The Iris Interview: Locke co-producer Guy Heeley at Sydney Film Festival

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As glowing reviews continue to pour in for Locke – and in particular, Tom Hardy’s stunning performance – The Iris caught up with the film’s co-producer Guy Heeley for some more insight into the unique process from which this film was made. The entire thing took a little over a week to shoot, a set of circumstances very different to what anyone would expect of a feature film; in this special Q&A Heeley tells us about the process of creating Locke, financing it, how relationships work within the film industry, and how the crew feels about such a constricted filming process.

Let’s talk about Locke – it’s a very unique film and production process, I understand it was shot in 8 days. What was the experience like making a movie so quickly? Was everyone rushed?

We cared it about it very quickly so shot it very quickly, we had the idea in September or October of last year, and Steven [Knight] wrote the screenplay over Christmas. We’d financed it by that point off the idea and off got Tom Hardy interested in doing it. Five weeks after Steve wrote the screenplay, we were shooting it. We had a two week window with Tom so we decided to rehearse for a week and then shoot for a week. So we shot for six days with Tom and then two days just doing stuff with the car. It was remarkably calm really, because we worked out how to do it, the methodology of how to achieve it, and we set ourselves some very limited parameters within which to do it. It was such a constricted environment that it was actually pretty straight forward.

We shot it in such a unique way, in the sense that normally in a film you’d get through about two or three pages of the script each day but we actually shot the whole film everyday. We got through the whole film each night, always once and often one and a half times. We had very long memory cards with the cameras so we only had to stop every 37 minutes so the environment for Tom’s which is very important performance was as kind of theatre and play-like as it can be; so it was very continuous, it wasn’t fragmented into parts. He was actually talking to other actors live, they were all in a hotel room and phoning into the car live through a sort of very complicated system we set up. So that contributed to the authenticity of the experience for Tom which of course contributed to his amazing performance.

How did you approach getting such a left-field idea financed?

The concept was literally written on one sheet of A4 paper. So we got the concept that the film was going to be a single guy and how his life was going to unravel, then we had Tom Hardy, and we took it to a couple of financiers. The financier who was board with us in a previous film [Hummingbird] I shot with Steve came on board because they knew us, they trusted us.

How much do prior relationships come into play when making an unconventional film?

Enormously. In the UK we already took it to a few financiers but at the point where we were financing it we didn’t have the script ready – just the concept and actor – so we needed someone who trusted us and was willing to go on the journey with us. The fact that we had worked with IM Global successfully before made a huge difference.

So what was post-production like? I’d imagine it was as unique as the film?

It was a bizarre experience in the sense that it happened within the same 2 week period; we were in pre-production and post-production within 10 days of starting. It was sudden, and compressed in the sense that we didn’t have that much time to do it. But it wasn’t as compressed as the shoot; so we had about six or seven weeks between the end of the shoot and pitching off which is a short period of time by feature film standards; but not too short, like three days or four days, so we treated it more traditionally.

We shot the film with three cameras on every set up; so even though we only shot for six days with Tom we had about 56 hours of footage. So it became an amazing challenge for the editor to kind of wade through that material and find the film within all that footage. Justine Wright is her name, she is a fantastic editor and her contribution to the film is enormous because she found the structure and narrative from all of that footage. It was a hugely important role.

Would you ever work on a film that is shot under similar circumstances?

I think everyone was extremely invigorated by the experience. Because normally films take years, but this was a process where we went from an idea in October to having it at a film festival nine months later. That was a great experience for everyone because it just meant that we had to be agile about every decision and everyone had to think quickly. Creatively it’s very interesting because it makes your synapses work faster. So definitely, I’d do it again. We’re talking about doing another one, not in the same way, but treating it within a set of rules and making it in a very constricted way.

How did you guys actually get Tom Hardy on board?

Steve had met him for another project so when they met, Steven had talked about the concept and Tom loved it so he was in at the pitch. He was kind of the only person we were after – there was no one else – we sort of decided that if you’re going to spend that much time with one person then that person has to be exactly the right actor, he was probably one of two or three we thought could do it in the world. He was the one we wanted because he is such an astonishingly adept, strong, solid and charismatic actor.

What would you say to people who haven’t seen it yet?

It such a brilliantly unusual film, everyone that sees it is going to think it’s one thing, but it’s something else – in a good way. It’s just got that thing about it, that you are just in that space with him for the whole time so you invest entirely in him because there’s nowhere else to go. I think films about the isolated protagonist are picking up! [Guy cited Robert Redford’s acclaimed performance in All Is Lost as an example].

Locke screened as past of the 61st Sydney Film Festival. It can currently be seen in Newcastle as part of the Travelling Film Festival on Sunday 22nd June. Tickets and information can be found HERE

Our review of Locke can be found HERE