Crime thriller has Crouch End in the blood

A Crouch End producer has roped in local acting talent for his independent movie about a safe-cracking drug addict, finds Segi Adewusi.

Tim Phillips’ film In The Blood features cameos from Highgate actress Alison Steadman and Crouchender Phil Davis and screens – where else? – at the Arthouse cinema in Crouch End next week.

Set on an isolated farm it captures the turmoil of troubled addict Johnny who is beaten and locked in a basement by violent gangsters following the death of his grandfather. (Davis)

The gang’s former Peterman - or safe cracker - had taught his grandson all his skills leaving our “struggling anti hero” the only man who can crack the code for their safe.

Held to hostage inside a prison-like cellar, Johnny loses all sense of time as withdrawal symptoms take hold of his body.

With such a challenging narrative it was crucial for Phillips to select the perfect actor to play Johnny. Working alongside Elaine Grainger casting director of The Dark Knight, they cast Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders) who had originally signed up for a much smaller part.

“Joe came in and he was fantastic,” says Phillips. “He had been up all night and got into character in order to play that role and he took us out of the room which I would say is key in the audition process, somebody who can make you feel like you are not in a stale environment.”

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Philips describes the drama, which stars Steadman as Johnny’s Auntie Jean, as a “thinking crime thriller” that explores more thoughtful characters. Interwoven with Johnny’s conflict is the story of Dave, (Adam Nagaitis) a wannabe gangster who battles to gain his fathers’ approval while living in the shadow of his dead brother, the preferred son.

Director Mark Abraham came up with the initial idea to tell the “story of a safecracker in deep thought”.

He wanted the scenes to have a tense quality with lots of characters placed together to achieve a compact “Reservoir Dogs style” movie.

Unlike large scale blockbusters indie flicks like In the Blood require a “tailored” approach, says Philips, to identify their market and create partnerships with independent cinemas to attract audiences.

“It’s often a balancing act for independent filmmakers to produce a quality film, maintain the integrity of the story whilst keeping on top of the budget.”

Making the most of available resources and careful planning were key considerations, for Phillips, who started his film career in the camera department when his father gave him his first job as a camera trainee on Troy.

He went on to work as a camera loader for feature films including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Inkheart and Dorian Gray before moving into producing movies.

“We took on a script that we could do for a reasonable amount of money and do well. My ethos in producing is to make sure whatever I do, even if I had more money I don’t feel like I can do it better.”

While costs are important the cast and crew can also make or break a production.

“You get a fantastic group of actors who come aboard because the script (by Andrew Bloom) is good, that raises the level of the production values very quickly. There wasn’t much corner cutting and people worked for a lot less because they liked the project. We had a very nice crew and everyone worked extremely hard to make what we think is a fantastic film.”

Philips hopes cinema goers will be entertained by the twists and turns of the film as well leave asking questions about how one approaches life.

In the Blood shows on April 27 at the ArtHouse Cinema, Crouch End, followed by Home Entertainment release in June, through 101 Films.