Filmed on location in East London, Twenty8K is a new British thriller which plunges fashion executive Deeva Jani (Parminder Nagra) into a world of corruption and intrigue.
Returning from Paris following her brother’s arrest for a fatal gang shooting, Jani teams up with youth worker and ex-gang member Clint (Jonas Armstrong) to discover the truth behind the killing. Her investigation takes her into the heart of a conspiracy of corruption, murder and power struggles which lead all the way to the seat of government.
Seenit.co.uk spent a day on set and spoke to key members of the cast and crew about the project.
Though Twenty8K is now a very London-based story it was originally due to film last year in Birmingham.
The UK’s economic woes delayed production and by the time the project was ready to get going again, the story had moved a couple of hundred miles down the motorway to London’s East End and the budget was looking slightly less generous.
In the world of British movies such pauses aren’t uncommon, projects often have long gestation periods and, as co-star Jonas Armstrong laments, not all get completed.
“I had three films last year which I was set to do, all independent films all in the last 6 months of last year” reveals the former BBC One Robin Hood actor, “not one of them ended up happening because of the climate that we’re in financially.”
Key roles had already been cast for the film’s Birmingham incarnation but Being Human star Michael Socha, who plays the role of gang member Tony, reveals the change of location meant “I had to come down and audition again [this time] speaking like a Londoner.”
While Twenty8K doesn’t enjoy the mega-bucks of Hollywood, Director Neil Thompson says it’s still “a very ambitious film” which he hopes will equal films such as The Long Good Friday in the British thriller Hall of Fame.
Armstrong is keen that the UK produces films which tell the stories of what’s going on around us: “I really can’t stress enough how difficult, yet how important it is to get home grown independent films off the ground, which are relevant to this day and age and relevant to our society in general.
Nagra, who got her big break in Brit flick Bend it like Beckham, says it’s “absolutely” important to her to support British films.
She voices concerns that her success in the US where she spent six years on ER could have changed the way some British producers might see her, telling us: “I heard a story of someone saying ‘Oh, you won’t get Parminder because she’s in LA’ and it just infuriated me and I thought ‘how many things have I missed out on because of people thinking that way?’ and I don’t want that to happen because England is home, my family is here.”
“The sort of stuff happening in this film is really happening, it’s happening now, it’s current.”
Thompson, who as well as directing also came up with the original story idea, says the film is “similar to The Wire in the way of the multi-levels of the story”.
Filmmaking on smaller budgets requires a healthy amount of creativity and Thompson says this is even more the case with a movie like this: “being a thriller you’ve got shoot everything, you’ve got to shoot the story or it won’t work” he tells us.
How then have the production team managed to square the circle of telling a very ambitious and “intricate” plot on a small budget?
“We’ve cut our cloth accordingly,” says Thompson between rehearsals for the film’s climatic penultimate scene. “We broke the script down and thought ‘right, there’s seven or eight key scenes in here so we’ll really go for that…and spend a bit of money on it.”
Thompson’s pretty confident that the smart use of locations and clever use of re-dressed corridors and corners for scenes of characters “going from A to B” will mean the finished film looks great: “We’ve got half a dozen really big exterior locations where we can get the scale back in. When we do go outside we are going for these really big vistas and we’re doing helicopter shots”.
Armstrong reveals the film is “the first time I’ve actually filmed in London”, adding that “the locations we’ve all had have been real inner city, grimy urban places which has been great. Filming here, you’ve got everything on your doorstep so when you’ve got time off you can go into town, so I’ve really enjoyed it.”
During our visit Producer Martin Carr treated us to some sneak previews of early scenes including some impressive looking shots of Paris which introduce the audience to leading lady Parminder Nagra’s character of Deeva.
Despite making Paris look as majestic as any tourism video might hope to, it seems the creative use of budgets extended even to overseas filming.
Nagra reveals there was little time to enjoy the romantic splendour of the French capital, telling us: “we got there and filmed and got the 4 o’clock train back. It was very quick!”
Thompson says they used the day to grab some establishing shots of the Gare du Nord Eurostar terminal and wide shots of Paris streets and then used “interiors at 3 Mills studios” and movie magic to complete the sense of being abroad.
With a successful run on US television under her belt, we wondered what attracted Parminder to this more financially constrained project.
The actress tells us: “It’s good material, it’s a good team putting it together [and] its a good opportunity for me. Even though it’s a low budget movie it doesn’t have low budget values.”
Armstrong echoes her comments, telling us: “The money has been put into the script development, the right team, the right designers and the cast.” He’s especially full of praise for his fellow actors, adding: “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of actors to work with.”
While Armstrong is busy rehearsing an effects shot for the film’s penultimate scene, Nagra and Socha tell us how much they’ve enjoyed the more physical elements of the film.
“There’s a lot of running in this, a lot hiding and getting in and out of cars, I’ve loved that! laughs the actress who also reveals how much she’s enjoyed “creeping down corridors” during the film’s more tense scenes.
Socha’s too seems to have relished the film’s action elements, especially scenes in which his character has to carry a firearm. “I’ve never had a gun in my hand in my whole life, I’m loving it…it’s dead cool!” he says when we remark on his apparent enjoyment of wielding the prop during rehearsals.
It’s clear the whole production team are proud of their work and confident of the film’s prospects when audiences get their chance to see it.
Armstrong predicts the movie “will appeal to a wide spectrum of ages because it’s not just based on gang and youth culture it goes a lot deeper than that.“
“There’s a politician in there, there’s a police cover up, there’s corruption and all sorts going on. Essentially it’s a crime thriller so rather than just being geared towards an audience of late teens through to late twenties I think it will appeal to a lot more ages, and a much wider audience”.
Twenty8k will head to a cinema near you in 2012 – be sure to watch out for what looks set to be one of the biggest British films of recent years