Obed had the chance to interview writer/director Adam Randall about his latest flick, Level Up
Catch Level Up on VOD starting September 20, 2016
DBP: What made you want to be involved in the production of the movie? Did something stand out to you?
AR: Really when I read the script it was the potential of what we could do that was exciting. One of my first thoughts was what would happen if you took a high concept thriller like this but put a lead character at its center who is totally unsuited and ill equipped to deal with it, and the tension and humor that could arise from that. The other key element that appealed was the world, or what we could do with the world. I remember thinking that if this story was set in Tokyo or Seoul or Hong Kong, the film would be so much more appealing, both in terms of tone and style. Why was it that London couldn’t be so exciting, so visual? And why couldn’t the tone be equally nuts? So that’s what I tried to bring to it initially.
DBP: What movies and filmmakers were your inspiration for you growing up? Did any of those inspirations come into play when making this film?
AR: As a kid growing up in the 80s and early 90s it was Spielberg, Carpenter, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, etc. Then came the discovery of Scorcese, Coppola, and through them 1970s American cinema, which pushed me from film geek to aspiring filmmaker. Then came the introduction to world cinema, and as you may have guessed from the previous question, in particular Asian cinema. The latter was obviously massively influential, but also a key reference point was Scorcese’s After Hours.
DBP: If you could talk to any filmmaker of both the past and present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
AR: Tricky question as there are so many I’d love to talk to… I would happily spend a week talking to, or preferably listening to Stanley Kubrick talk about anything. Or Spielberg. Scorcese, Coppola, Fincher, David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Joon Ho Bong or the Coen brothers. But perhaps if I had to pick one right now it would be Takeshi Kitano and I’d ask him how about how he shoots and edits action, where and why the idea came to barely show the actual violence, just the build and impact. To treat it often as almost a visual gag. And how he goes from mainstream entertainer to creator of these dark, strange and violent small films, how he balances that and where it all comes from..!
DBP: How do you feel now that Level Up is out? Are you relieved or more anxious?
AR: Well I’d be lying if I said there was no anxiety… Putting something out into the world, it being so public… And also a film where we tried to do something different to what was perhaps expected in this genre, I knew those expecting straight up action thrills may get annoyed by the weirdness and humor..! But it feels great to have it finished and out there, and I’m now focused on finishing the next one.
DBP: What scene was your favorite to film and why? What scene was the most difficult?
AR: My favorite to film, and my favorite in the film is the scene in the drug den. From when he arrives to his escape on the moped, it encapsulates everything I was trying to do in the film. The balance of tension, humor and surrealism, the sense of dread and impending violence, putting a character in an environment he is totally unsuited for… I loved working with the cast in this scene, Cameron, Leon and Sean. And visually, it was a location we were able to really control, to design and dress. From the color of each room, the minimal lighting, the grunge and grime, it was the film I wanted to make.
As for the most difficult… Well it was all difficult to some extent as we had so little money. Shooting out in the streets of London, with very little control, on windy days so the Steadicam was blowing all over the place, people staring down the lens, rain and cold… Wasn’t the easiest…
DBP: What makes a great film for you? Do you think specific qualities make a film better?
AR: So many different types of films and so many greats for different reasons. Ultimately, and there’s no way of answering this without stating the obvious, it’s about characters and it’s about story. That’s really it, and then on top of that, if it can be bold, if the tools from camera work and music and sound design are used in interesting and striking ways, that can elevate it, make it exciting on a cinematic level as well as a human one.
DBP: Was there a huge hurdle you faced during production on Level Up? How did you overcome it?
AR: The huge hurdle was making an ambitious, sprawling, location based, action heavy film on a budget smaller than what most blockbusters have for catering. It meant hustling and stealing and cheating and being creative, but there’s no getting around that it hurt the film at times, especially in terms of time. But you try and overcome it by thinking of ways around things, and creative ideas stem from that struggle. For me it was also knowing every shot in the film before I went in, which is how I like to work anyway, but then having the freedom to change and improvise on the day. And spending the time finding great locations that would give us cinematic potential as we couldn’t rely on designing from scratch or builds.
DBP: What are the biggest lessons you learned making Level Up?
AR: All of the above but also knowing if a scene isn’t quite working on the page it won’t on film no matter what visual tricks, gags and other elements you throw at it. To go with your gut (another cliche -apologies). To fight for what you believe in as that’s what turns out best, or if not then at least it’s your fault!
DBP: How did you meet your team, and what did you do to keep your relationships with the strong?
AR: I hadn’t worked with anyone on this film before. Some came through the producers, or agents sending over, or recommendations. In terms of relationships, we just worked, and enjoyed the work, had fun on set and fought against the elements together… Basically just made the film and enjoyed it the way I think we should enjoy it – it’s film making, got to be fun – and if relationships come out strong from that then they’re relationships worth keeping.
DBP: What sparked your interest in making movies?
AR: Other films, loving stories and music, dreaming to music and realizing that I could try and do that for a living.
DBP: How did you go about making the movie come alive from the concept onto film? The concept is powerful enough to continue with either the same characters or new ones. Are there any plans for a sequel?
AR: No plans for a sequel as far as I know… The world is interesting, the bigger story behind it all, but Matt’s story I think is done for sure.
DBP: Is there anything you’d go back and change with hindsight, or would you leave it as is?
AR: Yeah there’s definitely scenes I’d love to redo, or rethink. But a lot was brought about by budget and time constraints so I’d like to go back with more money if possible!
DBP: Do you have any advice for other aspiring filmmakers?
AR: Just stick at it, there’s a fair amount of pain and suffering to get through, but if you love it, if it’s all you want to do, hold tight and keep working. And in the meantime find a way to make money that doesn’t distract to much from the goal. I didn’t get that advice as my many credit cards will attest to.
DBP: What’s next for you?
AR: iBOY, a sci fi thriller that was going to be my first film, but I ended up shooting it after Level Up. The way it turned out, I made both the films within a year, pretty much back to back. I’m just finishing final touches this week. It’ll be out late this year, or early next, starring Bill Milner & Maisie Williams. Very proud of it, excited to get it out into the world.