Alice Lowe as Tina in Ben Wheatley's SIGHTSEERS. Photo credit: Ben Wheatley. An IFC Films release. All rights reserved.
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Opened: 05/10/2013 Limited
|Sunshine Cinema||05/10/2013 - 05/30/2013||21 days|
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Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: British Black Comedy/Thriller
Killers Have Never Been So Average
Chris (Steve Oram) wants to show Tina (Alice Lowe) his world and he wants to do it his way - on a journey through the British Isles in his beloved Abbey Oxford Caravan. Tina's led a sheltered life and there are things that Chris needs her to see - the Crich Tramway Museum, the Ribblehead Viaduct, the Keswick Pencil Museum and the rolling countryside that accompanies these wonders in his life.
But it doesn't take long for the dream to fade. Litterbugs, noisy teenagers and pre-booked caravan sites, not to mention Tina's meddling mother, soon conspire to shatter Chris's dreams and send him, and anyone who rubs him up the wrong way, over a very jagged edge...
About the Production
Before writer-performers Alice Lowe and Steve Oram hit the road as Tina and Chris in Sightseers they spent several years refining the characters, first on stage and then as leads in a TV pilot.
Alice Lowe begins the story, "Steve and I perform live character comedy and we met doing a regular comedy night called 'Ealing Live'. We were chatting about our Midlands backgrounds and family holidays that we used to go on, and we started talking as these characters."
Steve says, "We had the characters before the idea, I think; these suburban caravan lovers from Redditch. We just found it funny them talking about mundane things and then disposing of body parts in the same breath. The idea to have them going on holiday and knocking people off whilst visiting tram museums was something that made us laugh."
Alice continues, "We then performed the characters as a double act, and got interest in the idea as a TV proposal. A lot of the character traits are based on ourselves - except for the murderous notions of course -- although I can get tetchy if I don't get a regular supply of hot tea. We made a TV taster (with director Paul King), which was promptly rejected by all channels for being 'too dark'!"
Undaunted, Alice and Steve refused to give up on the idea. With a bit of initiative and enterprise, Sightseers was back on the road and destined for bigger and better things than TV could offer, "We really believed that we'd made something of a decent quality that was an interesting idea worth taking further, so we put the taster on the internet." says Alice.
"I sent the link to Edgar (Wright), who I had worked with on Hot Fuzz and he immediately spotted its film potential. He told us to send it to (Shaun of the Dead) producer Nira Park and Big Talk optioned the script. We were extremely lucky to have had that break and their support. It seemed like our dream partnership to be working with people who had made what many consider the definitive British comedy horror! Edgar has now executive produced Sightseers and his involvement has been invaluable."
Sightseers director Ben Wheatley and his long time producers Claire Jones & Andy Starke (Rook Films) are similarly positive about joining forces with a company that has such a brilliant track record, Wheatley says "With Big Talk, you know that there's a wealth of knowledge there from their other movies so you've always got that back stop and it's really good working with Nira and Edgar."
Developing the Characters
With a film deal on the table, it was time to develop the script and find the right director to realise Alice and Steve's vision. First came an arduous period of research into the minds of serial killing couples...
Alice says, "We sent ourselves borderline insane by watching, reading and absorbing everything about serial killers. I like to think of myself a bit like a police psychologist such as Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls, nearly driven to the edge by the burden of too much knowledge. This is possibly an exaggeration, but it is quite weird reading a book about Dennis Nilsen on the tube.
We also went on two research trips around the UK, in character, with a cameraman filming the whole thing. That nearly sent us nuts as well. On one of them, Steve and I actually shared a caravan for the whole trip. This really cemented our interaction as a fictional 'couple' as I now know exactly how annoying he can be."
