Desperate times

For most people, redundancy results in a trip to the Job Centre. Chris Green explains to Dan Whitehead how it led him to a remote Yorkshire hilltop and a movie career

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“You’ve got big budget films, you’ve got low budget, you’ve got micro budget and then there’s our film.” So says Salford screenwriter Chris Green of his aptly titled debut movie, Desperate Measures, made for just £40,000 pounds. After spending years dreaming of a career in film while working as a sales manager for Bupa, redundancy eventually forced his hand. “I’d been writing for ten years,” he says over a cup of tea. “But I was always frightened of making the leap.”

Together with friend and aspiring director Steve Looker, there had been years of talk but very little action. “We’d been trying to make films for ages. We’d been through the Film Council, North West Vision and all of that. All the hoops you have to jump through. It’s always the money. The redundancy came up, it was a good package and I thought, why not?”

So it was that with his severance pay, and some top-up from local investors, Green was able to pull together enough to film his claustrophobic thriller about a hedonistic young drug addict (Stephen Lord), who is kidnapped and forced to go cold turkey in a remote farmhouse by two mysterious captors (Max Beesley Sr and Ricci Harnett from Rise Of The Footsoldier).

For cast and crew, filming in the wilds of Yorkshire brought its own challenges. “It’s in the middle of feckin’ nowhere,” Green laughs. “They call it a hill but it’s more like a mountain, so we had to hire a quad bike and tractor to take the crew up every morning. Totally impractical to shoot a film there. But the location almost becomes a character. It’s a beautiful place. Wherever you point a camera, it looks amazing. There’s no faking it.”

Simply capturing this dramatic scenery would have been impossible were it not for the freedom of digital filming and the support of Manchester’s creative community. “We wouldn’t have been able to shoot on film,” Green insists.

A freelance director of photography, with his own state-of-the-art high definition Red digital camera, combined with Steve’s directorial flair and rapport with the cast, ensured that the footage belied their tiny budget.

But getting the film shot was only half the battle. Getting it ready for release and finding a distributor required a healthy dose of Mancunian goodwill. Enter Lion Eyes TV, which offered Green a desk, cups of tea and all-important post-production facilities. “After shooting I was haggard,” Green sighs.

“We had it in the can, but if it hadn’t been for these guys we wouldn’t have had a film. They stepped up and did everything.”

Everything also included putting Green in touch with Scanbox Entertainment, which picked Desperate Measures up for a national DVD release. Scanbox is a Scandinavian company with offices in Richmond-upon-Thames and you can sense Green’s frustration that this crucial part of the process wasn’t available locally.

“If we were in London, we’d be laughing,” he admits. “There are London firms that are turning over three films a year. They go straight to DVD and they’re making money. I’d like to repeat that up here. Get a little industry going that’s Manchester-centric. Dramas, comedy, even horror. We have the creative talent. We want to be making theatrical movies. The frustrating thing is the cash. We just don’t have the infrastructure.”

With his first film in the can, does he ever pine for the security of his Bupa salary? “There are days when you think: F***, what did I do?“ Green confesses. “But then people say you made a film, you’re doing what you love. And they’re right. That’s what it’s about.”

Desperate Measures is out now on DVD

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