By David Hennessy
Although only their first foray into feature film writing, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram’s dark comedy Sightseers has been a runaway success, landing a Best Screenplay Award for them at last year’s British Independent Film Awards.
Directed by Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace, Kill List), the plot centres around Chris and Tina who go on holiday in Chris’ mobile home. The couple have not known each other that long as they explore the tourist attractions and camp sites, Tina soon finds out her new beau hides a dark and violent tendency behind his polite exterior. Discovering he is in fact a serial killer, Tina is horrified because, as she tearfully points out with one of the film’s funniest lines: “It will ruin the holiday”. Sightseers was well received during its cinematic release, gaining a cult following but should be set for greater success on DVD with many seeking it out to find out what they missed.
“It’s been incredible,” writer and star Alice Lowe said of the film’s reaction when The Irish World caught up with her recently. “It’s mine and Steve’s first film so I think even the fact that we’ve got to make it is just overjoying for us, and then anything else has been the icing on top. It’s crazy. I don’t think I’ll really appreciate how amazing it’s been for five years. I’ll probably look back and go: ‘That was the most amazing year’. Everything has just been as good as it possibly could have been really.”
The Irish World was there to see Alice collect her BIFA in November last year. Was that a particularly magical moment? “Yeah, it was. It’s all been really crazy. Like a blur of good things but I think for me and Steve, it’s literally like being Cinderellas. It’s a completely new world for us, the film world and we’ve had this miraculously lovely time of it and to be getting recognised as film makers, it was like being inducted properly into the world of film. I think as writers and actors you dream of being a part of that world and in the past, we haven’t been so it’s been an amazing emotional time for us.”
So how did the idea first come to Alice and her collaborator, Steve? “Because we’re comics, we were doing a night called Ealing Live, trying to be like Saturday Night Live, and it brought a bunch of comedians together and put us in a room and said: ‘Why don’t you come up with some sketches to perform onstage?’
“Me and Steve both realised we were from The Midlands and started talking about our parents and family holidays and we just started improvising these characters, and we realised we had quite a funny dynamic in that sense and it was just coming out very organically: These very sweet characters who have got a very sinister edge to them. Then we probably performed it three times on stage and every time people were coming up and saying: ‘What are you going to do with that? You should develop it more, it’s obviously got a real narrative behind it…’ So we started developing it as a TV idea and it got rejected as being too dark by most of the channels,” she continues breaking into laugh, realising that murder features in very few of the safe sitcoms you see on TV.
“So we thought: ‘What are we going to do with this?’ I sent it to Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) who I had worked with before and he said: ‘I think it’s actually a movie and you should take it to Big Talk (Productions) who are the company who made Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz etc and then the rest is history really.”
Cold blooded killers often get left out of any adverts encouraging people to holiday in England but Alice and Steve’s film aims to promote tourism in their own way: “We used to joke that maybe we could get some relationship with the Tourist Board. Of course the material is so dark, we were more terrified that we wouldn’t be allowed to film in certain locations but on the whole, people have been hugely supportive of it. We keep waiting for there to be some backlash about how irresponsible the film is but all the places we filmed at were so friendly and so lovely and were just really pleased to see their places on the screen because we went to these places thinking they were amazing. If people do go visit The Tramway Museum (Crich, Derbyshire) because they have seen it in the film, we’re glad and pleased with that.
For the full interview, see the April 6 edition of The Irish World.