“I set out to do the perfect murder,” David Cunningham tells D&CFilm. We unpeeled our hand from the Bat-phone because David penned and produced the short thriller Avernus. David certainly planned the perfect short. Avernus has been selected for 25 festivals out of the 50 they applied for, picking ten awards already.
One of those festivals where Avernus will be screened is the English Riviera Film Fest.
An inspiration for the film came from a 70s flick starring Roger Moore, and its creeping claustrophobia leaves a lasting effect that Avernus has channelled.
The description of the film reads: “Arriving at his golf club to clinch a lucrative business deal, Jack is alarmed to discover his estranged wife and an ex-colleague deep in intimate conversation. It soon dawns on him that those he crossed are seeking retribution.”
“The first things I did was get a location because I play golf there, I knew I could get it, and it’s a fabulous location,” says David.
David worked on the script for three months with director Simon Ross, which proved to be time well spent.
“It really tightened it up. And we shot it in two days,” says David. “Simon spent a day with the DOP, James Rhodes, walking through the venue and produced his shot list, so come the shoot we could hit the ground running.”
Casting was relatively easy. David drew on his acting background and picked up the phone to call people and it all fell into place.
“The only people I didn’t know was the golfer who comes down the steps at the beginning, who Simon had worked with on a previous film. And Sophie Khan Levy who played Lou, Simon had done a hair commercial with. She was actually working at the RSC doing As You Like and had a week out, which we could get her into the film,” says David Cunningham.
Post-production was not so smooth – lockdown restrictions meant the process took longer than expected.
Raising finance for small independent films has become much more difficult since the change in the rules of the Government’s Enterprise Initiative Scheme (EIS), this in turn has led to an acute downturn in the production of low budget British films.
The number of domestic films produced with budget of under £500k in 2018-19 fell by over 50% from 88 to 41. From high of 197 in 2012. Those on budget of over £500k fell from 88 to 53. (BFI Statistics)
The production companies that make these films are essential to and part of the grassroots of the Industry, they are also part of our culture. More important, they provide vehicles for up and coming British talent, on both sides of the camera, to cut their teeth on.
Support for small indies
In an effort to reinstate some form of EIS to support the small indies, David with the help of Stephen Cranny, has written on behalf of 21 industry bodies, including production companies, post production house, media accountancy firm and literary agencies, to various members of government. Among them Nick Smith MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Film and Broader Screen, who they had a Zoom meeting with last Monday.
“It was a positive meeting, but not as productive as I’d hoped for,” David Cunningham comments.
“Among the producers we are in league with on this, all of them have investors with money ready spend, if they could do so by utilising EIS.”
The City desk of The Mail will be carrying an article on the issue following an interview with David and Stephen and a statement from Nick Smith’s office. In addition, they will be posting a Facebook page in due course, to seek further support and keep those interested updated on the campaign.
Details available shortly on David’s website – www.blueelephantfilms.com
top image: A still of Jamie Bamber who plays Jack in Avernus.
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