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Filming Independently in Manchester: Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and Neil Ely on Three In a Bed (2014)

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By Tom Ue.

Three In a Bed probes the often-complicated relationship between our families and our romances. Trained at UCLA Film School, Lloyd Eyre-Morgan is a 26-year-old film director from Manchester who has had three films released internationally. Neil Ely is a playwright and filmmaker based in Manchester. Beginning in fringe theatre, he is now slowly making a name for himself in both film and theatre. His credits include Asylum of Grace (writer), Celluloid (actor), and Three In a Bed (writer and director). Ely’s latest film “Mirrors” has recently been selected to premiere at the BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival 2015.

Many congratulations on winning the audience favourite award at The Palm Spring Cinema Diverse Festival! How did this film begin?

Lloyd Eyre-Morgan (LEM): The film began as a sitcom idea that Neil had. Together, we developed the film into a feature. We wrote the film together with a three-scenes-each collaboration process: he’d write three scenes, then I’d write three scenes: we obviously had to set out the path of the film first. After this, Jody came on board as executive producer, and we used the same crew as my previous film Celluloid. It all began from there. We were at Cinema Diverse the year before with Celluloid. It’s a great festival and we were lucky enough to be selected again in 2014 with Three In a Bed. We had a sold-out screening, which I had never experienced before. It was nerve wracking! The audience votes your film between 1 and 10. The films with the highest votes at the end of the festival win audience favorite and we won!

Ue 02This film was shot with an incredibly small budget of just £4,000. Tell us about financing it.

Neil Ely (NE): You can say that again. It was hard work. Myself and Jody Latham put the money in the pot. Jody had previously worked with Lloyd on Celluloid so trust had been established there. We had to call in a lot of favours, also, with family and friends acting as chefs and drivers.

LEM: The crew and cast put in a lot of time. I spent a year on the film’s post-production, and ended up recoloring the film myself. I definitely learnt a lot making this film. There were a lot of tears. Put it this way: I’m aiming for budgets now!

What are some of the challenges of making an independent film?

NE: Everything’s a challenge, from myself and Lloyd working on the script to filming with a tiny budget. I don’t think anybody got a lot of sleep during the four weeks of filming. You just hope that the results are worth it. It was a massive learning curve for me so that alone was worth all the sleepless nights.

LEM: I think the main challenges you face are the risk factors: you put your heart and soul into these films and, with little money, it’s difficult when problems occur, such as diet coke being spilled on a hard-drive – I won’t go there. But it also brings people together: the crew working on this film with us was so committed and we were almost a family. Any problems that arose, we’d club together and find a solution. The cast was fantastic. You’d be amazed at the talent you can attach to independent film.

What was it like working in Manchester?

NE: Being a Manchester lad, it was great to be able to film in the place I love so much. It also helps that we had a fantastic support system around us. Manchester has a lot of heart and I think it was the perfect place to film Three In a Bed – especially in the Northern Quarter as it has such a great vibe. A lot of big budget films were also made there including Captain America and Peaky Blinders.

LEM: Manchester has a great independent film circuit and there are lots of shorts and features being shot here and a lot of up and coming talent to work with. Adam Sheldon, Jonathan Boothby, who are our cinematographers, Joe Nattrass our sound director, just to name a few, are people who are working the indie circuit and are tomorrow’s Hollywood film crews – just watch this space. I wonder if you’d get this same sense of film community anywhere else. I really don’t think you would. These guys along with myself and Neil put our heart and soul into this film.

One of the most noticeable things about Manchester in the film is that it’s much less busy than the actual city (at least, when I am in town!). How did you get these expansive shots of the city?

NE: We had to fluke it and just ask the public to be patient take after take after take!

Where did you find the spacious flat wherein most of the film is set?

Ue 03LEM: Neil took care of finding most of the films locations. I think we had a vision we wanted it to be a Friends-style flat, and we also needed the space to fit in the crew and allow room to get creative with the shots.

