The East End Film Festival opens on Thursday 23rd June. The 10-day multi-platform festival is one of the largest in the UK and is now celebrating its 16th year.
The opening night Film is Alleycats, is a London-set thriller in the world of illegal bike racing and screens at the Genesis cinema from 7pm on Thursday 23d June. The film which was financed with a combination of independent financiers and crowd-funding, has been picked up by Universal for theatrical distribution
Moviescope spoke with the editor of the Alleycats, Chris Hunter, about making the film. First, watch the trailer.
How did Alleycats come about and how did you get involved with it?
Alleycats is the director, Ian Bonhôte’s baby. He had it in development for no less than 7 years beforehand! His soul is in the fabric of this film. He met producer Andee Ryder some years back and they thrashed out how it could be filmed through extensive re-writes and financing options. I’ve known Andee for many years and we’ve worked together several times successfully. Fortunately, I’d had a recent run of relevant, decent editing experience leading to that point. I was the Previs editor on Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and the assembly editor on Da Vinci’s Demons series 3.
Did you have any reference points when cutting the action sequences?
Well, hopefully, people will have seen nothing like it! We extensively watched and researched actual Alleycats races. They are crazy. This is a really interesting underground racing subculture, filled with compelling characters and immense athletes. Our references were more in documentary format, as there hasn’t been much dramatisation of races of that nature. We had a lot of “inside knowledge” and were diligent in our research. As for the action itself, there really isn’t much to reference for these particular races and how they’ve been shot in a dramatic style. The cameras are immersed in the middle of the races and it’s shot in a raw non-staged feel i.e. there isn’t take after take of the same setup, per normal action direction. That in itself was a huge challenge to cut, to make a cohesive, flowing sequence.
What we referenced and what we have is raw racing. We’re told by people within that scene that it’s very realistic and they found the characters totally believable. Ian and Andee got their hands dirty and did some shots themselves! That was key, getting a camera in amongst the thick of the action, and be able to direct the couriers/actors very closely, getting some really dynamic shots as the cameras whip by the characters. We’re all avid cyclists and ride everywhere around London.
I think my previous work on action sequences in other films helped a lot to find the structure and rhythm for these sequences. I happened to have cut some (motor)bike sequences before and obviously watching a lot of action films helps no end!
There’s so much good dramatic emotional connection in this film too. It’s much more than a film about underground bike racing. It’s about corruption, betrayal, and revenge coupled with strong naturalistic performances. It’s a really interesting insight into the courier subculture. The actors are all outstanding and were a pleasure to work with.
Can you tell us about the process of cutting and refining this film
We followed the usual process of me cutting the rushes which were shot the day before. I was really fortunate Tom Henson-Webb was around as assistant editor, I couldn’t have done it without him! It’s multi-format, Alexa being the primary camera. There’s a ton of different cameras that were used on the bikes, which made the conform a bit more tricky, but easily done with proper planning; so being involved in workflows and having someone I trust around in the cutting room was key.
For most of the shoot, we were on location with the crew in a disused college in Croydon. Loads of the sets were built there as well as being the main unit base. We then moved back to my edit suite at home for the rest of the shoot and post. Avid Unity in the basement running fibre optics up to my room and Tom’s, the works! Liam at sixteen19 really came through in getting us the extra kit. Thanks to my wife, Claire, for putting up with us!
I have said time and again that all the best decisions are made in the kitchen. Ian and I would cut away in the morning, then go for lunch either out or in my kitchen. Salt beef bagels became staple. I think Ian may even be curing a brisket at home, right now! The whole time, we’d talk about the film. We’d edit it there in our heads in the kitchen/restaurant, then go back, cut away and everything was completely clear, happened fast and naturally. We weren’t even thinking about cutting in this way, we were just regurgitating notes we’d made ourselves over the past 2 hours. We found it so much more productive than staring at a screen for 16 hours. It was a really welcome change to editing in a facility or studio.
Then getting Andy Gray in composing meant we had really fast turnarounds and really exceptional work in short time and really helped the flow. Mark Lo really came through getting all the other artists onboard, we have a really rocking soundtrack!
It was a multi-format conform which all went great at Onsight, shot by Diego Rodriguez and immaculately graded by Max Horton, so it certainly looks the part. Halo did a sterling job on sound post, too.
What was your feeling when you heard it got picked up by Universal?
We were all naturally very pleased. Universal, of course, are one of the major film studios and I’ve followed them for as long as I can remember. To have our peers accept our work, enjoy it, and see its value makes all the hard work worth it. ”
Alleycats opens the 2016 East End Film Festival on Thursday 23rd June 2016.
Visit the East End Film Festival website http://www.eastendfilmfestival.com/