An interview with Britsploitation Filmmakers Jason Impey and Wade Radford
We love independent filmmakers here at SGM. Starved of funding but full of passion to bring their vision to the screen; here in the UK we still have some exciting filmmakers producing challenging films including SGM favourite Jason Impey and his new movie making partner Wade Radford. So join our very own indie film fan Stuart Willis as he joins Jason and Wade for a chat about the pleasures and tribulations of working in the independent UK filmmaking scene…
Stuart: Hi. I've been watching SEX LIES AND DEPRAVITY, MORE SEX LIES AND DEPRAVITY and BOYS BEHIND BARS quite a bit over the last few weeks. Very impressive. Jason, we've followed your filmmaking career with great interest here at SGM. These three films see you make a leap from schlock horror to gritty social drama. What influenced the change in mood?
Jason: I like trying new things & experimenting when it comes to filmmaking. A few years ago when I made The Turning aka Zombie Lover I enjoyed exploring the gritty social drama mixed in with the zombie action, and years earlier when I made Troubled which was my Dogma 95 film - it was great experimenting giving the cast a wide range and seeing where the film would take us which in that case veered off in a bit of a different direction than I was expecting!
But teaming up with Wade and reading his script for Jake aka Sex, Lies & Depravity made me want to explore the social drama side of filmmaking even more. The dark side of Jake’s character appealed to me and his complex issues where a new challenge & something I had not attempted to portray in film before - and as I’m known not to shy away from controversial subject matters & usually end up showing them in their full shock value without cutting away - Jake was the perfect opportunity to do this again but this time with new material. As I say - real life to me can be more darker & scarier than any horror film.
Stuart: Can I ask you both how this teaming of Radford and Impey came about?
Jason: A mutual friend introduced us to each other explaining we should talk as I am a bit of a known underground filmmaker in my area & Wade has his own following for his writing and drama including hiss paranormal show he was well known for making and hosting. Turns out Wade was looking for the right filmmaker to collaborate on his script with and I was looking for the next opportunity to get a film off the ground.
Wade: I was pissed one night in a pub and was introduced to Jason’s mother; I had been making low budget documentaries for years with Sex Lie’s Victoria Howlett, which is probably what won me my introduction. I gave my details and a few days later Jason emailed, I had been penning a finalised version of the then ‘Jake’ and within days the soon to be Director and I were in the pub chatting away. The rest is history…
Stuart: And, Wade, what's your background? You seem to have appeared from nowhere and rocked Jason's world. I see a De Niro-Scorsese/Winding Refn-Gosling partnership blossoming here.
Wade: Have I? I like that! I’ve been knocking around a fair few years making cheap documentaries, lurking in the background of filmmaking, spent some time failing as we all do, think of me as the corpse hanging up in Nekromantik, just hanging their awhile, waiting to jump down and be made love to!
Stuart: Looking at SEX LIES AND DEPRAVITY first (I keep going to type 'Videotape' in place of 'Depravity'), the film is ostensibly about a troubled character - hence the original title, JAKE - and the effect his actions have on those around him. There's a lot of emotional intensity. That must be gruelling to shoot, both from a director's and actor's point of view?
Wade: First thing really is that I hate people, people are the causes of other people’s fucking shit, secondly I love people, and I love writing about them, what makes them tick, what makes me tick. The human race is a strange affair, and bullshit doesn't interest me, reality does! Oppression interests me for I have none for anybody, how can you oppress a person when they are not hurting anybody. How comes that’s okay? But when someone like Jake is beating his girlfriend (to release his own oppressed demons), nobody helps? How on god’s green fucking earth in 2013, can we have people in the UK living in such poverty, how can the Ethan’s go under the radar, how can the Jake’s abuse, how can the system be so stretched that no one is here to hear the cries of these souls? How can a little girl (Carrie) live with that level of anxiety and fear for what’s going on at home. This film is no lie, this films about our neighbours, the ones on our street, that close their doors, and deal with life’s shit, life’s oppression, judged by their social status, and left to rot by the system.
Jason: I found it a great challenge; both hard work & very rewarding to see the vision come to life. Leigh Sorrell who played Jake was excellent to work with, he threw himself into the role and gave it all he had. He was willing to try new things and was not scared to portray a monster - he was a brave actor who gained my respect. In fact the whole cast were great and made it very exciting to be a part of a film that for me was like nothing I had ever done before. I pulled from experience of all the years of filmmaking I have had, from all the sets I have worked on, all the various kinds of style of filmmaking I have used - they all come in to play at some point throughout the production of Sex, Lies & Depravity. I actually took a few steps back in my filmmaking and went for a real guerrilla style shoot which to me gave the film a bit more of a raw realistic edge.
