Producer Richard Johns and director Craig Viveiros talk about shooting North East based road trip thriller The Liability starring Tim Roth and Peter Mullan.

Synopsis: When 19-year-old Adam (Jack O’Connell) agrees to do a day’s driving for his mum’s crime boss boyfriend, it takes him on a 24-hour journey into a nightmarish world of murder, sex trafficking and revenge, in the company of aging hit man Roy (Tim Roth).

Director: camera operator turned director Craig Viveiros, who made his debut feature with the 2011 prison drama Ghosted.

Writer: John Wrathall, who wtote the 2008 film Good starring Viggo Mortensen

Producers: Richard Johns and Rupert Jermyn for Corona Pictures

Cast: Tim Roth, Jack O’Connell, Peter Mullan, Kierston Wareing, Talulah Riley

Financing: Private finance, AV Pictures, £138k investment from Northern Film & Media’s Finance for Business – North East Creative Content Fund with Northstar Ventures.

Shooting locations: Newcastle and the North East, Dunstanburgh Castle, Teeside Wilton Chemical Plant (believed to have been an inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner)

Shoot dates: November 21 to December 17, 2011

International sales: AV Pictures (who are also selling Corona Pictures’ Truth Or Dare)

Distribution: pre-sold to Vendetta for Australia/New Zealand

Release date: promo to be shown in Berlin, hoping to be ready in time for Cannes

On the origins of the project

Richard Johns: The project began with the writer John Wrathall. John lives very near where I live in Suffolk, we have got kids at the same school. When I realised he was a screenwriter and he realised I was a producer we naturally started talking in the school yard about thrillers. It was November 2010 when we got together and he pitched me the story. He knew I liked intelligent action thrillers. And to have a project which I immediately liked the sound of, written by someone I liked which took me back to my old stomping ground in the North East [Johns was based there in the ’90s with his company Pilgrim Films] just seemed very natural.

On enlisting Craig Viveiros as director

RJ: We heard about Craig from the DoP of our previous film Truth Or Dare, James Friend, because he also shot Craig’s first film Ghosted and raved about it. We went to see a cast and crew screening and it blew us away with the maturity of his directing and storytelling skills.

On shooting in the North East of England

RJ: I started my film-making career up there, making Downtime and Killing Time with Bharat Nalluri so I already knew what the area would offer in terms of locations. It has this great mixture of vast historic, industrial and rural locations. It is very unfilmed in many parts, but because it has so much variety within 45 minutes of Newcastle, it allows you to create this wonderful sense of a journey, which is perfect for a road movie.

Craig Viveiros: After reading the script and having a few familiarisation reckies up to Newcastle I really started to see what I could do to create a narrative through the landscape. The original script was set in the woods, I wanted to get away from it a bit more and show the transition into the industrial landscape to reflect the progression of Roy’s character [Tim Roth] into his darker psyche. Apart from the cold and the diminishing daylight hours it was amazing!

On the visual look of the film

CV: I am going for an American pop art look. I’ve based a lot of it on American contemporary hyper realists, Richard Estes, John Baeder, and more classical modern American artists like Hopper and his painting Nighthawks. It’s almost like graphic art. It’s not a grim up north movie. It’s a little bit flashy, but the humour and feel is very British, even if it is stylised.

On the cast

RJ:  As soon as we had a draft of the script we were happy to go out with, we decided to think as big as we could. We went to Tim as our first option. I know his agent. Tim read the script, loved the material and at the same time had heard good things about Craig as a director. As soon as Tim was able to give us definite dates, we were then able to say, this is a Tim Roth movie. And it snowballed from there.

CV: One of my favourite films is Tim Roth’s The War Zone, so I had a lot to learn from him and he was very willing to share advice and stories. With Peter Mullan being a director as well, it’s very daunting having these two great actors who are also directors as well. But they were absolutely amazing and they understood my vision. And young Jack is going to be a star.

On the film’s audience

RJ: I think it’s got a broad audience. It’s an action thriller and it’s got Jack and Talulah, so I think it will attract a young audience. But it should also get a slightly more mature audience, who have seen Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs because it’s got a Tarantino flavour, it’s a cool thriller with a great soundtrack and Tim.

On what’s next

RJ: We are producing a biopic of PG Wodehouse to be directed by Michael Radford, and we have a Hitchcockian thriller about a Manhattan psychiatrist and his young wife, Obsession, to be directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan.

CV: I am currently finishing off the latest draft of my next film which I am writing, directing and producing for my company London Film & Media. It’s a dark thriller set in the underworld of London called, Pick Pockets about corrupt under cover police officers who are helping to traffic people into the country for sex trade and pick pocketing. We are speaking to people about partnering up as co-producers, hoping to shoot winter 2012.