In 2005, "a bit exhausted" by the script development on his new feature, Unmade Beds, writer-director Alexis Dos Santos travelled to his native Argentina to shoot an experimental project.
A 17-page storyline and improvised performances from teenage actors turned into the $314,000 (EUR200,000) feature Glue, a Spanish-language naturalistic tale of small-town adolescents that has been touring festivals ever since. It has won awards including the MovieZone youth prize at Rotterdam in 2006 and best film at the Buenos Aires International Film Festival.
As a result of the stealth success of Glue, Unmade Beds has an eager audience waiting. Dos Santos, who has lived in the UK since 1998, started writing Unmade Beds in 2001 after leaving the UK's National Film and Television School (Nfts). Soledad Gatti-Pascual, producer at London-based The Bureau, was an Nfts contemporary and came on board the project shortly after. It was then put into development by Peter Carlton at Film4.
After Dos Santos finished shooting Glue, he threw himself back into the writing process, with producer Peter Ettedgui also joining the project. The final draft emerged after Dos Santos was selected for the 2006 Cannes Cinefondation.
The $2.4m (£1.2m) Unmade Beds, which completed a 32-day shoot in London and Nottingham at the end of last year, focuses on the lives of young European immigrants in the UK capital. The cast is populated by a group of European unknowns and it is one of the first films on the debut slate from nascent UK sales outfit Protagonist Pictures, the company formed by Ingenious, Film4 and Vertigo. Backing for the film came from EM Media and the UK Film Council's New Cinema Fund.
"I started with the idea I wanted to shoot a film that I haven't seen in London," says Dos Santos. "It feels very contemporary, but also portrays a whole bunch of foreigners."
The film tracks the lives of a Spanish man and a Belgian woman, exploring love, loss, identity and friendship through parallel narratives: one a coming-of-age story, and the other a love story. Dos Santos says the film shares the truthful, character-driven approach of Glue, albeit with a more quirky stylisation of the world the characters inhabit and a more ambitious structure.
He explains: "I like the idea of making personal films, because a film takes so many years. Glue took two years of my life. It has to be something that means something, feels personal."