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2014, 96m, comedy, drama
A double-decker bus weaves through London’s rain-glistened, near-deserted night streets. Gradually we meet the people onboard, of all different ages and nationalities: competitive work colleagues and jaded partners; loud drunks and cheeky fare dodgers; a long-suffering driver and random strangers who strike up the unlikeliest of conversations. Even if you’ve never taken a London night bus (though especially if you have), big city dwellers will recognise the ebb and flow of a bustling metropolis’ nocturnal rhythms and the often-enforced intimacy of public transport.
10 questions with Night Bus director, Simon Baker at the half-way mark.
Thursday, February 18th, 2016
1This is such a good idea for a film. What was the initial seed that made you want to make Night Bus? As an aspiring independent filmmaker you are always searching for simple, compelling ideas that can be made on a budget. I’ve always been a big fan of single location movies or stage adaptations like such as “12 Angry Men” or “Glengarry Glen Ross”. I always remember as a youngster in London thinking the Night Buses where a great environment to observe the ebb and flow of life in a big city. When the idea came to me it seemed amazing that no-one had done it before – so I had to do it quick.
2Shooting and editing this film must have taken a considerable amount of planning. Which was more of a logistics nightmare and how did you tackle it? Preparation was key – although each scene was improvised, they where heavily rehearsed so that we all knew what to expect – we worked out seating plans and a mock up of the timeline of the journey so we always knew who was supposed to be on the bus and when during the “story”. We had a very strict schedule and we stuck to it – we knew that with such a small budget we didn’t have any option of overruns or re-shoots. It was tough, but I think the sheer audacity of it focused us all.
3You have so many talented actors and actresses in this film. How did you find them all and what was it like directing so many different people for one film? My main aim with Night Bus was to try to fill the bus with talented character actors with real charisma - I figured if I could do that, then that was half the job done. Fortunately, London is blessed with many good actors that are up for getting involved in a project like this. I put out an open casting call with the brief that covered the variety of characters you might find on a lively London night bus and set about trying to find the right blend of people to not only create an interesting, but realistic and diverse mix of actors.
4How many days did it take to shoot this film? The initial shoot was over 5 nights, with another 2 nights pickups later in the year, so 7 nights in total.
5What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? As a teenager I remember being hugely excited by Martin Scorsese – Taxi Driver had a huge effect on me – I think the late 70’s/early ‘80s were a great time for American cinema and it’s the films of that period that really inspired me and got me engaged in cinema. "12 Angry Men" was also a huge favourite as a youngster.
6This is a very diverse film. How important was that to you? Absolutely. First of all, a film about a London night bus would be totally unrealistic if it wasn't incredibly diverse - London is one of the most genuinely multicultural cites in the world. But secondly, if you are making a film the celebrates ordinary people, why wouldn't you want it to be diverse? For me, storytelling is about peering into the lives of others, and the more diverse and unfamiliar that experience is, the better.
7What scene was the most fun to shoot and why? My favourite scene is was the stuff we did with Keishan and Jorginho - the two kids listening to their music - I could barely contain my laughter when they got going...
8Was that Tony from the 7 up series? How famous is that guy over there and what was it like working with him? Yes it was! He is pretty famous, especially amongst those that follow the series of course. It was great working with Tony as he is a genuine, born and bred, East Londoner - a real character. He brought a lot of authenticity to the part, something that a film like Night Bus needed.
9What's the biggest thing you learned from making this film? That it is possible. Yes, I had an idea that was realistic and practical, but it was the determination to just steam ahead and follow through that made it happen - I had spent so many years talking about doing something, in the end, as the slogan goes you need to "just do it"...
10What's next? I am about to shoot my next feature, “90 Minutes” in March. It’s a character drama set against the backdrop of Sunday League football. The story takes place entirely on one morning on London’s Hackney Marshes. The story is not about the football itself, it’s about the characters that surround the scene - from the players on the pitch to the coaches on the sidelines, the referees, the supporters, and the family dramas playing out all around them. For me, it’s the natural follow on from Night Bus – it’s set in one location, in one moment in time and is all about the characters and their intimate dramas. There is more of a narrative thread than Night Bus had, as we follow key characters throughout the film rather than a portmanteau, episodic approach.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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