Set in the heart of Teesside, ‘A Six and Two Threes’ sees director Andy Berriman return to his hometown for a charming odd-couple story produced through Creative England’s iShorts.
Developed through the second round of our immensely popular short film scheme, Berriman’s short film was produced with funding and development support from Creative England and skills training and professional mentoring funded by Creative Skillset. Since the film’s completion it’s already started turning heads, with lead actor Shane Teasdale earning a Best Actor nomination at Lift Off Film Festival for his debut performance.
Before cast and crew take the short to Lift Off LA later this year, we caught up with writer/director Andy Berriman to discuss inspirations, casting and the importance of regional filmmaking. Read the full Q&A below…
Hi Andy, can you tell us about your inspirations for ‘A Six and Two Threes’?
I went to school with this kid who used to follow me home and invite himself round. I used to hide from him after last lesson. As I got older and thought back, I started to wonder if maybe he just didn’t want to go to his own home. I knew enough about him to know he perhaps didn’t have the easiest home life. So it was guilt that got me started, really. That’s where the idea of two kids from different sides of the tracks came from and it became its own entity from then on.
The short’s two leading stars have a great dynamic - how long did it take you to find a pair of actors that worked and what convinced you they were right for the roles?
I knew we had to work with Daniel (John Williams, casting director) because he had worked on the script with me previously - he knew it inside out and he’s great with people. He set up two initial workshops - one for Sean and one for Mack.
Andrew had the right look for Sean (one of the lead characters) and there was something very calmly determined about him which lent itself to the part. At one point during the workshop we did an improv exercise and one of the younger lads didn’t want to do it. We moved on, did the exercise and then had a little discussion. In the corner of my eye I saw Andrew walk over to this lad and have a chat with him. Five minutes later, Andrew came up and said ‘Dan would like to have a go after all’. And he did. I knew then that Andrew had something that was going to be very important - that he would make the effort to really connect with whoever played Mack. It also showed what a big heart he has, and this film is all about kindness, for me.
Shane (who plays Mack) is actually Daniel’s girlfriend’s little brother . He says Shane was eating Angel Delight in the garden the first time he met him and he knew straight away. I agreed that Shane WAS Mack but I wasn’t convinced if he was ready. We talked to him about it and he didn’t seem sure. Then Daniel overheard him talking to his mates one day, saying how he was going to be in a film. Daniel took him to one side and just told him that wasn’t necessarily going to happen. After that, Shane’s attitude changed. It wasn’t a clear cut choice actually, but it didn’t take us long to realise just how right we had got it. Shane has an actor’s brain and a natural affinity with the character - but he also worked INCREDIBLY hard.
The first workshop took place in May and we had to make final decisions by the end of June. I’d say we got lucky, which we did - but credit where it’s due to Daniel, too.
North-East humour plays a large part in your short. What is it about this type of humour that you wanted to explore?
The thing about North-East humour is a lot of the time it’s just honesty. People say things how they see them, no filter, and that is always refreshing. I think what I was really trying to explore was the accent, the use of language. The Teesside dialect was something I hadn’t really seen on film and has something unique about it. It comes across spiky and aggressive - but is often overwhelmingly well-meaning and it’s what I grew up with. It felt very natural to write in it.
How did the support you received from Creative England help to refine your story?
The best thing Creative England did was fill me with belief in the story and characters and encourage me to really get to the heart of it. I wanted to impress them but they also made me feel that I had already done that - that gave me the confidence to dig deeper than I ever have as a writer. It went from 22 pages to 12 in the process of working with them and became a richer, better script too. It just felt that at every stage they had my best interests (and the script’s) in mind. It’s been quite a unique experience to feel so respected and supported.
How did the funding impact the finished short?
Well, being honest, 5k is probably not a ridiculously ambitious sum of money to raise - though it certainly helps. For me, the money is only part of what iShorts offers. The aforementioned support and expertise are incredibly valuable, as is the confidence it inspires. Having Creative England attached to the project might just open some doors that would otherwise be harder to budge. I feel like we achieved the standard we did because everyone involved really wanted to be a part of it and I think that had as much to do with the fact Maria and I had Creative England behind us as it did with anything else. It’s a really exciting thing to be a part of and everybody shared in that.
As a director, how important do you feel it is to see more regional voices portrayed on screen?
I think it is simply important to tell great stories in interesting ways. It shouldn’t matter where or who they come from. It does however seem to be disproportionate and I don’t believe that is because the stories aren’t there. So I would like to see more regional voices on screen, purely because I feel we must be missing out on so much great stuff.
How do you feel your short has benefited from Creative England support in the long run?
Massively. From the confidence it gave me in making it, to the interest it has gained at festivals etc. I really mean that. I’m sure it would have been a very different experience making this film without the support of Creative England.
What advice do you have for emerging, regional filmmakers?
Fly your flag. People are actively looking for regional voices, so don’t neglect to use yours.
The short has received lots of festival praise, most recently from Lift Off - what are your thoughts on this?
A couple of things. I’m delighted. The audience is really important to me so it’s a great relief to see it work in front of one. I also think it speaks to the fact that regional stories will play anywhere. Most of all, I’m just so happy that Shane was recognised at Lift Off. As I said, he worked so hard and he really deserved that.
Would you recommend Creative England’s iShorts to other regional filmmakers?
Without hesitation. I feel so fulfilled by the whole experience. For someone at the beginning of their career, you really couldn’t be in better hands.
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