Raindance interview: Sleeping Dogs

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We recently reviewed the wonderful British indie feature Sleeping Dogs, which make is debut at Raindance film festival on October the 5th.

In awe of what the director, cast and crew managed to achieve on a seriously micro budget we had a few questions for them in regards to their experience during the filming and what the plans for Sleeping Dogs are going forward, luckily they were more than happy to oblige and below is our interview with actor Jon Campling (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 and 2), who portrays mysterious Roy in the film, and director Floris Ramaekers.

Hi guys, firstly congratulations on creating such a great film! Where did the inspiration come from for the story and the characters?

Floris – The inspiration of the story is maybe much more practical than the subject of it suggests.

Most of it comes from having made badly written short films and me and Simon (co writer) thought we finally knew how to expose a story that heralds the audience’s participation. Sleeping Dogs was born out of a short film that is now the first proper scene in the film, the scene in the launderette, and we got excited about the possibilities of refining the characters and placing them within a bigger yet contained world.

The subject matter is due to realizing that the motives people have behind their actions are usually much more primal than they seem at a first glance. I wanted to explore the darker sides of human nature. In particular, the motivations that, governed by primal instincts, originate, manipulate, and ultimately bind or destroy relationships. Human behaviour, it seems to me is duplicitous, and unavoidably so. So the story isn’t based on people we came in contact with, but rather the duplicitous nature of people that confronted us.

Sleeping Dogs deals with some delicate issues, how did you go about handling this?

FLORIS – We were very weary to not turn the movie into an essay about these issues. As our interest was telling a story that involves the audience and that focusses on duplicity, these sensitive themes are there to accentuate that which the film tries to achieve. We didn’t want the story to be about them, we wanted it to be propelled onward through these delicate issues. A way to handle this practically was to not always explain the full context of a scene to the actors, so that they didn’t feel the need to over act on certain points in the story. But rather, I let the juxtaposition of the scenes take the audience there. Hopefully it worked, it’s difficult to be impartial about this.

Jon, how about you? How did you get into acting and what were your reasons for undertaking this profession?

Jon – ‘Why’ is simple, I just always wanted to be an actor, but being born working class in Hull meant I ended up on an apprenticeship with British Aerospace after leaving school instead. Although in hindsight it turns out that 4 year taste of the real world was the kick I needed to get serious re the acting and a year after completing the apprenticeship I was ready to apply for drama school and a grant, and got both, my escape was complete. So it turns out the ‘How’ was kinda by accidentally
getting that damn apprenticeship at Bae!! Although a fight over girl called ‘IronFist’ was also very instrumental, buts that’s another story ; )
How did you relate to Roy? What preparation did you do for the role?

JON – Roy is a fascinating guy, and it was a real gift of a role for an actor to be given. Personally I have (almost) nothing in common with Roy in fact he is precisely the kind of person I take great pains to avoid crossing paths with in my day to day life, and I find this to be the essence of the actors adventure being asked to borrow a life you would never experience and wear it for a while like and coat and make it fit like a glove, then to be wholly at ease with it, and its driving forces however unpalatable to you own sensibilities. So i imagined the life Roy had led and choices he had made and that had defined him. Not pretty.

This is an amazing feat you’ve accomplished on such a small budget – what were your main challenges and how did you manage with such little funding?

FLORIS – Thank you, I think the biggest challenge for me was sticking with it and seeing it through to completion. When you’re making something for no money you cannot expect anything from people. So a lot of technical help, which is less fun and less beneficial for the people involved, is done half heartedly. You end up doing pretty much most of it yourself, which makes it a very long process. Waiting for people to help you is the worst thing there is. Luckily, we did find people for
specific things I couldn’t do myself like the sound design. But it took us a while and a few attempts before we got  the right people on board..

Another big challenge was writing it to be shot for no budget. As we had to figure out ways to keep the audience involved without it costing anything. This relies heavily on practising exposition techniques. When the writing is done however, and you’ve already thought of the budgetary solutions, it means the shooting is a freeing experience. I loved shooting with no lights or any other equipment. I love the speed of it, the amount you can get done and spend time focussing on the actors’ performances increase drastically without equipment.

I heard was filmed over the course of one year – how did you manage this between all your schedules??

FLORIS – I think it might’ve been a bit less than a year. We wrote the bulk of the script in 2 weeks and shot most of the film in about a month and a half and then we kept refining certain scenes. Shooting the rewrites took us ages as the actors, and us, where all onto other things. Sometimes we would literally shoot for 2 hours. Just a quick scene in a location we arranged last minute. So the time period in which we shot the film was long, but there were only 28 full shooting days or something like that. Luckily the crew consisted only of Yana (producer) and me, that was it. So our main mission was waiting for the right moment to get the actors in a room together.

JON – Shooting this way has its own difficulties and scheduling is definitely one of them but  we were all very committed to the projects and to Floris so you accept that dates will change and last minute
shoots will happen and you simply try to be as accommodating as possible. As actors you help each other recreate the feel and vibe that you had 3 weeks ago when you last shot a bit of a certain scene e and liberty (who plays Eve) had a lot of fun and helped each other cope with the extremely disjointed and staccato nature of the shoot because at its heart needed to be a believability and continuity of these characters and the world they inhabit.

What made you decide to go solo as oppose to public funding (i.e. kickstarter) which seems so popular amongst aspiring filmmakers at the moment?

FLORIS -The main reason we had no budget was because we were only going to shoot a short film at first. Whilst filming that we thought; ‘what if we just keep shooting?’ And that’s what we did. Me and Yana both had to get jobs soon (after finishing uni) and knew time to work on personal projects was running out. I think we would’ve tried to raise money had we known about Kick starter. I was oblivious to Kick starter until halfway through the main shoot. By that time we had already chosen the route of not having any funding.

And finally what are the plans for Sleeping Dogs now? Are you heading to festivals etc?

FLORIS – Sleeping Dogs has its world première at the Raindance Film Festival London on the 5th of October at 21.15! We are trying to get into more festivals after that!!

JON – I feel Floris has achieved an exceptional feat with this film. Many, many people talk about making a film many even make some plans and lots really do want to do it but, VERY few actually just go out and just, MAKE A FILM! And make a good one that tells a story and tells it with style, restraint and intelligence using only the most basic tools and an entire budget less than the daily coffee and biscuit budget of the average movie. So I hope that Sleeping Dogs gets seen by as many
people as possible as proof that determination, creativity and talent are what’s essential to making a good movie not money or equipment.
Let’s hope Raindance is JUST the beginning.

We’re sure it will be. Good luck for the future, not that you need it, and thank you for talking with us today. 
Watch the cast go viral for Raindance below and be sure to get to the screening early – you won’t regret catching this gem

To hear more from the Sleeping Dogs team you can follow their journey via Twitter @Sleepingdogsfil or check out the website at www.sleepingdogsfilm.com

Floris @florisra (Director)
Jon @joncampling (Roy)
Liberty @MillsLiberty (Eve)

Katie Hall is the assistant editor at Critics Associated.