Stuart: Wade, your character is so well-realised - I was left wondering how much of Ethan is autobiographical? And the bleary, wet eyes effect ... did you go all out for drug-addled authenticity? It looks that way!
Wade: Ethan means a lot to me, though a clear troubled soul, Ethan represents more than one can gather from a simple viewing. I am sick to fucking shit of watching gay characters on the Television represented in a camp, theatrical light, it’s repugnant! We have many young gay men growing up right at this minute, sat in their bedrooms worried to tell mummy and daddy, worried to lose their friends, really wanting to find a boyfriend/girlfriend, and what does television give them as idols? Pineapple dance studios and obnoxious Eastender’s soft spoken homo loving! Oh for fuck sake are you serious? Ethan is strong, he has needs, but overall he’s a survivor, left by the system, ditched by his family he’s had to be tough to survive, especially in his typically heterosexual world of drug dealing and parties. I really wanted Ethan to be a positive role model, not for his bad behaviour but for his attitude on life, his strong will to survive no matter what, and over all his pride. He displays pride by just living, just being, not making a scene out of being gay, just getting on with it. TV spends too much time messing about with these pride issues, shut the fuck up, live and let live, knob a man if that tickles your pickle and stop bitching about it! Be an Ethan!
Stuart: The pair of you have unearthed some real talent in the casting of these films. Can you tell us a little more about how you went about casting your films, and give us more info on players such as Victoria Howlett and Victoria Welton?
Wade: Victoria Howlett has been a close partner of mine for many years, we’ve worked relentlessly together on documentaries and films, and she’s a real star, yet again another reality portrayer, no bullshit, got a lot of time for Miss Howlett, always have had. Also to pay respect to her here for her props supplying throughout the filming and help on set, and with planning. All the others were plucked out of obscurity through in the first film auditions, and the second film, basically just people whose faces I liked, so I’d call them and be like, yeah do the film please!
Jason: For Sex, Lies & Depravity we had an audition day in which Wade had put various casting adverts out. We had a fair few CV’s - some not really suited for parts we had on offer and some others were some great undiscovered talent, some had not really done much acting at all so was great to give the opportunity to the great up & coming talent. As I have said earlier - Leigh did a fantastic job at taking on such a monster of a character, and he was a good sport as I was quite demanding!
The character of Hannah played by Natascha Sauer was also a hard part to fill, as she had to take a lot of abuse, both physically and mentally, which at times can be seen as somewhat degrading, however Natascha again was much like Leigh and did not complain about anything, even when she was stood not well dressed in the freezing cold and pouring rain at 4.30 in the morning with blood being thrown over her while being dragged through the mud!
Kealey Gavillet who played Lisa gave a real naturalistic feel to the production and bounced well off Natascha’s victimized character. Victoria Howlett who is a long-time collaborator with Wade was thrown in the deep end and out of her comfort zone as she was actually originally a more behind the scenes person who Wade lovingly convinced to portray the role of Carla.
Emilia Ufir who plays Julie was really professional and approached the role with a real seriousness - she was such a delight to work with in the first Sex, Lies & Depravity film that I had a word with Wade and told him I was very keen to see her bitch of a character return in the sequel as I could see real potential. My relationship with Wade and Zachary Ockenden who plays the part of Kyle (Ethan’s love interest) got very close as the 3 of us spent a whole day in a very small caravan filming some quite strong intimate scenes!
For the sequel of Sex, Lies & Depravity Wade found a great actress to play his mother - Victoria Welton who was a breath of fresh air to the cast who consisted of many returning faces. She came down for a day’s filming which was full of drama and a part she had really studied and got into the head of. The sequel - More Sex, Lies & Depravity also introduced us to Zee & Leon who were played by Ruggero Dalla Santa & Nathaniel Francis who again Wade head hunted out and to me brought something new & different to the production and gave it an extra edge as well as some great light hearted comic relief that at times the audience may be thankful for!
Wade explained in pre-production of Sex, Lies & Depravity that there was a role that would be a good glorified cameo for a very eccentric gay bar owner who was incredibly camp. Straight away Simon Britton came to mind who I had worked with many years before who had played a mentally insane donut loving madman. I quickly dropped him an email explaining I was returning to direct a new film and had a perfect cameo for him in which I am delighted that he of course said yes.
Stuart: Jason, your daughter Chelsea is cast in both films. Clearly she's been shielded from any inappropriate material and yet she still elicits genuine audience sympathy with her fragile performance. How difficult was it to direct her? It looks like you've done a great job - but did she need much steering?
Jason: Chelsea is quite a naturally dramatic little girl - sometimes too dramatic for my liking! She however is a joy to work with although as all children has her diva moments - when of course I call for reinforcements i.e. my wife Sharon Impey. Chelsea does take great pride in her character of Carrie though - to the point where she even got upset and told me to film her scene again as she was not happy with her own performance!
