Good Cop Dead Cop (2002)

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The Making Of Essay

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We were sitting in a restaurant, the three of us - Andy, Nick and me - after a screening of Nick's film, Pissing With Confidence, when I saw two policemen walking past the window. One was wearing a bulletproof vest and the other wasn't. I pointed this out to the other two. Nick made a joke that the police are running out of bulletproof vests, and the idea for Good Cop Dead Cop was born.

I met Nick Hughes and Andrew Clark at Panico. They had done the course after me. I met them at the club night. I got to work with Nick on a shoot called "What Will I Be When I Grow Up". To be polite, it wasn't a great experience, but it was good to work with Nick. He kept very calm through out the shoot. (I also got to meet James Berkeley, who did the sound design on Good Cop Dead Cop) Andy is a Production Designer who worked on the film The Engagement, written and directed by John Duigan (Sirens, Flirting, The Parole Officer).

We both worked on Nick's first short film, Pissing With Confidence. Andy doing Production Design and I was the Still Photographer and Editor. (I had just learnt to edit on Premiere) The short is a public information video about male toilet etiquette. It's a comedy for those who need help with how to behave in public toilets. Nick was able to get Alexander Armstrong to do the voiceover. It did really well in the festivla circuit, even getting shown at the London Short Film Festival, where we found ourselves at the restaurant afterwards.

We came up with the story of Good Cop Dead Cop there at that restaurant. The idea that the police have to do a daily draw for bulletproof vest and Dave never gets his name drawn. A fact that his partner Terry won't let him forget. Nick and Andy were going to write the script, but who was going to direct it. We agreed that we would all direct it. All three of us. (The production company is named Three Generals Productions for that exact reason) The script was written very quickly. The story wasn't changed much to what we outlined in the restaurant.

Shooting on the police station location

We did an open call for actors. We had put out an advert on Shooting People, which was new at the time, and we received a lot of resumes through email. (From this point on I only receive resumes by email) The three of us picked the actors we wanted to meet and arranged auditions with them all.

Something happened to me, to us, that has never happened again. In the middle of the auditions, an actor walked in and he was perfect for the role. In the script the part of Terry Mossop was written as a short man, Mike McAlpine was the opposite to this, but there was something about him that just fitted the role. I thought it was just me, but Nick and Andy thought the same thing too. His audition was great and when we all agreed there and then that Mike had the part.

We also had an angry actor. I can't remember his name, but he was agressive and angry, that we actually feared that he would attack us. We got through his audition very quickly.

I video record the auditions, so to pick the other parts we would watch the tapes. We would make our picks and discuss the reasons why we thought that person was right for the part. Once we agreed on an actor, we would offer the part to them. That's how we cast Ben Farrow as Deadmeat Dave. Philip Keiman we asked to appear in the film, as he had been in Pissing With Confidence.

We then went looking for locations. We found most of the locations locally. We tried to shoot at an actual police station, but the cost was too much for us. We found an altenative location and dressed it up to look like an office in a police station.

Testing out the bullet hole makeup

For the uniforms, we went to Angel Costumes. They had just opened a warehouse in West Hendon, and we were actually offered costumes for free. Unfortunately the costumes they offered us weren't good enough. They weren't full police uniforms. Thankfully, Andy knew a place that rented uniforms, like police and army, and they were great. Just like the real thing. And most importantly they had a bulletproof vest.

So you are probably asking yourself; how could three people direct one short film. We decided that each one of us would direct scenes. So Andy directed the scenes in the police station and in the park. Nick directed the scenes in the cafe and on the street. And I directed the montage scene and the end scenes. We also pulled double duties on the shoot. I was the Director of Photography, Andy was the Production Designer and Nick was the Producer.

The film was a three day shoot, starting on Friday and finishing on Sunday. The first day we were in the police station location. We did about two setups, before our sound recordist reported to me that there was a problem with the camera. I checked the footage and there was a problem with that too. Nick called up the rental company to replace the camera. It was then that we were told that it would take 2 hours for the replacement to turn up. We had gotten a very good deal for the camera and lights from a company in Hounslow, but as they were small they only had one van and it was out on delivery. I can't tell you what an inconvience that was. I didn't like the fact that they also blamed the problem on us. I never used them again. Somehow we were able to meet our day. We had to drop a few shots, but we didn't run over.

The next two days went well. We didn't have any more camera problems. I got to direct my scenes on the Sunday. We shot the montage on the streets of Hendon, using ourselves and people we met on the street. That's how we found the kid to shoot Deadmeat Dave with the slingshot. In the middle of shooting, we actually had a tourist stop our actors, in full police uniform, for directions. They both looked like the real deal, even though they didn't act like real policemen.

Capturing the police

We then moved back to my place in Kingsbury to film the finale of the short. I remember the crew acting weirdly to me, when I started to direct my scenes. They must of found it weird to see the DOP start giving the actors direction. But they soon got use to it, as I had a lot to do. I had to shoot an arguement, a fight and effect shot - a bullet hole in the head. We got Chris Watson (Eden Lake, Pride, Spider) to do the effect for us. We knew Chris from Panico and I had helped him on his short film before this one. It was a very simple effect. A fishing wire attached to a cover piece, when pulled off on cue, would reveal a bullet hole. It didn't work the first time, but the second time was perfect and ended in the film.

The shoot on the whole was a lot of fun and we got every done. Andy, Nick and Me worked well on the production. We talked about doing more shorts, with the three of us directing. We saw ourselves as masked directors, our identities a mystery, only being known as the Three Generals. It was a nice dream, but it didn't work out that way. The editing process was tough. I edited the film. I would cut the scenes with Andy and Nick separately. We didn't edit them together. So there was disagreements about how each scene was cut. The harmony we had during the shoot was gone. It was a trudge to get the film finished.

By the end I was very tired. We had the premiere of the film at the Curzon Mayfair, which was great and I got to see the film on the big screen, but I had enough. I handed the film over to Nick and Andy, and walked away from the project.

Years later I walked out of Forbidden Planet, on Shaftsbury Avenue, and I heard someone shout my name. I turned round to see Andy. We walked and talked for a bit. He invited me to a screening of a documentary he directed, called Alien Encounters that was showing as part of the Sci-fi London Film Festival. I decided to go and in attendance was Nick. It was like nothing happen, we chatted away like we used to.

Three Generals Reunion (Andrew David Clark, Simon Aitken, Nicholas J. Hughes)

We are all still keep in touch. (I even helped Andy on music video he shot) In the end the film worked out well. It's a fun comedy that people enjoy. Not bad for three generals who came up with an idea in a restaurant.