Steve says, "Film4 gave us some money to go away on a research trip; actually caravanning and visiting tourist sites in the Lake District. My dad planned us a fantastic route taking in lots of the places you see in the finished film -- The Tram Museum, Pencil museum, Ribblehead Viaduct etc - and Alice and I spent the whole week in character as Tina and Chris. From that we developed a feel for what the major scenes might be and where they could happen. We improvised so much stuff I even started dreaming in character. After the research trip we wrote three drafts over about three years, with Katherine Butler and Sam Lavender at Film4 giving us notes after each one."
Having lived the characters for several years, it was time for Alice and Steve to join up with a director who could make the most of their idea on the big screen. Step forward Ben Wheatley, a talented rising star with two highly original and eye catching British features -- Down Terrace and Kill List -- already under his belt.
Ben says, "I had a meeting with Big Talk and they said they had a script and the script was Sightseers. I knew it had come from Alice and Steve and I pretty much agreed to do it without reading it because I knew them and wanted to work with them. I had worked with Alice and Steve on a pilot for a TV show called 'Wrong Door' and knew them from the comedy scene."
Ben says, "I knew they'd come from an improv background and I really fancied doing something that was quite free and easy. You know you can bend their work out of shape because they always know the backgrounds of the characters. Amy Jump - who is my writing partner and co-editor -- gets an additional material credit as she wrote additional scenes and characters and helped with the order of events."
Alice says, "Amy and Ben have a flair for visual touches. The script we initially wrote was quite linear, but Ben encouraged more flashbacks, imagined events, and dream sequences. He is the master of psychological bamboozlement, after all! I really like those additions, as I think it's too easy to make weird rules for yourself when you're writing, which you stop challenging after a time. That's when you need a new perspective."
Steve says, "I love Ben's almost poetic way of putting a film together. You're swept along and engaged on an almost subconscious level in places. Plus, in our original script I think the murders were treated in quite a cursory way, but Ben has taken them to a whole different gruesome level. He has made the whole thing even more uncomfortable and amoral, which I love. There is no shying away from what is actually going on, Ben makes sure you're gonna see it!"
Ben Wheatley's films have a unique naturalism and immediacy. Alice explains Ben's way of working, "Ben's DoP Laurie Rose is absolutely brilliant to work with. There's minimal lighting and set-up and Ben encourages us to walk or move wherever we want and Laurie follows the action. It's a very immediate way of working and I guess it's a bit more like theatre. You rarely snap out of a scene. You work really hard on a Ben Wheatley film, but I love it. It's really invigorating and intense. At the end of the day, we were very lucky he agreed to do it, because then Kill List came out and everything went mental for him."
On the Road
It's rare for a film to capture the great British countryside in the way that Sightseers does. Beyond the chocolate box visuals of coy costume dramas, the epic wildness of Britain's great outdoors is underused in movies. As Chris and Tina make their murderous journey through the north of England, the increasingly immense and desolate landscapes are analogous to their moods.
For Steve Oram, the film's stunning locations revived memories of childhood holidays, "Sightseeing and British holidays are great and a big part of mine and Alice's childhood. There are very few films that celebrate these tourist locations and we hoped they'd be quite evocative. Some of the places we went were insanely dramatic and beautiful too, such as the Ribblehead Viaduct and Honister Pass. Why go abroad when you've got the whole of the UK at your fingertips, I say!
Sightseers has an almost mystical, magical realist aspect that chimes with the truly ancient history of some of its locations. For Ben, it was a chance to imbue an ostensibly modern comedy with larger ideas of nationhood: "Chris and Tina are looking at Britain. On one level it's almost like they are travelling back across time. They go into caves and stone circles, they visit all these places, and they're encountering this collapse of Britain. It's a very naturalistic film in many ways but then it has these magical elements, psychedelic moments."
Chris and Tina join a boy/girl lineage of runaway murderers that includes characters from memorable movies such as Badlands, Bonnie and Clyde, Breathless and Natural Born Killers. There's something uncomfortably funny and pleasingly amoral about the way they hastily dispatch anyone who crosses them. Sightseers doesn't glamorise murder, but it does harvest a lot of uneasy laughs. So what reactions did the filmmakers want to provoke with Sightseers' cagoule clad kill spree?