NE: It’s a great flat. We found it on a Hoildaymakers Web site as the owners rented out a room. The flat was in the area I live so we called round and asked if we could rent the flat for a week to film. They agreed. The lovely couple had to set up camp in the bedroom while we took over the entire flat!

How did you decide on Nate’s sound?

LEM: I’ll hand you over to our sound director, Joe Nattrass:

JN: The mixing was quite a simple process. The film is very dialogue-driven. Once that is in place, it’s a case of balancing the music to work with the dialogue and aid the script in its flow and its storytelling.

NE: We wanted a very indie sound and we wanted there to be a few original songs, so we contacted a very talented writer. Jack Bennetts wrote “Addicted.” Jack has a little cameo at the speed dating. We got Brennan Reece, who plays Nate in the film, in the recording studio and he smashed the song. With so many great originals in the film, we are in talks about a soundtrack.

Tell us about the casting.

LEM: We needed strong comedy actors, and for the first time, we casted outside Manchester for some of the parts, with two of the leads Darren Bransford and Louisa Bettine from the south. Darren sent us a videotape of himself through the casting call online and he was fantastic: we cast him on the spot. I knew Louisa from a mutual friend from a few years ago and knew she’d be perfect for Adriana.  Kimberly Simpson, who plays Poppy, I’d been wanting to work with for years, having seen her on the Manchester theatre-scene: she blew me away with her comic timing and performances. Verity May-Henry came in to audition for us from the casting call and we were so impressed with her comedy timing and also what she added to the character: the shoe phone scene early in the film was all improvised by Verity and it’s hilarious.  We had a perfect cast, with no weak links. I’m very proud.

NE: Casting “ Nate” was hard as we needed an actor who had it all. The look. The voice. And the ability to act. We found him after doing an x-factor style day of auditions. We had previously worked with Coby Hamilton, who plays Sammy, so we knew she would fit the role. After that, we audition for the other cast by word of mouth on the Manchester circuit.

Jay’s boyfriend’s pleas remind me of A Streetcar Named Desire did you have that in mind?

LEM: I didn’t have that in mind but I can see the comparison: we wanted to show the power struggle through an interesting dynamic.  Jay stands high and mightily out of the window, in control of the situation almost like the queen of the castle she has taken over (Nate’s house), whereas Jay in low down and filmed to be small and powerless.  I love these window scenes: the actors got the comedy timing just right and I think they could have their own spin-off film.

Lloyd also starred in the film, as Daniel. Tell us about this, your first role.

LEM: Well I had one line during a later nightclub scene…. But as I’m sure you’ll agree, I stole the film.

Responsibility is an important concept in the film: to what extent do you feel that Nate should be held responsible for his sisters?

NE: I think all families have a responsibility to look after one another. Brothers and sister get to push the boundaries with each other and usually have a bond like no other: they are able to fight and argue and then make up.

LEM: I think Nate puts to much pressure on himself to look after his sisters and that there comes a point where we all need to fly away from the nest. Nate can’t quite do this after the death of his parents, and neither can his sisters. I think that the film shows the boundaries of responsibility broken and how Nate struggles to find a healthy balance of this relationship with his sisters.

Do you think that there would come a point when he must choose between his sisters and his lover?

LEM: I don’t think that he has to choose. I think it’s more a case of his sisters allowing him space and letting go of him, which, I hope, slowly begins to develop in the film. No spoilers!

What is next for you?

LEM: I’m currently in pre-production on my first funded film project. We start shooting in April. I can’t say much about it but I’m very excited: it’s a new venture for me.

NE: I have just completed a short film “Mirrors” that deals with the gray areas of sexuality. We will be entering it to film festivals throughout the year.

Tom Ue writes for Film International. His edited collection World Film Locations: Toronto was published by Intellect in April 2014, and he is presently writing a book about the White Messiah in contemporary films and editing the Dictionary of Literary Biography 377: Twenty-First Century British Novelists. Ue is Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellow and Canadian Centennial Scholar in the Department of English Language and Literature at University College London.

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