In Conversation: Lara Greenway – Producer

Hi Film Folk!

Following the release of Deviation and The Film Doctor Team’s  ‘making of’ article‘ , we are thrilled to find ourselves once again in the company of Producer Lara Greenway, whose next project, Hard Boiled Sweets  is currently making waves.

 What is Hard Boiled Sweets about? And what attracted you to the project?

Screen Daily’s summary pretty much nails it: “A mixed band of thugs, hookers, pimps, corrupt-cops, gangsters and various hangers-on are all linked in various ways to a series of overlayered plots to steal a briefcase containing £1 million from Jimmy the Gent, who heads to East Coast resort of Southend-on-Sea (portrayed as a smaller, sleazier variation on Las Vegas) to collect money from local boss Shrewd Eddie (a nicely cast Paul Freeman).”   I was in early talks with Michael Riley about working together at some point in the future when he asked if I’d be interested in talking about a project (then) called ‘Crikey Villains.’ I read David’s script, liked it a lot, liked the potential, we arranged a meeting and the rest is history!

 How did working on Deviation and Hard Boiled Sweets differ – both in your role and the shoots overall? What was the same?
We had a larger production team on HBS and I was one of four producers. Demi (Jones) and I basically organised, arranged and ran the shoot, David (Hughes) cracked on with directing and Michael (Riley) crunched numbers. On Deviation, it was just myself and J.K. Amalou as producing partners and Michael Riley as co-producer – J.K. obviously got on with directing the movie whilst I hired, fired and sighed in the production office! Both shoots were very low budget and so money was always tight – having said that, the lack of luxuries generally pulls the team close together, which was the case on both films.
Is there anything you took from those two features that you would/wouldn’t apply in the future?
Shooting at night in the summer is far more pleasant than the winter. Sounds obvious but Producers have a (terrible?) habit of saying ‘of course we can do it’ and ‘not a problem’ when in fact we forget we cannot control mother nature/ force majeure no matter how many risk assessments and back up plans are made!  When the script requires ‘winter’ from now on, I’m off on a one way trip to Barbados unless the budget is >£5mil!!! The other point – just like on all shoots big & small – decent catering is so important…not only for meal times but generally for morale. An army marches on it’s stomach.

How did you and David (LG Hughes) meet? How did you end up working together?
We were introduced by Michael Riley – myself, Michael, David and Demi all met up one afternoon at BAFTA, had a few coffees, a good long chat about the project and all left with our to do lists…that was on the Thursday and on the Monday we started ‘preproduction proper’.

Did you use a similar business model to Deviation? And production strategy? You shot on 5D again? (right?) What were the differences in your overall approach? 
The business model was not the same as on Deviation and was something created in the days before I came on board, by David Hughes and our fabulous Exec Producer, Margaret Matheson. The strategy was always to make a slick, fast paced noir-like film that was stylised, quite unique and fun. I would hope we have achieved that.  We did shoot on the 5D – our DoP Sara Deane had great vision and talent, and worked extremely closely with David (Hughes) to create the beautiful pictures you see play out on screen. Stunning!

How was casting? How did it affect financing?

The finance was in place on HBS quite early, based on the fact David had expanded his very successful short, ‘A Girl and a Gun’  (available on iTunes) into what is now known as HBS.  Jane Anderson, our casting director, worked tirelessly to create a well balanced cast for the ensemble piece and what you see on screen is the result of many months of her work, sourcing and obtaining both veteran and new talent. Personally, I feel there is a great mix on screen which works well across the whole piece.

Any war stories on production? Any ‘almost didn’t happen’ disasters?
There were many war stories!  Other than the non-stop interaction of local Southend residents obviously eager to be movie stars?!  Without giving anything of the storyline away, we almost didn’t have any guns or squibs…and for a film that required at least 3 guns and resulting injuries at any given point, it was quite crucial to say the least. That was a stressful few days pulling those together, but I eventually begged enough..!