Alice says, "I think you could take out the murders and the film would still make sense. The story is really about a couple going on holiday, fighting, nearly splitting up, then getting back together. This is a universal story and was the story that their characters were destined to fulfil. All the people they meet on the way are almost fairytale-like 'trials' for their relationship. And the ways they dispense with them are metaphors for how they deal with the outside world and its challenges."
So should we care about Chris and Tina? Are we with them on their journey or just watching them? Are they anti-heroes or figures of fun to be laughed at?
Alice says, "In some ways the film is a fantasy about what it would be like to have no moral boundaries. And in this way, I guess it's time off from feeling guilty about how much you can despise annoying people that you meet sometimes. Chris and Tina give the audience the passport to that. I like to think there is an interesting tension in Sightseers where you laugh, but you do feel something. For me it's a tragi-comedy, because there are huge things at stake for all the characters. I don't think anyone gets off scot-free or pops up unscathed at the end."
Steve says, "We definitely wanted the audience to laugh with them. It was essential that they were likeable and sympathetic for the film to work, I think. And it was just as important to make them truthful and believable, both as individuals and as a couple."
Of course, films can often be our escape from the real world. Steve Oram sums things up: "Dare I say it, but we all fantasise now and then about knocking someone off who we don't like. That Chris and Tina actually do it is quite anarchistic and there is fun to be had in that. Good sick fun."
Ben Wheatley (Director / Co-editor)
Ben Wheatley's debut film Down Terrace won numerous awards, including Best Feature at Fantastic Fest, Raindance and Boston, and played major film festivals throughout the world (Moma NYC, Rotterdam, PIFAN, Melbourne, LA). On its release in the US and UK it garnered fantastic reviews across the board.
His second feature Kill List was released in 2011 to global critical acclaim and won several awards including the BIFA for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Smiley) and the Empire Award for Best Horror Film.
Ben has also won multiple awards for his commercials and viral work including Gold, Silver and Bronze Lions at Cannes advertising Festival and has directed many television shows including BBC3's cult hits 'Ideal' and 'The Wrong Door' and C4's 'Modern Toss'.
Steve Oram (Co-writer / Chris)
Steve Oram is a regular on the Brit comedy scene with TV shows including 'The Mighty Boosh', 'Tittybangbang' as well as the film It's All Gone Pete Tong with Paul Kaye. A comic actor/writer who started out doing character comedy on the live circuit with Edinburgh shows such as solo show 'Denim' and gigging all over the country. In 2008 he appeared in the live UK tour with Steve Coogan playing supporting roles and covering Coogan's changes (with Alice Lowe). He was Henry VIII to Alan Partridge's 'Sir Thomas Moore'!
His writing credits for TV include C4's 'Matthew & Tone'. He moved into film writing with Sightseers with long time collaborator Alice Lowe, partly inspired by characters originally performed live together.
Steve has starred in and directed his own film Connections which was selected for the Cannes film festival in 2008 and has continued to make shorts under the banner of Lincoln Films. He currently performs a monthly live show called Oram & Meeten's Club Fantastico with Tom Meeten.
Alice Lowe (Co-writer / Tina)
Alice Lowe is a comedy writer/performer from the Midlands. Alice began in devised theatre, collaborating with award-winning director Paul King ('The Mighty Boosh', Bunny and the Bull). She starred as Liz Asher in the C4 cult hit 'Garth Marenghi's Darkplace', a project which sprang from a Perrier Award Winning stage show in which Alice also starred, a collaboration early in her career with Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade.
