda, the troubled mother of teenage bully Jordan] coming but we only had her for a day; so we had to film all of her scenes in one day. And I was okay with that, apart from one scene that I knew, as it was written, we would not be able to do within the day along with everything else.
And also I didn’t particularly like that scene as it stood in the script. When we started filming I was like, “I need to look at that, I need to think about that” anyway.
We were two or three days into filming, and we only had a few days left, and that was looming. We were completing days, we were getting the film, and I sat down with my DOP [Ryan Eddleston] and I told him I needed to do something about that scene, and he agreed. Because I knew we were never going to do it as it was written, and we were never going to complete the day.
On her “Kurosawa scene”:
We talked through what was actually happening at that point in the film emotionally, what I needed to happen emotionally.
I knew we had a particular location in which I really wanted to film what I laughingly call “my Kurosawa scene” – all trees, and it was a long shot, that was my Kurosawa moment. There’s a little stream at the end of a little town park, you know?
But I could see, with the paths and the angles, we could get some beautiful angles and on different levels. Without a crane you can get these beautiful high, long shots – which is why I was calling it my Kurosawa scene.
And I said to Ryan “this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to film in the same location but we’re going to cut that character, we’re gonna cut that, and this is what’s going to happen”. I described the scene as I was reimagine it and he just said “brilliant, it’s going to be brilliant”.
We had an hour to do it because we had to complete that scene before 6 o clock – so it was intense, but I had freedom and I think the freedom is what made it possible.
Check out my review of The Fight.