The comedy film I'm Not In Love focuses on Rob, a man in his late thirties who needs to decide if he wants to have a baby with his girlfriend Marta... but he's worried that he's fallen out of love with her. Col Spector, the director and co-writer of the film, talks us through how they brought the project to life...
A few years ago, I was writing a series of short comedy scripts about first dates. Radha Chakraborty who often co-writes with me pointed out they all had the same theme - that of romantic settling. This theme of settling (or as Lori Gottlieb in her book Mr Good Enough prefers to say, "compromising") seemed to really resonate with many people.
It was this theme that I latched onto when writing the screenplay with Radha. It felt like a great antidote to those romantic comedies that suggest that there is 'The One' out there waiting for us. What if you never meet The One? It's an all too common dilemma for both men and women but it's not something that's much talked about. Should we wait for true love or be pragmatic and settle for what we already have?
Working with Radha, I loved the idea that both the men and the women in the film could be true and authentic. It was always a fine balancing act negotiating that thin line between mocking our male hero and rooting for him. And so knowing that Al Weaver was to play the lead hugely helped when writing the script. What also helped in setting the right tone for the hero was knowing that as the women in the story have more at stake; we made sure that they were also wiser and more resourceful than the men.
With the script in place, I set out to cast it. I'm a true believer in Robert Altman's dictum that 85% of your work as a director is done in the casting. This film would certainly live or die by its casting. With Al Weaver in place as the male lead we set out finding our female lead. I knew I wanted someone from Eastern Europe and so I enlisted our casting director Kristina Erdely who is originally from Hungary, and she suggested Cristina Catalina... who was incredible in the audition. When we offered her the role, I think that she was delighted to not be playing a sex-trafficked prostitute - which is the part she's used to being offered over here.
As our lead actor, Al Weaver was also executive producer on the film. He suggested some other cast, including the amazing Tessa Peake-Jones who I was delighted to hear had been wanting to play Al's mother for many years. And he also suggested the super-talented Sinead Matthews. When I went to see her in a play acting opposite Matthew Broderick, I saw another great talent Rosalind Eleazar who luckily also agreed to be in the film.
Our 1st assistant director Adrian Tauss is a stand-up comedian by night and he suggested one of the leads, Sunil Patel, who had done a fair bit of improvised acting however not so much scripted. I think he's brilliant in the film.
Another couple of comedians who make brief cameos are also coincidentally two of my favourite stand-ups: Lew Fitz and Davina Bentley. I don't think they'd acted before but, boy, are they good. As Adrian Tauss says: comedians are used to being truthful so as actors they naturally bring truth. I think he's right.
Other great British character actors that we were lucky to get included James Lance, who I'd really wanted to work with after seeing him in Sensitive Skin and The Book Group; John Henshaw, who was in my first feature film alongside Stephen Mangan and is probably my favourite British character actor; Gabrielle Creevy, an actor who I was introduced to by our casting director Kristina and I think she's an absolute knock-out... I could go on.
I'd worked with our DoP [director of photography], Andrew Alderslade, on a few films before and knew that he was great and also lovely to work with. We decided on a tableau style inspired by the cinematography of Gordon Willis (Manhattan, The Godfather).
Our ethos was to play everything bold. I encouraged Andy to take as many risks as he liked with lighting and told him that I didn't mind if our cast are seen in silhouette. We wanted to go to war on playing it safe and ensure that we make something that stood out from the crowd. I was also inspired by a scene in Steve McQueen's Shame where Fassbender goes on a date with a woman and the whole scene is played out in one long developing tracking-in shot. There is no escape. I did that trick a couple of times in the film.
As we only had 17 days to shoot the movie we had to film pretty fast. I think that having limited time forced us to be bolder with how it was shot and, hence, better. The final scene of the film is an example of that - a 4 minute developing tracking shot - which I think is one of the boldest and best things I've ever directed. It relies on pitch-perfect performances from Al Weaver and Cristina Catalina. Which they certainly delivered.
Editing took a long time. Even though there aren't many cuts in the film I guess it sometimes takes more effort to decide where not to cut. Choosing the music also took a long time. My friend and colleague Jocelyn Pook recommended the composer Jamie Telford who then set to work recording various variations on Henry Purcell's song One Charming Night. These give the film a sweet almost satirical flourish - never letting the story be too much a subjective version of our hero's story.
Never have I realised how important the post-production sound can be. Luckily I was in the capable hands of Harry Parsons and re-recording mixer Ed Rousseau. As there is no traditional score in the film, the diegetic music is doing similar work that a score might do and one of the great things that Harry and Ed pushed me to do was use less music rather than more. They weren't afraid to let the sounds of the room tell the story.
Finally, the film was graded at Molinare by Carl Thompson. As we had shot the film in July and the film is set between summer and autumn Carl managed to grade the leaves in the trees for the later section in very credible autumnal colours. Our DoP Andy Alderslade then encouraged Carl to enhance the colour throughout the film and bring a tad more joy to the moodiness of the film.
I'm Not In Love is available to rent & buy on digital.