Alice has appeared in several TV comedies including 'Come Fly With Me', 'Little Britain', 'The Mighty Boosh', 'Star Stories', 'Black Books', 'The I.T. Crowd', to name but a few. Most recently she starred as the female lead in the new comedy award nominated Sky Atlantic series, 'This is Jinsy', directed by 'Psychoville's' Matt Lipsey. Alice also appeared in Edgar Wright's hugely successful film Hot Fuzz as Timothy Dalton's slatternly side-kick.
She has also starred in sketch shows including multi-award winning 'Horrible Histories' and 'Harry and Paul', for which she has written sketches. She supported Steve Coogan on his nationwide tour playing several characters. She also co-wrote and starred in all female C4 sketch show 'Beehive'. Alice has written and starred in several award winning short films, creating an internet project, Jackal Films. The films have screened worldwide, and Sticks and Balls and Stiffy both won the Straight 8 competition two years running and premiered at Cannes.
Alice performs regularly live on the London comedy circuit, and is one half of spoof psychedelic folk duo Hot Brew. She is currently writing her own Radio 4 series 'Alice's Wunderland', and recently made her directing debut on a pilot she has written for C4 called 'People Place'. Sightseers is the first feature film that Alice has co-written and starred in.
Nira Park (Producer)
Nira Park founded Big Talk in 1995, through which she produced both series of Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes' award-winning comedy series 'Spaced', directed by Edgar Wright, all three series of double BAFTA award-winning sitcom 'Black Books', and the comedy drama series 'Free Agents'. Following the success of 'Spaced', Nira went on to develop and produce the hit movie Shaun of the Dead, for which she received a Carl Foreman Award nomination at the 2005 BAFTA Awards. Nira was also selected as one of Variety Magazine's Top Ten Producers to Watch.
In 2006, she produced Ringan Ledwidge's debut feature Gone for Working Title/Universal and she collaborated again with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright on their follow up movie, Hot Fuzz. As Edgar Wright's producing partner, they collaborated again with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, starring Michael Cera, which was released internationally in August 2010 to outstanding critical acclaim. She also Executive Produced both series of BBC Three's hit sitcom 'Him & Her', and Channel 4's 'Friday Night Dinner', written and produced by Robert Popper.
2011 saw the release of Paul, penned by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and directed by Greg Mottola for Working Title/Universal. Also Attack the Block -- Joe Cornish's debut feature. The film has won several awards already including all four Audience Awards at Sitges, SXSW, LAFF and Fantasia International Film Festival.
Nira is currently in post-production on psychological horror In Fear, directed by Jeremy Lovering for StudioCanal/Film4. And next up is Cuban Fury, a dance comedy starring Nick Frost, to be directed by James Griffiths. Filming will commence in London in June 2012.
She also has several projects with her long-time collaborators Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Joe Cornish which will go into production later this year.
Nira was the recipient of 'Producer of the Year' at the UK Women in Film and TV Awards in December 2010.
Andy Starke (Producer)
After ten years in the world of television post-production, and five years as part of psychedelic rock group "Regular Fries" (currently residing in the "where-are-they-now" section), Starke founded Boum Productions with award winning writer and film historian, Pete Tombs. For Boum, Starke has written, produced, directed & edited numerous TV, film and documentary projects.
Boum has received worldwide acclaim for its ground breaking Mondo Macabro DVD label, focusing on "the wild side of world cinema" and dedicated to preserving formally "lost" genre movies from countries not usually associated with "popular" cinema.
In 2007 Boum founded Mondo Macabro Movies to bring original productions to the screen -- the first, Zibahkhana, directed by Omar Ali Khan, was the first ever modern horror movie to be independently produced in Pakistan, and went on to win multiple awards and play worldwide on the festival circuit, before being sold for distribution in all the major territories.
In 2008 Starke and director Ben Wheatley founded Rook Films -- the company's first original production Down Terrace, was directed by Ben Wheatley and has won multiple awards, received fantastic critical acclaim and has been sold in the UK and US.
