Director talks about his British comedy thriller THE DRUMMOND WILL which screens for FREE in Concord, N.C.

There will be a FREE screening of the British comedy thriller  “The Drummond Will” at 9 p.m. Friday, June 20 at the Davis Theatre, 65 Union St. S, Concord, N.C. The FREE screening takes places after the art walk in downtown Concord which runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 20.

Originally screened in Cabarrus County during the 2011 Modern Film Fest at the Gem Theatre in Kannapolis, N.C. “The Drummond Will” is a one of those rare gems that combines British comedy with a bit of mystery to make for a fun, lighthearted story. Even though the slaughter level is almost as high as the laughter.

A collision between old and new,  this black comedy is set in decaying rural England. It follows estranged brothers Marcus and Danny Drummond as they find themselves on a surprisingly dangerous undertaking to unravel the mystery surrounding their father’s unlikely wealth.

Director Alan Butterworth co-wrote the script with Sam Forster, and the movie was shot in five weeks in the middle of winter. The surprising thing is though the movie was shot with new technology, using a Red One camera, Butterworth opted to shoot in black and white instead of color.

“It was a simple short-hand to get what we were trying to do across. It instantly says old-fashioned in a way that few other things could have,” Butterworth said, during his original 2011 interview with Modern Film Fest.

“Also, I knew we would be shooting on the Red, a really cutting-edge camera technically, and I liked how perverse it seemed to show that footage in black and white. At the time I think it was the first black and white film shot on Red.”

"The Drummond Will" director Alan Butterworth
“The Drummond Will” director Alan Butterworth

“The Drummond Will” tells the story of two city-boy brothers, one a charismatic optimist, the other a whining corporate sell-out, who return to the countryside for their father’s funeral.

On checking out his decrepit estate the boys find one of their dad’s ancient friends hiding in a closet with a bag full money. Whilst they decide what to do the pensioner is left to suffocate in the closet, leaving them with a much bigger problem to deal with; tell the police, or leave the body in the home and pretend nothing happened (keeping the money in the process).

This opens their world up to a series of bizarre incidents resulting in the village’s quirky population gently decreasing during their short stay.

Butterworth said the plot may be offbeat, but it has the benefit of being different than a lot of movies being made.

“I didn’t want to do something that was a response to recent movies as that’s something that bothers me about UK movies,” Butterworth said. “A successful rom-com comes out and we make nothing but rom-coms for five years. I randomly saw ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ at a friends house and just thought it was a really nice simple idea to play with – something we could really add to in a modern movie.”

Butterworth said the key influences he drew from for the script was, “Withnail and I” and “Sideways.”

“I love those films and I’d like to think they have similar relationships in them,” he said. He added that the film also pulls influences from, “El Mariachi,” “Reservoir Dogs” and “Monty Python.”

Butterworth said that a part of the writing process also included catering to one of its stars, Mark Oosterveen, who plays the brother, Marcus Drummond.

“I’ve known him for a long time and I love to write for him as his delivery is always so interesting,” Butterworth said. “I thought it would be fun to ‘base’ the character on him as it meant I could wind him up a lot. He’ll tell you he’s nothing like Marcus at all but trust me, he is.”

The role of Marcus was easy to cast, but his brother, Danny Drummond, took a little more work to find and was finally filled by Phillip James.

“We must have seen about 70 people, which for a movie this scale, without  a casting director, is a lot,” Butterworth said. “Phil walked in and just nailed it. He has a lot of charisma which is really important as it’s tough to act it if you don’t have it.”

Butterworth said another big contribution to the script was working with co-writer Sam Forster. Butterworth had done several music videos and shorts prior to filming, “The Drummond Will,” but this was his first attempt at a feature film.

“In terms of development I took a long time to even figure out a story because I had so many awful ideas,” Butterworth said. “Then when Sam got involved we would just write five scenes each over a few days, meet up and chat about them. Sam’s were always too long and mine were always offensive – we met in the middle.”

The two are already teaming up again on another film, the dark comedy, “Conspiracy.”

Butterworth recently talked to Modern Film Fest about his experience on “The Drummond Will” and how he pursued making the movie.

MFF: Where did you guys film the movie and how did that location influence the story?
BUTTERWORTH: “We didn’t have anywhere specific in mind for the location so it didn’t have an influence in that way but when we were writing we knew that everything would have to be something achievable on a small budget.”

“The houses were all very simple so we figured we could get something. We also assumed that simple location’s like a church and a pub could be borrowed without spending much (in the end we got them for free).”

“Also, a lot of the movie is outside. That’s something I was really keen on because if you have $100 or $1,000,000 if the scene is set in some woods, you’re going to be filming in some woods.”

MFF: What were some of the surprises you had while making this movie?
BUTTERWORTH: “There was something surprising every day as I really didn’t have much experience. The best ones were when a scene I wasn’t sure on really came together. Nigel Osner (The Vicar) had a bunch of these. he really made me laugh.”

MFF: How would you describe your directing style and how did you have to adapt that for this particular film shoot?
BUTTERWORTH: “I like to shoot a lot of takes very fast, that’s why I like handheld digital filmmaking. That’s how we shot a lot of the outdoor stuff, very free-style, grabbing shots when we saw them. The indoor stuff meant I had to do more planning than I normally would because of the lighting changes. Adam Etherington(director of photograpy) is awesome though and really made sure we got shots we were both happy with.”

MFF: What was one of your best experiences from making the film and can you give me a good anecdote from one of your favorite days of shooting?
BUTTERWORTH: “I think my favourite day involved exploding a load of polystyrene heads but I don’t want to give too much away about that scene.”

 MFF: What I loved about this movie was how dark the comedy was. Were you afraid that dark humor might not transfer on film and how did you make sure you were able to strike that balance?
BUTTERWORTH: “That’s strange as I really don’t think of it as that dark of a comedy. I wasn’t really worried about it being too dark as I knew we were making a niche movie anyway so I figured I would just make something I would enjoy and hope it finds an audience.”
MFF: One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the one brother gets in a scuffle with a bum in the trailer. How diffiecult was that to shoot, especially to keep the crew from laughing through the take, because it is just a golden moment in the movie for me?
BUTTERWORTH: “I’m glad you like that bit and you’re right, people were laughing. There’s an outtake on the DVD I think where Mark breaks and shouts, ‘Don’t rape me Dave!'”
MFF: Following up on that, what  were some challenges of shooting that scene, since it looks like a gag you pretty much had to get on the first take?
BUTTERWORTH: “It was the hardest shot in the film. It took two days as we couldn’t get it the first time. The hardest part was done by Dan Haigh who did the CG model for the caravan.”

MFF: Any advice for filmmakers just getting started?
BUTTERWORTH: “Keep making films. Write things that fit your budget and shoot as many as you can. It’s the best way to learn and you’ll end up with a great showreel that will help you to get investment in the future.”

MFF: Any chance of seeing the brothers come back for another story, or is, “The Drummond Will” the only story you really see them in?
BUTTERWORTH: “I think everything I write has a little bit of Marcus and Danny in it as it’s the eternal argument going on in my head. I’m not sure which one is the Angel and which one is the Devil though.”