Congratulations on being picked up by Universal – what was the original marketing/distribution strategy for Hard Boiled Sweets? Did you take it on the festival circuit? Was it luck/talent scouted/friend of a friend that landed you with such a big distributor? Pre-sold?
The film hasn’t gone on the festival circuit yet as we are opening the Southend Film Festival in May – this being one of our main locations. Through utter determination, David managed to get the film in front  of Content Film International who really loved it and picked it up for their catalogue…they took it to Cannes last year and based on the trailer, script and footage, a neat but perfectly formed ‘war of interest’ ensued.

Over the years you have built up quite a varied experience in the business of media, was there a point where some unifying theory clicked all of those parts in to place for you? What discovery/feeling has led you to where you are?

I have worked in most areas of TV, Film and Theatre, it has to be said, and sometimes I do forget which ‘hat’ I am wearing!  Although from a young age I knew I wanted to write/direct/produce, I guess I had to follow the various paths to satisfy my craving for knowledge but also to gain useful hands-on experience in most areas.  Other than sound (I didn’t do that!), there aren’t many things I can’t turn my hand to on set. On HBS, I ended up doing some sfx make up – Adrian Bower’s broken nose – as our make up artists had been urgently called away; I also created the gunshot splat content – when you see HBS you’ll understand. It’s a secret formula I created and had to find the correct weight/liquid ratio to work! Hours of fun! On Deviation, I kept dabbling with the art dept stuff too.  I can’t help that as production design was my *first love* job before working at the BBC in production. I think more than anything, experience in dealing with people is paramount – and it’s not something you can learn but only gain over the years. I will never stop learning from others and relish the opportunities I have to add to and expand my knowledge. My recent fascination (for obvious reasons) are sales & distribution models.  It’s not rocket science but definitely a dark art!  The sheer amount of data/demographics you need to assess a film’s true reach and territorial potential is mind blowing – and something bang up to date I would like to have on me at all times!

You have gone from strength to strength from your Screen East shorts to now 2 features with representation and distribution… 
The Screen East short. “Perfect”, I was in development with actually never came off – I was bombed out in the last round! However, you have to be pretty thick skinned in this industry so I went off and wrote/directed/produced two shorts (‘Hostile’ & ‘Runner’) back to back, on two consecutive days with the same crew and kit but different cast.  It was a surreal couple of days with two hugely different films basically prepping/shooting at the same time. We shot ‘Runner’ on day one as ‘Hostile’ was a big production design job and they needed as much time as possible. My vision for that was very intricate and like something from an artist’s canvas – old masters – and that is exactly what I got from Jess Alexander, Production Designer and her team.  Their attention to details was immaculate. When I saw the set lit and ready to go on the monitor it took my breath away – it was exactly as I had envisaged it in my mind and that is an amazing feeling. It seems a long time ago since those shorts but it’s not even 3 years – so much has happened including the pilot for a supernatural/thriller series – and now two features finished and ‘out there’ and three more on the slate, I really can’t complain. In fact, one of those very features, “Perfección”, is a development of the short I originally had with Screen East – what goes around comes around, I guess!  It’ll be my feature debut as a director and I am very much looking forward to getting that going in 2013/14.

What tips/discoveries would you share with any aspiring producers?

  • Always expect it to go wrong (it will);
  • Never round your figures ‘down’ – round them up…a higher definite figure is better than a lower figure that needs an extra £30k added further down the line;
  • Read your contracts, read them again, then read them again. In fact, seduce and sleep with your contracts – know their every foible!
  • Start at the end of your movie (the release(s)) and work back to the beginning – now…how are you going to achieve that end goal?
  • NEVER presume your film will work its own way out into the world with the help of a few well-meaning people. You need a solid strategy.
  • Film is not a voluntary path in life or a charity – never ever forget this is a business and business wants to make money. End of.
HARD BOILED SWEETS  is theatrically released at selected screens from Friday 9th March 2012 (London, Liverpool, Manchester and Basildon)
and is released on DVD/BluRay at the end of April/early May.
A Gala Screening will be held on 3rd May 2012 at the Odeon Southend.
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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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