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Interview with Jack Spring, director of Destination: Dewsbury

Written by Simon Ramshaw.

Photo from the article Destination: Dewsbury is a new British “comedy with heart,” following a group of dissatisfied men approaching middle-age who band together to visit an old schoolmate dying of terminal cancer. On their way, they fall foul of disgusting coach toilets, Russian gangsters, and an unexpectedly racy landlady.

Simon Ramshaw got a chance to talk with director Jack Spring, who is the UK’s youngest feature filmmaker at only 21 years old.

Simon Ramshaw: One of the things I was told before watching the film was that the story behind its financing is quite an interesting one: could you tell me a little bit about that?

Jack Spring: I dropped out of university and wanted to raise £150,000, so I started an inflatable hot tub hire company; the reason being that we couldn’t get any investment in. We were 18, and that was a problem because we been trusted with large amounts of money. So we started the business to prove that we could be trusted with money, and that made a load of money. In a year, we had about nine different cities across the country, all with little depots to hire out inflatable hot tubs. So yeah, we just grew this hot tub empire, and we were able to go back to the investors a year later and impressed them with the business side of things. It was pretty nuts.

SR: It’s kind of an entrepreneurial side business in itself!

JS: Yeah, there was no point in just sitting around and getting cross over the fact that we couldn’t raise any money. We had to find out another way to do it. We couldn’t just sit around for 10 years and hope they’d give us a way to make our film. So we just had to do it; it was out of necessity.

SR: That’s almost a film in itself. I think that one day people will make a movie about making this movie.

JS: The amount of people that have said that, you wouldn’t believe it. [laughs]

SR: What were some of the films that inspired you to make Destination: Dewsbury?

JS: I was about 13 or 14 when The Inbetweeners (2008-2010) first came out, so that was a huge influence, particularly on my crude, British schoolboy comedy-style. Visually, I’d say an influence was any of the Cornetto trilogy or any of Edgar Wright’s stuff, especially with his use of comedy devices. I think that’s it for this film. There is other room for stuff that I love, like Wes Anderson, I love his symmetry and his visual style. I like Shane Meadows too, like the way he directs the actors and lets them do a lot of their own improv. But for Destination: Dewsbury, I think it’s just those two.

SR: That’s great, because I was definitely picking up a lot of The World’s End (2013), especially in terms of the plot and characters harking back to a period that nobody really seems nostalgic for, but these characters do, and I did find that refreshing.

JS: Absolutely.

SR: It’s also quite a strong ensemble cast. Could you tell me a little about the casting process?

JS: I cast things a little bit differently to how things are normally done; normally, actors are called in to do a few lines, and if they’re lucky, then they get a callback. But I wrote down three or four actors that I thought were right for the role. I did some internet research and if they were doing a play in London or something, I’d go and see it. And then I’d meet two or three of them in a Wetherspoons and have a chat for a few hours about their childhood and get to know them intimately as people. I’d then work out who the characters were; every person has a spine, that’s the reason to get up in the morning, whether it’s to win an Oscar or to make a load of money, etc. So it was a case of working out what the characters want, and cast whoever had the closest spine to the character. It was a bit more of an intimate process than how it traditionally is.

SR: Going back to The Inbetweeners influence, some of the jokes in Destination: Dewsbury are fairly edgy. I was wondering if there was anything so edgy that it didn’t make the final cut?

JS: Yes, there was. [laughs] There was an entire kebab shop sequence, where the guys get really drunk and they go for a kebab afterwards, and Smithy (Tom Gilling) passes out. So the other guys get some condiments and write the word “nonce” in ketchup on his stomach. So that went! That something that probably would’ve edged us past the 18 certificate mark.

SR: Despite all that raciness or bawdiness or whatever you’d like to call it, the film does take a little bit of a melancholy turn towards the third act. How difficult was that to balance?

JS: All my favourite comedies like The Inbetweeners or Four Lions are just laugh out-loud funny, but it’s more difficult to care about the characters. So I wanted to make something where you can strip it down and it’s a fable, so you’ll be left feeling like “Hmm, maybe I should get in touch with my mates.” The film is dedicated to a guy called Neil, who was a friend of my dad’s. They went to school together, they kept in touch, but he was dying of a brain tumour, so my dad and his mates and got together to see him regularly. So that struck a bit of an emotional chord. So that gave the film a point; I like to call it “a comedy with heart.” I think a lot of people use the term “comedy drama” and I think that’s a bit of a cop-out, if it’s not funny enough to call it a “comedy.”

SR: I do think that is a difficult balance to get right, because I think it’s very easy to make a film about a sad subject matter that completely discards with the comedy aspects, but you seemed to keep the comedy in there all the way through which was nice to see. One quick final question: what’s next?

JS: We are doing a film called Three Day Millionaire, which is about fishermen in Grimsby. At the arse-end of the fishing industry, young fishermen go to sea for 21 days and come back to land for three days, and it’s fisherman folklore that if you had a wife and kids and if you went back to sea with money, it was unlucky. So they basically have three days to blow 21 days of wages. And this is true, this really happens and they’re called ‘three day millionaires’. So they would go and get pinstripe suits made whenever they came back to land, they’d take a load of ecstasy and so on. In the film, you’ll be introduced to all the girls in the fish factory, there’ll be this huge This is England-style, hyper-real group, and they go on this three-day bender. One of the guys gets one of the girls pregnant, but one of the others finds out the fishing industry is going to shit so they’re not going back to sea, so they plan this heist that all goes to shit as well. We’ve got a really good cast for it including a couple of the lads from This is England, so that shoots in June.

SR: Well, I’m looking forward to that.

JS: Yeah, it’s going to be a good laugh.

Destination: Dewsbury is released in select Showcase Cinemas from the 1st March. Click here for more information.

This article was published on February 26, 2019.

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