We talked to Jonathan, now we chat to Paul Tanter – writer and director of White Collar Hooligan.
Where did you get the idea for WHITE COLLAR HOOLIGAN?
It’s actually based on the real-life story of a guy called Ray (Raheel Riaz), who was recruited by an old friend into a credit card fraud gang. He rose through the ranks, got busted, served some time, got let back out and carried on rising up the ladder until everything ultimately went tits up and he faced the choice of dying at the hands of his old bosses or testifying against them – he chose the latter and is now living in witness protection. The football backdrop and some relationships have been added or tweaked, but when the text card at the beginning says “based on a true story”, it’s true..
How does it differ from your previous films?
Jack Falls was much bigger budget than White Collar Hooligan and obviously has a much bigger named cast. That said, I’m hugely proud of the production value we’ve achieved on White Collar Hooligan and the performances from all of our cast. Jack Falls was a learning curve – but a great one. We had built sets in Pinewood, had a huge crew, I had a co-director and a very experienced DoP to lean on – so in some ways there was more spreading of the pressure and the responsibility. With White Collar Hooligan we set ourselves the challenge of using a minimal cast and crew, shooting on a small budget and bringing the film in on schedule (three weeks) – and we hit all of our targets and the result is a film that I feel punches well above its weight. It’s also nice to take on the sole responsibility for what ends up on the screen – though of course that means taking the flak if something doesn’t work. I’m fortunate to have Haider Zafar as DoP – this was his first feature, but the guy has done an awesome job achieving a very distinctive look for the film, which is what I wanted.
How long was the process from idea to filming?
From initial idea, through researching, writing, casting, to filming, probably took about six months. It was initially fairly strongly focused on the credit card fraud aspect, but we then gave it the football hooligan backdrop to give the characters a bit of edge. The other thing that developed was the relationships between the characters – the friendship between Mike and Eddie really grew, and was brilliantly played by Nick Nevern and Simon Phillips – both great actors and very under rated.
Which did you want to be first, a writer or a director?
I always wanted to be a writer. It was working on set of films that I had written that made me want to have more control over the way my work was being interpreted, so I moved into directing. Now I get to have the best of both worlds!
How did you go about casting the film?
For some roles we used people we’d worked with before and knew we wanted to use again as they always deliver (Simon, Nick, Rita Ramnani, Peter Barrett). For others we talked about people we’d really like to work with and our producer Jonathan Sothcott brought us Ricci Harnett and Billy Murray. We also got Rebecca Ferdinando, who we’d seen and really liked in Bonded by Blood. Working with Ricci was awesome as I’d long admired him from Rise of The Footsoldier. He was a great actor to work with. I’ve got to say how pleased I was with the whole cast – I don’t think there’s a weak performance in the film.
What would you like viewers to take from WHITE COLLAR HOOLIGAN?
I hope primarily they are entertained! It’s a well made film with a good story and the best performances I’ve seen from some extremely talented people. It’s got something for everyone – I notice how well it’s received by women as well as guys. I think it’s got something more that your standard “London gangster” flick – so support independent film by visiting HMV or Amazon and getting your copy. Also the DVD commentary was fucking brilliant to do – I’ve never laughed so much in my life. It’s worth getting the DVD for that alone!
What were the greatest challenges on set?
Logistically, the scenes with hundreds of extras rioting around an exploding car and riot police storming them were challenging – but enjoyable nonetheless and went very well. Shooting at 2am outside the Moulin Rouge on the streets of Paris was interesting. We were filming Simon and Pete being chased by the French police and the real police were taking a very keen interest in what we were doing, as were the local pimps and assorted onlookers!
Over the last few years there has been quite a lot of press around gang violence and street crime? Do we need to see this on screen?
Well, film has always reflected what happens in society – just because something is unpleasant, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address it in a film. There’s been in increase in press around gang violence and street crime because, presumably, those things have increased too, as has interest and concern about them. Films are always going to reflect what is in the public consciousness at the time. One thing I was very careful to do in White Collar Hooligan was to not linger on the moments of violence. You become aware of the force of a hit or the consequence of a stab – i.e. they hurt and injure you, but we never made a feature of the violence or pain.
How hard it is to have an independent film made in the UK today?
It’s challenging, to say the least! Fortunately, we’ve hit a bit of a stride now and people see we have a good track record behind of delivering on time and on budget, which persuades them to get behind our upcoming stuff. Simon and Jonathan are prolific producers and very good at making things happen.
Anything else you want to get off your chest?!
Keep an eye out for Riot, coming up in October – it’s Simon’s directorial debut and one we’re all really proud of. Then Once Upon a Time in Essex will follow. We just finished it and I got to direct some great talent I’d always wanted to work with such as Kierston Wareing, Kate Magowan and Robert Cavanah. It’s a new take on the Essex Boys story and features some outstanding performances. We’re just about to start shooting the White Collar Hooligan sequel – White Collar Hooligan 2: England Away. We’ll be catching up with Mike, Eddie and Katie in Spain, New York and London – so the story is going properly international! Anyone wanting to keep updated can follow me on Twitter at @paultanter .