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Black Pond directors reveal plans for second feature

EXCLUSIVE: Young British directors Tom Kingsley and Will Shape are the surprise nominees for this year’s BAFTA Outstanding British Debut Award for their low budget feature Black Pond starring Chris Langham.

British directors Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe, whose debut feature Black Pond has been nominated for a BAFTA for Outstanding British Debut, have revealed that their next project will be an “epic adventure comedy” on a considerably bigger budget than their £25,000 first feature.

Sharpe has already written the script for the follow up, which is currently at the funding stage.

Kingsley describes the film as “Michel Gondry crossed with Monsters. We hope it will be charming and handmade but quite realistic.”

“It will be on a bigger budget than last time, but still a lot less than you would expect for an epic adventure comedy. We are coming up with creative ways to shoot an around-the-world story, We have been doing tests with models and green screen to see if we can make a look that means we can travel without travelling,” adds Sharpe.

Interest in the young directing duo has grown considerably since their BAFTA nomination for their debut feature, Black Pond, a black comedy about a family who are accused of murder when a stranger comes to dinner. It stars controversial British actor Chris Langham and comedian Simon Amstell in his first film role.  

The film premiered at the Raindance Film Festival, going on to be nominated for the Raindance award at the BIFAs and two Evening Standard Awards for Best Debut and Best Comedy. It has also been gaining rave reviews in the British press.

“We simply made the film to see if we could make a film. And every stage it has just got that bit better. The BAFTA nomination is the icing on the cake,” says Kingsley, who says it is an honour to be nominated amongst much bigger titles including Attack The Block and Submarine. “We are chuffed to be in such wonderful company, and we’re amazed we’ve come this far.”

The film’s critical success is even more impressive given that it was shot on the tiny budget of £25,000 in just two weeks and was entirely privately financed. To cut costs, they used Sharpe’s parents house in Surrey as a filming location, friends to do the cooking and as small a crew as possible, even borrowing a wheelchair from TV series Casualty [Sharpe acted in the show] to use instead of a dolly.

But with a funding deal due to be signed imminently for their second feature, Sharpe is determined not to get swept away with a bigger budget. “Some of the choices we made out of necessity last time, we want to make again, for taste reasons. There is a temptation to get carried away with your own vanity and so the idea of a crane shot suddenly becomes really attractive. But do you actually need it? It’s much better to know your limits.”

Sharpe and Kingsley have also self distributed the film in the UK, securing an initial week long release at the Prince Charles Cinema in London in November, before taking it to a number of cinemas around the country, with more dates anticipated. They are now in talks to sign a DVD distribution deal.

UK critics may be comparing the directors to Mike Leigh and Wes Anderson, but the pair, who met at University before going on to make a short film together – Cockroach – in 2009, didn’t have any particular references whilst making the film.

“A lot of people have asked what the stylistic influences for the film were. Genuiely our answer is, there weren’t any. I don’t think we had a conscious plan of how it would look,” says Kingsley who has worked as a music video director since leaving University, whilst Sharpe has pursued an acting career.

“We were actually lucky not to get any backing for Black Pond becase it meant we had creative control. That’s the thing about not having any boxes to tick. Without consciensiouly trying to we probably made something very unusual because we had to work in an unusual way to get it done,” explains Sharpe.

The film has gained an added level of publicity because it marks the first professional appearance of British actor Chris Langham since his spell in prison in 2007 on charges of child pornography. Still, Sharpe and Kingsley are unapologetic in their choice of lead actor.

“We cast Chris because our reference for the character was what would Hugh Abbot from [British television series] Thick Of It [Langham’s most famous role] be like if he went home. And there was no one better to do that than him” says Sharpe.

“There was some negative press, but it passed quickly and it moved quite quickly to talking about how good he is the in film, which is the real story. He is still an amazing actor,” he adds.

For now, they are looking forward to the BAFTAs on Feb 12, explaining that the nomination has consolidated the already growing interest they have been receiving.

“It feels nice to feel deserving in some way of the interest we have had. It means a lot in the business and we are just really chuffed.”

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