Home grown under-cover Noir-ish thriller Jack Falls is garnering much deserved attention around the indie film scene and festivals right now. It's not big budget but it's big on ambition, and so The 405 caught up with Paul Tanter, the film's writer and director, to find out a bit more about what makes Jack tick. Check out the trailer below so it all makes that bit more sense. For those not familiar with the “Jack...” series, how would you summarise it?  A series of contemporary film noir thrillers. The main character is an undercover police officer called Jack Adleth who through the course of the films has to make a series of choices between the job and those he loves. The first two films were slightly more traditionally shot in colour but Jack Falls goes back to the roots of the graphic novels in terms of look and style. By the time we catch up with him in Jack Falls, he’s left the job behind and is slightly more out for himself, but still has people he wants to protect. The films have been made as a trilogy but each one can be watched without having seen the others, so people can jump in at any point. Someone recently said they were “Sin City meets Lock Stock meets Goodfellas”, which is a massively complimentary over-exaggeration but still one I felt worth repeating here just because those are three of my favourite films! The film and graphic novels clearly owe a debt to the work of Frank Miller, albeit with a British twist; what do you think is their own defining factor? Obviously Sin City is an influence but I do hope that we’ve got something unique to ourselves – out own voice, so to speak. You can never hope to compete with those films just due to the sheer difference between the budgets involved. We’re certainly ambitious with what we set out to do – especially with Jack Falls. Whilst Jack Says and Jack Said were in colour, we did tip our hat to the graphic novels with the black and white flashbacks, but for Jack Falls we went for the high-contrast black and white with splashes of colour.
We were going in a different direction and trying more to bring the graphic novel to the screen. I hope that the Jack universe has differences to the Sin City universe that sets it apart. I think one thing is that we’ve been able to develop Jack as a character over time – people are able to emotionally invest themselves in him and follow his journey as he is essentially the everyman that any one of us could be – but he ends up in these situations where he has to make the most difficult of choices. Friends have remarked to me that the graphic novels tend to have a streak of dark humour that that they see as very recognisably mine – I hope that’s something that sets the books apart from anyone else’s work but also something I manage to transfer to the films too. How similar is the film staying to the source material, and either way - why? It depends really – in some ways it stays so close that the graphic novel could almost serve as a storyboard for scenes in the film, but in other cases I had to adapt various bits. At the independent end of filmmaking, budget is always an issue. It’s easy to write “the building explodes”, give it to an artist, and they draw it – all it cost you was the cost of the artist. But put that in a film script and you’ve already ensured a producer is going to be pulling their hair out over the cost of making it happen. That was one thing (a warehouse exploding) that I put in the Jack Said graphic novel that I thought I would have to end up changing, but the producers Toby Meredith and Patricia Rybarczyk are masters of stretching budgets and ensured it got to stay. Then in the same book, I had Danny Dyer’s character Nathan escaping on a motorbike and leaping Tower Bridge as it rose – which unsurprisingly I had to amend as staging a stunt like that would have been phenomenally expensive. One other thing to consider is length. A 100 page graphic novel will probably equate to 40 minutes of screen time if you filmed it, so when I came to write the films I basically had to ask myself how I would tell the story is I had a larger canvas to work with – and you play around with plot idea and new characters, and eventually end up with your 100 page screenplay. The “Jack...” series has attracted some big names in the British film industry, despite the relatively small budget - what do you think attracted people like Danny Dyer and Jason Flemyng to the series? Each time we have been able to build a little on the last and it helps having some history and experience behind you. Danny liked the Jack Said script and his character but it also helped that we were able to send him the graphic novel and the previous film. Danny is a big fan of Mike Reid, who starred in Jack Says and sadly passed away shortly after filming, so I think the chance to continue where Mike had left off was an appeal for him. With Jack Falls we managed to end up getting this fantastic ensemble of actors who were attracted by a combination of the script and characters they were being offered, could see what we were continuing on from, but were also very excited at the direction we wanted to take it in. The black and white with splashes of colour grabbed people’s attention when we approached them – not many people get to do film noirs these days! For those who haven’t seen the first two films, how easy will it be to get into the storyline? It should be, touch wood, very easy. The films can be watched in sequence or as stand-alone films by themselves. I was very careful when writing Jack Falls to ensure that anyone new to the films can take Jack Falls as their starting point and still get who is who and why they are doing what they do. You still have to pay attention – but in my experience people like having to think a little – you come away feeling like you got something extra. Hopefully.
