Screen visited the set of female-led thriller Keeping Rosy and spoke to actress Maxine Peake about women in film, Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison about playing an unlikeable character and the producers about surprise endings.

Keeping Rosy (Maxine Peake)

Packed into two conjoined flats high above Canary Wharf are the cast and crew for Keeping Rosy, which began a four-week shoot on March 20.

Written by advertising veteran Mike Oughton, Keeping Rosy stars Maxine Peake, Blake Harrison and Christine Bottomley.

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Steve Reeves directs, making the switch from commercials to his first full-length feature. He’s best known for Kylie Minogue’s controversial Agent Provocateur YouTube advertisement.

Isabelle Georgeaux and Richard Holmes are overseeing the project for AIR Productions alongside Roger Pratt in what will be their third film venture in three years, coming off of this year’s food comedy Jadoo.

Keeping Rosy began as short film Taking Life by Reeves and Oughton. They first presented the script to AIR Productions, who were busy filming Resistance at the time.

The two tried again when Jadoo was in post-production and after seeing how well-received Taking Life was on the short film festival circuit, Holmes and Georgeaux signed on to produce. It is financed entirely through private equity.

On location

Screen visited the high-rise that provided the main shooting location. The sleek, modern flat offers an expensive view of the Thames and a peek inside the luxurious and sscscincomplete life of main character Charlotte.  

Peake, best known for her roles in TV dramas such as Shameless, Silk and Little Dorrit, plays Charlotte, a single woman whose hot-shot career in advertising takes a turn for the worst when a male colleague is offered a position she was after.

Quitting her job only pales in comparison to what happens when she takes her anger out on the cleaner.  

Harrison, hot off of The Inbetweeners Movie and new sitcoms Way To Go (BBC) and Big Bad World (Comedy Central), takes on a different sort of role than the jokester he’s known for.

“I mainly end up doing a lot of comedy stuff with very likable characters, so for me it was really nice to play someone who, underneath a certain kind of veneer, is not very likeable,” said Harrison.

His character, Roger, is a lowly CCTV watchdog for a new high-rise in Canary Wharf who stumbles upon some dark information that faces him off against Charlotte.

“From his perspective he’s not a nasty guy, but there is a way to make his life better,” said Harrison on his first day of filming.

“I think it’s very selfish and self-centred but I don’t think people of that nature really see themselves as nasty people - they see themselves as an opportunist, that’s how I’d describe him. Almost like a scavenger.

“He sees something he can take advantage of and he’ll go for it.”

Playing Charlotte’s sister is Bottomley (The Arbor, Venus), who has previously worked with Peake. The two are both native to the north of England and bring a sense of authenticity to their sister characters.

 “We wanted them to be from Manchester, to be northern, so that Charlotte is someone from somewhere else and suppresses her accent to get in on the media environment,” said Holmes.

Producer Georgeaux added: “It happens that Maxine and Christine have worked together before and are quite close so there’s already a bond there.”

Women in Film

Having a female lead is a high point for both Peake and Georgeaux.

“She’s very real, not a 20-something who has the world at her feet,” said Georgeaux. “She is someone who has gotten there through hard work and has harsh and lovely sides to her personality.”

“It is absolutely wonderful to have cast a woman between 35 and 45 who has lived through that and has learned something from life,” she said of acquiring Peake for the lead.

In England, Peake said, “it’s the gangster-lead films that get the money bumped into them” and “trying to fund something that is female-led is more difficult.”

“I think they’re missing a trick because women especially have a disposable income and they want to be entertained, there is a market and a real audience of women 30 + who are crying out for some entertainment.”

Peake mentions Mama Mia! as an example. “I went with my mum to see that film and some of her friends went four times, they are desperate for something they can relate to.”

 “I think women are a bit starved.”

Both producers predict that viewers may not guess the ending of Keeping Rosy.

“I can honestly say that people won’t know how it will end and then after, look at it and say of course, it had to be that - but you really don’t see it coming,” said Georgeaux.

Post-production will take place throughout the summer with a release date sometime at the end of this year or the beginning of 2014.