Rook's second feature Kill List (co-produced with Warp X) was again directed by Wheatley and has won multiple awards and received huge critical acclaim around the world. Rook currently has a slate of movies and documentaries in development and Wheatley's third feature, Sightseers (co-produced with Big Talk Pictures) will be released in 2012.
Claire Jones (Producer)
Claire Jones produced her first feature film, Kill List in 2011. Ben Wheatley's Kill List, a Warp X/ Rook Films production with Film 4, had its world premiere in SXSW. Selected for a number of festivals and winning multiple awards, including 6 nominations at the British Independent Film Awards, it was released theatrically in the US and the UK to much critical acclaim.
Claire, producing with Rook Films, is currently in development on a slate of feature films with Wheatley. She has just produced her second feature film, Sightseers, a black comedy directed by Ben Wheatley (co-produced with Big Talk Pictures), which will have its theatrical release in 2012.
After gaining a law degree and finishing law school, Claire began her career as a paralegal. Whilst working in a city law firm she helped out on numerous films, running on weekends for the London Film School.
After discovering her love for film, she moved swiftly into production where she became production manger for various acclaimed directors, including Stephen Frears, John Madden, Shane Meadows and Kirk Jones.
In 2006, at the age of 26, she set up one of the first digital content companies, Tomboy Virals. Over the next few years, Claire created original digital content for the top advertising agencies, winning numerous awards at Cannes Lions, BTAA's and the Webby Awards.
Since 2008, filming all over the globe for Blink Productions, she's produced numerous commercials, music videos and short films including an Emmy nominated short film for Outstanding Online Comedy.
Laurie Rose (Director of photography)
Having been to Art School, managed an off-license and cooked in a cafe, Laurie leapt at the chance to be a runner for a Brighton TV production company.
Lifelong fascinations with film, music, and taking things apart (and occasionally putting them back together) lead him quickly down a technical road. Initially this was in sound and it then moved onto camerawork, where he gained a broad and varied experience.
From music promos to documentary, from format TV to commercials, Laurie's assimilation of new skills and story telling techniques has helped shape his response to what he sees and honed a visual style.
Laurie DOP'd Ben Wheatley's first feature film, Down Terrace and has subsequently worked on every Wheatley film, including the highly critically acclaimed Kill List (where his work was described as "Unflinching" -- LA times and "using the realism of the hand-held camera to suck us right into their lives, whilst managing to maintain a lovely cinematic look" -- FilmThreat). The two have built a working relationship and a quiet mutual understanding where Laurie is able, not only to respond intuitively to Wheatley's creative working style, but also to clearly convey Wheatley's vision to the screen.
Laurie continues to utilize his Art School aesthetic with his enthusiasm for new technologies and new techniques to bring an innovative, vibrant, and unique approach to British cinema.
James Williams (Composer)
James Williams composed the score for Ben Wheatley's Down Terrace and Kill List, earning him much praise in the press including: "Jim Williams' eminently unsettling score -- the film's saturnine heartbeat -- pulses underneath (Financial Times); "...Jim Williams' abrasively oppressive score..." (Independent); "Jim Williams' score, incorporating mysterious chants and whistling, backward-played speech, and dragging strings, further cements a mood of dread and anxiety." (Reuters); "Britain has rarely seemed so eerie, the sound and score playing with an expert handle on tension, tension...release" (Sunday Times).
Jim had a long-term co-writing partnership with composer John Lunn. Their combined composing credits include four series of their Ivor Novello Nominated scores for the BBC's 'Hotel Babylon'; the feature film The Gift for BBC Scotland; 'Material Girl' and 'Harley Street' series, both for Carnival/ITV; two series of 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet' for the BBC; 'Heartless' for Ecosse Films; 'Sorted' for the BBC; and 'Lock Stock' -- The Series made by Ska/Ginger for C4. Jim's other credits include the feature Under The Greenwood Tree directed by Nick Laughland for Ecosse Films; the 2009 'Minder' series made by Talkback Thames for Channel Five and the BBC 4 documentary 'Not Cricket'.
