Sunday, 23 December 2012

INTERVIEW: Sightseers Alice Lowe & Steve Oram at the British Independent Film Awards 2012

Alice Lowe and Steve Oram get ushered in to our little press room in a whirlwind of PR reps and a constant hum of best-friend banter between the two. They sit, still jesting with each other, without barely even noticing the interview has begun; a constant level of laughter is the stand-out feature throughout. In fine fettle after their minutes-ago win for the BIFA 2012 Best Screenplay award, Alice answers most of the questions, constantly looking to Steve for reference and amusing back-up. Behind that particularly impressive home-grown beard, Steve's face lights up when conversation of it and his heritage are discussed,  along with illegalities of dog bottom-licking. (You really need to see this film.)

Sightseers is easily summed up as a 'pitch black comedy' death-trip which focuses on the developing relationship between the two leads, Tina [Alice Lowe] and Chris [Steve Oram]. Throw in some scenes of Cumbria hills, cute dog and a caravan, you have a quintessentially perfect English film that you can see America attempting to remake in the not-too-distant future.

Under the reigns of exciting Director Ben Wheatley who's body of work is gathering more and more industry applause than you can shake a hiking stick at, including Kill List [2011] and Down Terrace [2009], this film tugs at your heart strings, bashes your funny-bone and alarms your peepers with more than a couple of brilliantly original cringe-in-your-seat scenes to painful perfection. Both Steve and Alice are regulars in the UK TV comedy circuit, having acted in Tittybangbang, Green Wing, Comedy Lab, The I.T Crowd, Black Books and Garth Merenghi's Darkplace.

The following interview took place at the Moet British Independent Film Awards in London on 9th December 2012. 

GG: Are you fed up of each other yet?

Alice: [Laughing] We’re sick of each other. No we’re not, we like marinating in each other’s juices; we’ve been doing it for about seven years so we’re used to it. We just like to bicker with each other, its fun.

GG: Congratulations on the award – it’s an utterly bonkers film. How did you come up with the concept for Sightseers?
Alice: It started off as a joke really. We’re character comedians, we just started talking about the idea of really sweet, lovely-seeming tourists, who are knocking people off. We started talking about family holidays and childhood experiences of going on holiday when your dad has an argument with a Frenchman, or when he had to change a tyre, all the the sort of stuff when it goes wrong; your Dad doesn’t necessarily kill someone though.  

Steve: [Dead pan, with northern accent] He may do.  

Alice: [Laughter] We just took the concept to its extreme and it made us laugh. We developed it as a TV idea as that’s our world; I just think we never really thought it would get to film. We made it into a taster which then got rejected by all the TV channels for being too dark. Then we developed this film which obviously now we’re really, really glad about, but having worked on it for several years the characters just became more and more real.  

Steve: They became us – there’s a lot of us in the characters. It’s been a real labour of love. It’s about people going on holiday in beautiful English places.  

Alice: And it’s all about relationships really. We went on a research trip in a caravan and we went to the genuine locations that you us going on in the film. 

GG: The Pencil Museum!  

Steve: Yeah the Pencil Museum was great! You must go if you get a chance! 
GG: Have you been to the Dog Collar Museum in Leeds?  

Steve: [Sounding confused] The Dog Collar Museum?  

Alice: No but I think it might have been on our list! We had a big list of places we thought would have been amazing in the country and we should go to them, but we eventually decided we wanted to go further north as we found the idea more amusing as in the movies, if you’re doing a road trip in America – you make a break for Mexico, so I thought ‘let’s make a break for Scotland!’ which would be the equivalent. So we went on this trip and it was just so cinematically breath-taking with the scenery, that we thought this is our movie. This actual journey is the story of the film.  

Steve: I’m extremely pleased that the characters are from Redditch, [Alice laughs loudly] as we’re from Redditch and that’s quite something. We’re not very cool. 

Alice: We’re not very glamorous.  

Steve: Yes we’re not Tarantino kind of people.  

Alice: Someone said to me ‘what do you think is the key to British films?’, to which I said they’re never glamorous. We’re all frightened and ugly [laughing].  

Steve: Yeah we’re a bunch of losers which was so inspiring when we were writing the characters.  

Alice: But also the heart and the championing of the underdog – the idea of these people who have been spat out by society, they’re outsiders. Half of you is going ‘yeah go bash their brains in!’ and the other half of you is going ‘actually no don’t, that’s illegal’. And that’s what we wanted [laughing]. Especially the dog-licking moment.  

Steve: That is illegal.  

Alice: Yes that is definitely illegal. 

In between takes and on that caravan road-trip for research, were you keeping in character?  

Steve: We were, we’re not really method people...  

Alice: Just idiots.  

Steve: ...We’re just a couple of people who don’t really know what they’re doing [both laughing].  

Alice: We were in character but you know it was October so the days weren’t that long due to daylight hours, but it was very, very intensive, you never sit down on a Ben Wheatley film, it’s ‘now we’re going to do this and now we’re going to do this’ [animatedly clicking fingers]. As an actor you stop having such an ego or concern about your performance as you’re not thinking about it, you're just being the character. To work in that way and to be allowed to work in that way is just an amazing privilege; you don’t get that with many films.  

GG: I especially love the advertising campaign for the film ‘Death has a ginger beard’ and ‘Evil has a knitted jumper’ – did you come up with that or have any say in the marketing?  

Steve: No not at all – thanks for that guys [cheeky sarcastic nod to the creative teams].  

Alice: They Photoshopped jumpers on to us that we never wore – they were really, really knitted. We said to each other ‘we didn’t wear those’ – they did a really, really good job. I think the people who made the posters enjoyed the film, there was so much detail in them that you’d see later on which is the same as the film. A lot of people today have mentioned that you need to see Sightseers a couple of times to see all the bits. Ben does this amazing thing where he crams in so much information to the edit that stuff is happening all at the same time and there are so many little details. They really ran with it.  

Steve: They latched on to the beard didn’t they? Not all men with ginger beards are murderers.  

Alice: Many murderers have ginger beards though.  

GG: Is that part of your research?

Alice: No [laughter]. I just made that up now, to spread fear amongst the populous, spread hysteria.  
[At this moment  I point to my ginger-bearded colleague sitting next to me.]  

Alice: Oh dear, there’s a tinge of the ginge!  

Steve: Oh dear there’s one there, watch out for that one.

The Sighteers blog-site is a great read:

As is Director Ben Wheatley's blog he co-runs with Amy Jump:

Sighteers trailer:

Posted by: Geek Girl Kerensa Creswell-Bryant
Geek Girl, Updated at: 11:45