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Chris Cooke Interview: One For The Road

9 August 04 words: Jared Wilson
photos: Dom Henry

"There is a really good network here and I think it is growing. There really are loads of people making films all the time."

Chris Cooke - Photo by Dom Henry

One For the Road is the debut feature film from the Nottingham-based film director Chris Cooke. It tells the tale of a group of alcoholics who meet at an AA class, but soon head off to the pub together to hatch crazy plans to make money. The film is released on DVD in November and was shot in locations throughout Nottingham.

It was made with financial support from local agency EM-Media and features a strong Nottingham cast and crew. It received rave reviews in the national press during it's cinema run earlier this year. Chris Cooke is one person who seems to have his feet on the ground, despite the lavish praise. In conversation he immediately puts you at ease with his dry self-depreciating sense of humour. I spoke to him one bleak Tuesday morning...

You must be pleased with the success of One For The Road...
"Yeah, I'm really happy. It's had a fairly limited release, but it's been a good one. We've had some excellent reviews in the national press. The audiences I've spoken to also seemed to enjoy it."

Some of the Nottingham actors are brilliant in this film...
"Absolutely! When we were auditioning for Shifting Units, the short that lead to this feature, a mate of mine was saying that the guy we wanted to play Paul was Rupert Proctor. He came in for his audition last and, to be honest, I should have listened to her from the beginning. He walked in and he was the part. The same thing goes with Mark Davenport. He's another local filmmaker and actor and he was absolutely brilliant. He's one of the best comedy writers and short filmmakers in this region anyway and played his character brilliantly."

It must have been quite a contrast between working with those guys and alongside a classic actor like Hywel Bennett?
"He's a great actor and he really looks the part. The great thing about him, compared to the other actors, is that he comes from a totally different tradition. It worked really well, because he was like an island that everyone else was kind of swimming around."

It seems that the film-making community in Nottingham is thriving at the moment...
"There is a really good network here and I think it is growing. There really are loads of people making films all the time. Some people are doing it on an outsider level, sometimes with really low budgets and others with a little funding. The sense of community is definitely one of the things that kept me going. I was unemployed for about five years and during that time I worked on as many shorts as I could. There was always someone who needed a runner or a sound recorder or someone to do the lighting or whatever. It was a really good nurturing ground... and it still is."

Hywel Bennett in One For The Road

Are you a fan of Shane Meadows' work?
"Absolutely. I'm dying to see his new film Dead Mans Shoes. I've heard so much about it and always look out for what he's doing..."

Are you still going to use DV tape to film on?
"Yeah, I'm sticking with it! It's like a double-edged sword because it allows me to get much closer to the actors and I can afford to experiment a lot more than I could on film. On the other you hand up with far too much footage. There was something like a 90 to 1 ration for One For The Road. It can be a nightmare in the edit suite."

What are you working on at the moment?
"A comedy about death and grief. A woman flies out to the French Alps to pick her brother up after he's spent months out there leading a hedonistic life. The story follows them on the journey back to Nottingham for their mother's funeral. The closer they get to home, the more honest they become with each other. It's a bleak subject, but I chose it because I think that's where the routes of comedy lie. The failure of communication is one of the things that I really enjoy writing about."

I understand you're also developing a British wrestling movie..?
"Another bleak black comedy, because I can't stop myself. Wrestling is one of those things where everything is fake apart from the physical pain. There's something about the way that people create characters that I was really fascinated by. You create another identity and it becomes a facet or an extension of who you are and can reveal more about yourself than you'd like. You escape from things, but you can never really escape from yourself..."

If you were a wrestler what would your character be?
"The fat bald one. There's always one. I'd like to be the new Brian Glover..."

One For The Road is released on DVD on 22 November 2004.

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