Destination: Dewsbury, recently released in Showcase Cinemas across the UK, represents the very definition of independent British filmmaking with its distinct geographical title introducing us to director Jack Spring’s self-determined effort to make a feature film from a standing start.
Destination: Dewsbury, a new comic road movie from first time feature film director Jack Spring, arrives in UK cinemas after a low budget production journey saw Spring raise every penny needed for filming himself. Made on a budget of £150,000, Destination: Dewsbury’s route from idea to big screen highlights the very definition of independent filmmaking.
Trying and failing to get any money for his project from investors, Spring changed tack, developing a hot tub company and witnessing it flourish. He went back to investors and, with his business acumen and the financial growth of his entrepreneurial venture behind him, those with the cash were more willing to dig deep into their pockets. Destination: Dewsbury had a green light.
“It’s a rude, crude schoolboy comedy following four incompetent middle aged men on a road trip up the country to see their dying friend one last time,” Spring said in an interview with the Yorkshire Post. “There’s lots of laugh out loud moments. It’s funny but it’s got a lot of heart to it too.”
Spring said he was inspired to write the film in part because he could draw on his own experiences but also because of a lack of representation for middle aged men in mainstream cinema. “These guys aren’t superheroes – in fact there’s not much attractive about them at all. They’re just normal guys, normal guys that are fun to watch,” he says adding that he also wanted to fill a gap in the market for “rude, crude, schoolboy comedy” that’s only really been tapped into by The Inbetweeners.
As he told Alternate Takes, The Inbetweeners plays a big part in Destination: Dewsbury’s style and humour. He was about 13 when the show started airing and he was drawn to its comic tendencies. Other influences include the work of Edgar Wright (who made the brilliant Shaun of the Dead as well as Hot Fuzz and The World’s End).
“Visually, I’d say an influence was any of the Cornetto trilogy or any of Edgar Wright’s stuff, especially with his use of comedy devices. I think that’s it for this film. There is other room for stuff that I love, like Wes Anderson, I love his symmetry and his visual style. I like Shane Meadows too, like the way he directs the actors and lets them do a lot of their own improv.”
In Spring’s film, four middle aged men, held together by their childhood friendship, take a calamitous road trip across the UK to visit their dying friend for one last time. The group are all going through their own mid-life crises but our brought back together after 20 years to travel across country to see their dying schoolfriend.
Spring says he was able to draw from his experiences going to the pub with his dad. “I used to go drinking with his mates over Christmas, we used to do a bar crawl. It was hilarious, they were just as stupid as I was and they are middle-aged blokes.”
Indeed, Destination: Dewsbury gives Spring the chance to celebrate that friendship as well as the stupidity in a way that doesn’t poke fun but lovingly recreates the camaraderie between pals. His big screen adventure sees the foursome embark on a journey across the country to West Yorkshire which results in them getting entangled in a pensioners’ swinging society, overdosing on psychedelic drugs and even falling victim of a kidnapping by Russian gangsters.
Spring decided to shoot in Dewsbury because he enjoyed his time living nearby in the Yorkshire city of York as a student. “I looked at Yorkshire because I was living in York at the time. And the stereotype is true – people in Yorkshire are far more helpful than those in London. I’d been making films during my time in York so had a large network of filmmakers in Yorkshire too – it just made sense to start scouting there.”
He says the local council was also very helpful which made the decision to shoot in Dewsbury a relatively easy one. It also helped that the town hadn’t had a lot of coverage in TV and film so he felt the production could do some good. “We did want somewhere where we could work with the council and local people. It was great. People did us so many favours because they were so excited that a film was being shot in Dewsbury.”
While Spring is one of the UK’s youngest feature film directors he has plenty of experience. He remembers making motion capture animations with his dad using characters made out of sticks collected from his garden. He was six at the time. At 13 years old he says he was making short films every weekend.
He won his first award at the Co-op Film Festival three years later (the same festival Edgar Wright took part in as a kid) and worked on a movie called Scott & Sid after dropping out of film school. The opportunity to work on Scott & Sid was the biggest learning experience of his fledgling career.
“The producers and directors, I credit them for a lot…they are only ten years older and they instilled this confidence that there was another route [into filmmaking, aside from university]. It was like an atomic bomb went off in my head. There’s this other route and these guys have done it, so why can’t I,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
That led to Hello Hot Tubs. ReadySteadyCut asked Spring the question on everyone’s lips: why hot tubs? The director says he woke up drunk one morning to find his friend had posted a picture of himself in an inflatable hot tub.
“I googled them and I couldn’t afford to buy one, I just wanted to rent one out for the day and all the websites were sh*t. They were just blokes with [email protected] and most of them had just mobile numbers. I [felt] I could do it a lot better. There was clearly money in it because there are loads of people doing it, but they’re just rubbish.
“So we maxed out the student overdraft to buy a hot tub and then a couple of weekends later we had enough for two hot tubs and then three hot tubs, then four, and then when we sold it we had like 65, I think. It grew pretty rapidly. But it was a pain in the ass. I’d have middle-aged women ringing me at like 3am on a Sunday because they’d put a fag out on the hot tub and it’s burst and flooded a block of flats. I’d be like ‘why have you done that?’”
It was an experience he learned a lot from and one which showcased a self-determined ambition to make things happen without the “rich uncle who could fund the whole thing” and make it “nice and easy”.
It goes back to what Robert Rodriguez says in his book Rebel Without A Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player that if you think you’re a filmmaker and you want to be a filmmaker then YOU ARE a filmmaker. But it isn’t handed to you on a plate. Spring might not have put himself forward for medical testing to make the money to shoot his first feature film like the Sin City director but he did have to work his butt off to make Destination: Dewsbury happen.
“You can’t just sit there and moan that you never get money in life. You just got to work out a way to do it. It was kind of sink or swim at that point. You’re either going to have a career in film or not; if I wanted any chunks of it I had to get the first one made. Yes, just got to work out a way to do it.”
Jack Spring is currently working on his next project Three Day Millionaire.
Destination: Dewsbury is released in select Showcase Cinemas from the 1st March. For more information, please head to the Showcase Cinemas website.