There is a big chunk of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels cast in the production - is there a story/reason behind these castings? Really it was about getting the best actors for the roles. Alan Ford was our choice as Carter from the start – of course people know him best as Brick Top from Snatch but I think the roles are sufficiently different that he was able to do something set apart from Brick Top with the part. Dexter was also our early choice as Detective Edwards – he’s got that perfect Columbo look in the film and it’s something different for him and the audience as he’s never played a copper before. Jason really kindly fitted his availability into our schedule and was able to do a couple of key scenes with us. He was very keen on the script and what he could bring to the role. Once we had those three, it did then dawn on us that we had re-united a large part of the Lock Stock cast – which was of course very exciting for us, being such huge fans of the film. I remember walking out of Putney Odeon about 13 years ago having just watched it with friends, thinking “God, I want to make films!” And on top of those guys, we were so fortunate to get the other cast we did – Olivia Hallinan, who people may best know from Lark Rise to Candleford or Sugar Rush, Adam Deacon from Adulthood and Kidulthood, and Tamer Hassan – three very different types of actors you would never expect to all see together – and all great in their roles. Add to that some very cool cameos and performances from character actors like Neil Maskell (Rise of the Footsoldier), Martin Kemp (The Krays), Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) and Zach Galligan (Gremlins), and we were pinching ourselves by the end at the cast we had! The release is to coincide with an animated short telling a little more about Sid’s story - can you tell us more about this side project? It’s something I wrote to go as a little extra with the film. Through Jack Falls, Jack is haunted by a couple of ghosts from his past; Erin, the love of his life, and Sid – his old undercover police partner. He carries the guilt of their deaths with him as he feels responsible for them. Erin’s storyline is something played out in Jack Says and Jack Said and although you don’t need to have seen them to “get” Jack Falls, I thought if people haven’t seen them and seek them out, I’d quite like to give them something extra on Sid’s storyline too. As it was only a short, it seemed ideal to do as an animation in the style of the graphic novels, so I wrote it whilst we were filming, we recorded it, and then during post-production I worked with the animator Tim Sager, whose work on the TV show Monkey Dust I was a huge fan of. I’m really pleased with it and a, glad there’s another strand of the story out there for people to find. The film achieves impressive production values despite the small budget.  Could you tell us more about how you achieved the visuals, maximised the London setting, and what difficulties you encountered? There are always difficulties when shooting on a budget, but we ensured that everything was planned as much as possible down to the finest details way in advance. Working closely with the DoP, James Friend, from the start on the style and look of the film meant that he was on the same page and very excited about what we wanted to achieve – and he did a fantastic job. The editors Richard Colton and Barry O’Brien did brilliant jobs cutting and grading the film, so credit has to go there too. We shot most of our interiors at Pinewood and Merton Studios, so were able to take advantage of everything they had to offer in terms of location, and yes, we ensured we put some very recognisable shot of London in there too! Difficulties were generally kept to a minimum as we’d planned everything. Shooting exteriors in various London streets went generally smoothly. I think the biggest problems were the unexpected things like a generator breaking down or something. Are you ever concerned that shooting a movie in a highly stylised, comic book style format can reduce the impact of the violence and drama? I think you can go either way with it. There’s the possibility of – if you’ll permit me to maybe invent a word – “cartoonising” the violence, but I think we went quite realistic with it. I’m probably not giving too much away when I say that Jack gets shot in the opening scene and we then show the effects of that for the next few minutes. At other times, if someone gets shot in the leg, they scream in agony and fall to the floor. If someone gets hit, they tend to reel back or go down. There’s no Monty Python-esque brushing off the missing limb as “just a flesh wound” while the hero declares he “ain’t got time to bleed” and continuing! I think – or hope at least – that we didn’t reduce the impact of the drama either. I think you adapt to the style within a few minutes and once you’re immersed in that world, the style you’re in becomes the norm, so you’re able to get caught up in the where the characters are going and what they are feeling. I think a lot of that is thanks to the actors performances – Simon Phillips is so good in the role that by the end you’re right there with Jack, feeling for him. Any future Jack... films or graphic novels in the pipelines? Where would you like to see the series (and in what formats?) in another couple of years time? I am working on another Jack film script at the moment. The films have always kind of been a tale of two cities – London and somewhere else, so I’m looking at stepping outside of Europe for the next and taking the story to New York. It could be something we do soon, but it might be nice to revisit the Jack universe in a few years too. I think we’d stick to the black and white comic book effect for another film as it worked so well in Jack Falls. There’s always the potential for more Jack graphic novels too. In terms of the series, it’s always out intention to improve on the last – get bigger, better, try new things and push ourselves as much as possible... making sure we’re producing good, entertaining films, of course!