Wade: Chelsea is a real star, she haunted me in the second film with ‘I won’t see my mummy again’, shit she did that so well!
Stuart: I also note that your wife Sharon has acted as assistant director on these films. What does that entail exactly, and how do you get away with working with your spouse? I'd kill mine if I had to work with her. Wade, feel free to chip in if you've got any anecdotes about Mr and Mrs Impey getting uppity with one another on set...
Wade: My lips are sealed :)
Jason: She tries to put me in my place but I just ignore it..... I do work her hard though, I have her helping me set my lights up, as I am a one man band when it comes to my filmmaking, I get Sharon running around passing messages on to cast, making sure people are in the right place and know what they are doing. She helps with sound, moving equipment about, taking behind the scenes video and photos, and I have her up till early hours of the morning making bread and other lovely food for the cast to eat on set. I am lucky to have her by my side and for her to be supportive of my dark and controversial work.
Stuart: There's an extremely naturalistic flow to much of the action in the DEPRAVITY films. How much of what we see on screen was scripted? How practical is it to allow for improvisation?
Jason: What you see in the Depravity films is 95% of Wade’s script, with a bit of improv scenes that Wade thought we should add to his script. I am open to adapt but everyone loved the scripts that they stuck to them extremely well and learned their lines well.
Wade: Most of these two films where scripted, in fact I don’t remember a lot that wasn’t! The ice rink scene between Ethan & Kyle in the first film was improvised in one take; we just needed something as a safety net if running time fell behind, Jason ended up loving it though so it stayed in the film. Do you remember it Stu ‘I don’t wanna see no eye balls rolling around the ice’.
Stuart: What is it about the word "cunt"? It's a great word, I use it a lot myself. But even I was taken aback by its abundance in these films.
Jason: I have a soft spot for the word, it sums a lot of the characters up in some of my films, and some people I’ve had dealings with as well! To me it is only as bad as the word fuck or twat but is amazing to see how shocked people get when watching my films! I also love one of the best lines in cinema history taken from the wonderful film Cannibal Terror, the line being - ‘What a cunt!’
Wade: Cunt’s a cunting great word, you fellow cunt, I’m so cunting happy that you, yourself cunting love it so much, you cunt! Bit Derek & Clive really, but yes it’s effective because most people reject that word, my mother hates it, it’s so offensive to some that the fact we repeatedly said it, and relentlessly added it to the film was once again just to test peoples staying power when faced with the truth. Yes these people do speak like that, yes the cunts live like this, and anyone who rejects that thought is living in a shell!
Stuart: I need to ask about the contrast between DEPRAVITY and its sequel. In the first film, there's a true sense of hopelessness - it's quite a nihilistic view. The sequel paints many characters in a more positive light, showing hope where there was none before. Can you fill us in on this trajectory?
Wade: How a film comes across to each individual is very interesting, you put it in a very different light than I would! Yes in More Depravity people are forced to piece their lives back together, Lisa has Carrie to look after, others shits in ruin, Carla has a job, but out of everyone I don’t believe there was positive light for Ethan. I believe the sequel was as just a catastrophic road into self-destruction and nothingness. What was Ethan left with by the films grand finale, exactly just that, nothing!
Jason: On talking to Wade about the script we wanted to take a different direction with the sequel and follow the characters as they struggle to move on with their lives and re-build their selves after such tragic events.
Stuart: Oh, and let's speak a little about the music in both films. Very impressive - tell us more about the artists behind the songs (Wade, I noticed you were credited as a contributor on MORE's soundtrack).
Wade: A good chunk of both soundtracks are by original punk singer ‘Honey Bane’ a close friend of mine, a soul sister, and a real fucking talent! Jesus that woman can knock up a track that will slap you right across your fucking face, and for that reason Bane plugging her music into our film was exactly the right mix of hard hitting imagery, and destructive music filled with truth. Adiescar was not known to me before Sex Lies, the social worker played by Kerry Hodgkin (who features two songs in the first film), introduced Adiescar to me, and sure she can knock up a good dub beat! Others to mention from the first film is Jamie Stimpson & Mister Vitez, aspiring UK talent who are really reaching ears at the moment, I wish these boys luck, and Can’t Keep Fighting will always be the perfect ending for Sex Lies. From the sequel I mention again Bane, and Adiescar with her band Near Moments, laying down some softer beats, and my good old Swedish friends in rock band ‘Our Untold Story’, their track Rosy really laid out Ethan’s feelings as he went back, dreary and worn to the empty flat. Yes, yes I featured on a track called 3am boy with Our Untolds lead singer Xander Turian, yes there was gin and Jack Daniels, and we had lots of fun, and ‘3am boy’ was the result.
