I am waiting for the Pleased Sheep
boys in the pub used as the location in Tash
Force, just a stone’s throw
away from Blackburn Rover’s Ewood Park ground. I nurse a pint of the
guest ale in the snug, which looks like it hasn’t been upgraded since
the football team won the Premiership in 1995. It’s a typical, miserable
wet Autumn afternoon but as Mark Woodward, Ian Wiggins, Stephen Rigg and
Michael Booth bound in through the door with drinks and bar snacks they
portray a bunch of lads at the start of a stag do in Tenerife. They are
all chatty and excitable at the prospect of the impending
launch of their new film. Tash
Force, based on a comedy viral video
Mark and Ian made previously, is the story of the head of football related
crime in Blackburn. And they ensure me their mood is nothing to do with
several lunchtime pints.
"The film’s been complete for
12 months, but the distribution company rightly decided it would probably
benefit from being released at the same time as a major football
tournament, so we had to wait for Euro 2012", director Michael Booth
tells me, "it’s been excruciating, but it has allowed us to hone it
slightly. We’ve improved the edit, got it graded, and added the
soundtrack mixed by Verbal Vigilante of Preston. We’ve used the time
I ask the team about their
backgrounds and all have been working in filmmaking for some time,
getting into it through different routes. Ian Wiggins (producer/writer who
also plays the documentary maker) and Michael Booth collaborated on a
previous Pleased Sheep
of a Bad Lad. All except Mark that is, who plays the eponymous Tash.
Aside from a few jokey videos, this is Mark’s first professional foray
into filming. He is normally a full time teacher, and still is. So how did
they get on filming around a teacher’s schedule?
"We only had about 24 hours with
Mark which was spread out over about 10 days. So one day we would have him
for a couple of hours, then the next we had him for the whole afternoon,
and so on", producer Stephen Rigg tells me, "Ian was also flying off
to work in New Zealand for 6 months in June, and we only started filming
in May, so we were really against it. 90% of the script was completed by
then, and the remaining 10%, which didn’t contain the leads was filmed
in the next 3 months."
You get snatches of Tash (that
sounds ambiguous!) as Mark talks, and I am surprised to hear that he is
not responsible for the character’s creation. This is down to Ian.
"He’s loosely based on an
instructor I used to work with on the railways", Ian laughs, "we
exaggerated his mannerisms, and Mark added his own ideas. I stuck a grey
wig on him to hide his ginger hair." Mark is ribbed for his ginger hair
by the rest of the boys throughout the meeting. Cruel, but in fairness it
is the same colour as a Duracell battery. "I wanted to create an
incompetent head of football related crime after a friend of mine was
banned from attending football matches a few years ago, but was completely
innocent. He was given a VHS of surveillance footage which was basically
men walking from pub to pub and contained no violence whatsoever! I
decided this would be a good subject for a comedy ‘mockumentary’."
When we move on to influences, it
is unsurprising given the imposed zero budget approach to filming that the
boys want to talk about directors with similarly austere beginnings.
Tarantino, Rodriguez and Kevin Smith are all name checked, with Shane
Meadows coming in for special mention. Mark and Stephen also wax lyrical
about Ken Loach’s 1969 masterpiece Kes. So would they have done
anything differently with the film if they had had a bigger budget?
"To be honest, I’m very happy
with the film and its look. And more money would possibly have complicated
things", says Stephen. " This was a quick shoot, made with funds from
the bank of Adrenaline."
"I would have had a big catering
van following us around so that I wouldn’t have to keep buying crisps
all the time", adds Ian, and Mark would’ve liked the Stone Roses or
Primal Scream to record the soundtrack.
As we move on to what’s coming
up next, it appears the Pleased Sheep
team are involved in a myriad of
different projects. Stephen Rigg is working on a new movie called Loonar
Mission, about the British involvement in the 1960s moon landings, and a
drama called An Actor’s Life. He also has two horror/thrillers in
the pipeline called Psychoactive and Schizoid which are being
shot simultaneously. Ian filmed a pilot sitcom in New Zealand for which he
is in talks about receiving funding to produce a 6-9 episode series. All
the team worked on the next Pleased Sheep
Stewards, which features a cameo of Mark playing Tash. And perhaps
most importantly, the world premiere of Tash
Force is in Blackburn on 19
April, which will be attended by all the team, including Tash McDermott
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As the lads sup up, I am bombarded
with people I mustn’t forget to thank in the article. Paul Birtwistle
wrote some of the scenes, and Jon Williams (executive producer and
Michael’s former college tutor) deserves special credit for pitching the
original idea to Safecracker. Sumners Post Production in Manchester graded
the film, and Michael honours the sound editing team, mainly Norbert
Weiher and Dean Covill. The remaining member of Pleased Sheep who
couldn’t make the meeting, co-producer Paul Coppack is also equally
responsible for bringing the film to realisation. Lastly, Mark would like
a plug for his mate Andy Birtwell’s new film, Black Dog, which I say is
fair enough, as long as he sends me a review copy!
I bid them farewell, I ask Mark how he thinks his students will react at
the release of the film.
"Oh, a lot of them have already
seen it and they think it’s brilliant", he tells me on his way out,
"I’ve heard them saying, ‘there’s Tash’, as I walk down the
Preferable to the names I used to
call my teachers I think!
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