As a songwriter and producer he's collaborated with some of the industry's leading figures including Phil Thornalley of Swamp Productions, Los Angeles producers The Matrix, and with Shaun and Mike Ward co-wrote Kenny Thomas' international hit Thinkin' About Your Love released on Chrysalis Records.
A highly regarded session guitarist and arranger before turning to composing for films and television, he regularly worked with leading record producers Alex Sadkin, Stuart Levine, Bob Sargeant, Gary Stephenson and others. He played on several M-People tracks including their mega hit Movin' On Up, as well as on recordings with Go West, This Mortal Coil, Terry Hall, Breathe, Bros, Brix Smith, Wet Wet Wet, Republica, Claire Grogan, Spear of Destiny, Nick Heyward, Cindy Lauper, Rick Astley, Paul Weller, Beverley Craven and Maxi Priest.
Robin Hill (Co-editor)
Robin Hill has been making films since he was a kid, and with Ben Wheatley since 1992. Professionally an editor in film and television, Robin also co-wrote and starred in Wheatley's debut feature, Down Terrace, as well as editing Wheatley's follow-up Kill List. Robin's recent projects have included comedy series 'Twenty Twelve' for the BBC and the upcoming albino-hunting feature film White Shadow.
Eileen Davies (Carol)
Eileen made her first appearance on TV playing the tearful Wardrobe Mistress in the original 'Ready When You Are, Mr McGill', directed by Mike Newell. Since then she has been associated with wide ranging projects including 'Middlemarch', Bleak House', 'Body and Soul', 'Foyle's War', and 'Midsomer Murders', as well as comedy appearances in 'Alas Smith and Jones' 'People Like Us' and 'Waiting for God'. Her film work includes Bright Star for Jane Campion and she has very much enjoyed the work she has done over the years with Mike Leigh in Meantime, Secrets and Lies, Vera Drake and Another Year.
Jonathan Aris (Ian)
Jonathan Aris's film credits include Bright Star (directed by Jane Campion), Gulliver's Travels (director Rob Letterman), Flawless (director Michael Radford), Birthday Girl (director Jez Butterworth), Topsy-Turvy (director Mike Leigh), Metroland (director Philip Saville) and The Jackal (directed by Michael Caton Jones). He also plays Anderson in the current 'Sherlock' TV series and his numerous television appearances include the role of Jonathan Miller in Terry Johnson's TV film 'Not Only...But Always', Bryan Wells in Peter Kosminsky's 'The Government Inspector' which won the Royal Television Society Award for Best Single Drama (2005) and the BAFTA for Best Single Drama (2006), Richard Leavis in the TV series 'The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard' and Stanley Soward in the TV film 'Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk To Finchley' (2007).
Richard Glover (Martin)
After winning the BBC New Comedy Award in 2001, Rich Glover went on to star in Ealing Live and became one third of the sketch group 'Pros from Dover'. An incredibly versatile actor, he has starred in such films as Learners (BBC) and St Trinian's (Ealing Studios) and a wide variety of television shows from 'The Mighty Boosh' (BBC1) to 'Casualty' (BBC1) and 'Meet the Parents' (Channel 4 / Objective Productions). In radio, Rich has worked alongside Danny Wallace on BBC 6Music and most recently, XFM London.
Monica Dolan (Janice)
Monica Dolan has appeared in films including Never Let Me Go, The Arbor, Within The Whirlwind and Topsy-Turvy. She starred as serial killer Rose West in the ITV drama 'Appropriate Adult' in 2011, other previous television credits include 'Agatha Christie's 'Poirot', 'Dalziel and Pascoe', Tipping the Velvet', 'Judge John Deed' and 'U Be Dead'. Her stage appearances include 'She Stoops to Conquer' and 'King Lear' and 'The Seagull', both with Ian McKellen.