Jason: Wade did a great job in working alongside some greatly talented musical artists which really brought something special to the movies.
Stuart: There's a third instalment due. Can you give anything away about where that's going to take these characters? Without giving away too much to readers, MORE ends on something of a cliff-hanger.
Jason: It will be as unique as the first two instalments while exploring some new ground.
Wade: Life isn’t simple, and though we laugh, and we party, and we kid ourselves, is there ever really silver lining? No, there is not, that would be silly, life goes from bad to good, to good to bad, and back to bad to good again, and so does this film, Sex Lies 3 will once again be about life, about lives, and that’s what you can expect!
Stuart: Moving on to BOYS BEHIND BARS, this film felt quite experimental. Jason, this must've been a completely different experience to anything you've previously filmed?
Jason: It was a brilliant experience, similar to my earlier feature Troubled. I used a similar technique. Me & Wade came up with characters and had a meeting with the other cast and explained how we saw their characters and where the story would start and end. I let them have a lot of range on where they could take their parts and decided to shoot it a bit like a documentary which style lent quite well to the film. We set out to shock and I also wanted to give it a bit of a grindhouse feel, returning to some familiar home ground. The shoot went really well, in fact one of the easiest productions I have ever worked on!
Stuart: Long takes, a single setting, a small cast, completely reliant upon performances ... what inspired this approach?
Jason: It was nice to do a real actors piece - a film that did not rely on special effects or scare tactics, just good old acting. It was almost like shooting a piece of explicit theatre. I felt like we had stripped filmmaking right down & gone back to basics.
Stuart: What about distribution for these films? I know DEPRAVITY has sold overseas, but are there plans for an official release in the UK? I'd have thought someone like Peccadillo would snap it up.
Wade: Peccadillo was sent Jake in its original format, they were one of the first distributors approached, and the answer was simple, no! We sent to a few UK companies, but the indie market here is dead, what distributor wants to chance paying its way through the film board for a film no one’s ever heard of? I wouldn’t do it! UK laws and classification have killed the industry, there’s an RIP sign hanging where indie use to rule! They want you to watch Hollywood, so you can live in dream land, and home truths like Sex Lies can’t be seen, can’t ruin the reputations of the powers that be in our country. What reputations, it’s those morons who let little kids live amongst some of these damaged individuals displayed in these films! No wonder they want to make it hard for films like this to be released, they’ve a lot to answer for!
Jason: I would love to get a UK release, we have been trying but they don’t make it easy out there, but fingers crossed it may happen.
Stuart: Jason, I remember from a previous interview we conducted, you were determined to make a horror film in every style (slasher; zombie; Nazisploitation etc). Do you still have plans to return to horror? If so, is this something you, Wade - as a writer, producer, and actor - would also have an active interest in?
Jason: I am very excited that I am currently in post-production with my new film that I wrote & directed - Lustful Desires that stars Wade & Kaz B. It is somewhat of a comeback film for me. It is a dark sadistic sexual horror that will be complete this year about a call girl who gets the sicko client. I have returned to my roots!
Wade: Oh I’ve a lot of scripts of all genres’ stashed away Mr Willis!
Stuart: And, Wade, I see you have side-line in poetry and short stories - care to shamelessly plug yourself here? Jason, you're welcome to chip in.
Wade: I released a collection of dirty stories called ‘Dirty Sexy Deadly’, it still hasn’t received a ban, so that was a shame! My new novella out this week ‘The Serotine Within’ is an erotic story of two brothers who fuck, and murder their family; we’ll see how the industry likes that one!!!
Jason: Me & Wade are in talks about making one of his published short stories into a film.
Stuart: What's next for the pair of you? Individually and, if you have anything planned, together?
Wade: Sky's the limit, and we have a lot of irons in the fire, but I’ll keep you guessing big boy!
Jason: After Lustful Desires I am finishing off my film Exploited: Home Made Redux in which Wade will have a nice cameo. It has been a film of mine that is 7 years in the making. It has had many edits, not all of which I am happy with, it went too commercial and suffered due to that. I have revisited footage from years ago and also some newer footage that was lost in some ways, some very explicit unseen footage and there will be a little new shoot coming soon - hopefully I will finally see my alter ego Jack Hess put to sleep & my original vision come to life.
After that me and Wade have a few films lined up to shoot and have also just completed a feature - Last Chance At Paradise that is yet again very different & will hopefully find its way to DVD later this year early next.
Stuart: Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us. All the best with these films. They represent the best of truly independent UK filmmaking at present, and I really hope they find the audience they deserve.
Wade: Thanks Stu, we love SGM!
Special thanks to Jason Impey and Wade Radford.
For more information and updates check out Jason Impey’s site here.