Blocked (2003)

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After walking away from Good Cop Dead Cop, I decided that I needed to do more directing. I saw an advert online from an actor who was looking to shoot 6 scenes, that he had written, with 6 different directors. It sounded just what I needed, so I got in touch and this how I met Ashvin-Kumar Joshi. (We would go on to make the films Goodbye and Kareem's Vengeance together)

I did a piece called Domestic. A husband and wife have a fight, and in the end get back together. Ashvin played the husband and an actress called Victoria J. Wood played the wife. For me, it was a breath of fresh air. It reinjuvenated me. I didn't have to worry about locations, lights, wardrobe, etc. I just worked with the actors and shoot the scenes. I was ready to make another short film. (Ashvin actually asked me back to shoot another one of these scenes)

When it came to the writing of Blocked, I looked around me and saw what I had to hand that I could shoot. I could film in my house, so that was one location and I could shoot in an office I had access to. So what story could take place in my house and in a office? At the time I had re-watched Swimming With Sharks, and I enjoy films about the film industry, so I decided that I should make one of those stories.

One of the topics that coming up in conversation with friends was about Writer's Block. It's something that most writers talk about. The idea that you can't come with anything to write. Knock on wood, I haven't encountered it, but then I have never been given a writing assignment. I have always written my own work. So that's where the story came from. What would happen if a scriptwriter is given a studio assignment to write a summer blockbuster, but he gets writer's block as he really wants to write passion pieces. I wrote the script very quickly.

I then started getting the cast and crew together. First of all I asked Andrew Lawden to come back and play the part of the Studio head, David Gainsborough. He said yes. I asked Ashvin to play a small part and he said yes. I asked Victoria to play the wife and she said yes. I then tried to get David Hastings onboard to play the lead, Steven Rank, but I couldn't contact him. We had stayed in contact after Firepower, but then I stopped hearing from him. I don't know what has happened to him. It's like he has disappeared off the face of the Earth. So I had to look elsewhere for the lead.

I was looking around, not really wanting to go down the audition route, when Andrew recommended Garry Boon to me. Andrew had starred alongside Garry in a play called Dealer's Choice. I had seen it and I remember he was the stand out in the play. So I arranged to meet Garry. I told him about the script and he was keen to do it. I had one more part to cast, that of another scriptwriter, and Andrew came in with another suggestion, Lorraine Molins. Lorraine was another actor that Andrew had worked with. I contacted her and she said yes, filling the last part.

Blocked reunion 2008 (Andrew Lawden, Garry Boon, Simon Aitken)

For the crew, I asked my camera assistant from Good Cop Dead Cop, Matteo Prezioso, to shoot it. Matteo is much more knowledgble about cameras and lighting then I am, and he brought Ion Zubizarreta on board as the Gaffer. James Berkley was going to do the sound design for me. Max Somerset was going to write the music. I found Gabriela Gower to do costumes for me and Danielle Loosli was the runner.

The only person I couldn't find was a sound recordist. Yosien and Polly at Panico tried and tried to find me a sound recordist, but no-one was available. It was like they had all been snapped up by other productions. I had the sound equipment, but nobody to operate it. So in the end I had to pull double duties, director and sound recordist. Though I did have Keith Weir, the runner from Good Cop Dead Cop, to help me boom the mic. (Keith is a Storyboard Artist by trade and is doing really well in the industry)

The production was a 2 and half days shoot. We started Friday evening shooting all of Garry's scenes in his work space. We filmed them all in my bedroom. My bedroom was big, but when you put a camera, lights, cast and crew, it got very small... and hot. I remember that I got so dehydrated in there, that I had a pounding headache afterwards. I felt really ill. But a lot of water later, I felt better. Apart from that, the shooting of those scenes went smoothly.

On the Saturday we shot the reception area scenes with Garry, Ashvin, Lorraine and Victoria. (Victoria plays the wife and the assistant, but they aren't the same character) That went smoothly. Then in the evening we shot the scene with the wife. I remember that when we were filming this scene, the MTV Film Awards was on. So we would do a shot and then run in and see what was happening. We all stopped so we could watch The Matrix spoof that started the show. It's amazing that we got that scene finished.

Sunday we shot the scenes with Andrew and Garry. (Fun fact for you: the two lead characters are named after two British studios from the early days of cinema) I remember that this day we had a high wind outside, so we had to stop a few times when the wind was drowning out the dialogue. But we were able to get through it and we finished on time.

Post production went very smoothly. I was on editing duties. Max wrote a great score for the film. It's a piano piece that was influenced by The Firm (Starring Tom Cruise). I think it' great. Though it was this point that Max was going off into another career, magic. He went on to have his own show on Sky One, called Max Magic, and also starred in The Sorceror's Apprentice for the BBC. It was safe to say that music wasn't his thing. Which is a shame, as I have enjoyed working with him on this, Good Cop Dead Cop and Fire Power. He did write one more score (it was more of a theme) for When The Chips Are Down.

The film was completed late 2003. The repsonse to it wasn't great. Festivals didn't seem to like it. Ashvin had shown it to the a prodcuer at the BBC and they weren't very complementary about it. Looking back at it, it's kinda of baggy and I didn't get the tone right. It was too light. It needed to be a bit more serious than it was. But! It was what I needed at the time. Just to go out and make something on my own. So for that I am happy, and the music is good in it.