Jack Spring is a man on a mission. Already making short films when he was young he went to film school but, impatient to get on make a film, he dropped out and set about raising 150,000 in under a year to make his first feature film, Destination Dewsbury, a comic British road movie about four middle aged men setting off to see their dying school friend. Immensely tall and incredibly genial we spoke to Jack about why he dropped out of film school and just how he set about making a feature film at only 19 years old……..
AnyGoodFilms: You dropped out of York University film course after a year. Why was that?
Jack Spring: There were quite a few reasons really. I wasn’t entirely convinced about going in the first place. Everybody in the industry was telling me not to, you know, if you want to be a film director then go and work on sets, learn how sets work. If you want to work in feature films go and work in feature films. But then everyone outside of the industry was saying, ‘You should go and get a degree, you know, it’s your Plan B if it goes tits up’ and the idea of getting drunk for 3 years was quite exciting to an 18 year old chap. So I went and it wasn’t very good, The staff were rude, the course itself was very academia driven, marked in terms of your essay writing ability, remembering Lumens conversions in an exam hall rather than your ability to gauge and connect with human emotion and it was just all wrong. They were teaching the wrong things and the people teaching were academics who’d never made films. It was all a bit frustrating and it was costing me £9K a year. The biggest thing I learnt at university was how expensive cheese is. I had no idea how expensive it was until I had to buy my own. Saying that though, going was the best thing I did in terms of getting teenage angst out of my system, met a couple of guys who had made a biopic and they changed my life in half an hour. They sat me down said, ‘Leave university, go raise some money and make a feature film and that will change your life’ and it has. It was the best thing I did dropping out.
AGF: So you were the only student there who actually had made films then?
Jack Spring: Yes there was one other. The only difference between me and everyone else was that I’d not been afraid to put stuff out there that was shit. I’ve always seen film making as like playing guitar. You start off and you’re rubbish and the more you do it the better you’re going to get whereas all the other kids …well I’m not saying they were lazy it just they were shit scare of it not being an Oscar winning film and it’s not going to be because you’re making zero money shorts running round the Uni campus. The other lad was half way in between, you know, he make stuff but get worried about putting it out there or even shooting it. My mentality was so different…it’s always been my kind of mantra, ‘Give it a go and learn loads even if it’s rubbish’.
AGF: So this is a big leap to a feature film. And I understand you raised the money by starting a hot tubs rental business
Jack Spring: Well yes you can be the best director in the world but without money you’re never going to make it and there’s plenty of people with a great script but who can’t raise the money. I didn’t know rich people or anyone who worked in the industry and being a teenager people with money didn’t really take us seriously. We were 18 and that’s the problem. The most amount of money I had was about £400 in my student overdraft. Why would you trust a bunch of kids with £150K when they’ve never dealt with money in their lives? So I decided it would be a good idea to enter the world of commercial aquatics and start an inflatable hot tub hire company. I woke up very hungover one morning in Leeds after a night out in town and decided I wanted to be in cold water and googled ‘inflatable hot tubs’ and lots of people were doing them but they were just rubbish companies and I had a light bulb moment and thought if I start a company and rent out a hot tub I’d have enough for two hot tubs then three hot tubs then four and within a year we had nine places across the UK all with hot tubs and staff and people to drop them around the country every day of the week. So essentially we had to start a company to prove we could handle money and then go back to investors and say, ‘Make it rain’. I had already proved myself on the film side by making all these short films which had won awards.
AGF: After dropping out of Uni and the hot tub business taking off did your parents not try and get you to stick with something that you’d been so successful at?
Jack Spring: No they’ve always been wonderful. They supported me from when I was young buying me cameras and it was my Dad who got me into films and making little stop motion animation. They were supportive of me dropping out because I had a plan with the hot tubs. It would have been different if I said I was going to leave but don’t know what I’m going to do. There was a battle plan. I didn’t want to be a business man I wasn’t driven by money I just wanted the freedom to make a movie but that needed money.
AGF: But the back end of filming is that you need a distributor too. How did you manage to secure a deal there?
Jack Spring: Well that was the other part of film making we didn’t know. Making a feature film is like making a sandwich I don’t like the bread, I hate it, which in film making is raising the finance and distributing it and I just like the bit in the middle you know I wish I could just have the triple ham and cheese rather than just bread and cheese….sorry don’t know where the fuck that analogy came from (laughs)…so we just kind of winged it so a large amount of my film contacts has come from spamming the film industry and hope one person replies which is what we did. We sent out God knows how many emails across the world and one fine chap, Sebastian, he was kind enough to reply. He rang me half way through watching the film on his treadmill and he loved it told us to take it to a few festivals and we took it out to Beverly Hills and a load of us stayed at a big Airbnb and then went to Vegas after and had jolly good fun and then we got into another one at Newport beach and two in California where he had friends and he was able to go to them and we got offered seven distribution deals which is a cool for a film of our budget. So we then signed to a company called Random Media in August and had a month of sorting out contracts but I wanted a UK distributor to do the UK and luckily I put a clause in saying I can take put the UK if I can find a distributor there by a certain date and then along came Showcase cinemas. They have a big cinema in Dewsbury so I emailed them about doing a premiere event and we got put through to their nationwide head of sales and he loved what we were doing and out first conversation on the phone was about classic cinema and they picked it up for the UK.
AGF: You’ve done all this off your own back without any agent or manager?
Jack Spring: Yes I’ve been picked up by an agent since. I’m just used to doing everything myself I think I’d just get frustrated with an agent doing nothing.
AGF: I gather that rather than auditioning your cast you took them camping?
Jack Spring: My directing style is very homework driven so before any film I do six weeks story boarding and script analysis and one of the first things I work out is our characters spines. Every human has a spine and its basically why they get up in the morning whether it’s to make as much money as they can or win an Oscar, everyone’s got one. I worked that out for my characters on screen and when I’m looking for actors, looking through tapes I watch their 30 seconds and think, ‘Is this real? Am I amused still be the end of the tape? and then I’ll do an immense amount of internet stalking, find everything they been in . If there’s a play they’re in I’ll go along and watch it. So for each charter there’s maybe 3 or four actors that I really like and then I just get to know them as people and take them out for a drink. There’s one Weatherspoons outside Victoria which I did my entire casting from and met each guy there and chatted for about 2 or 3 hours and then I work out which actor is the closest to the character and then we went on this camping trip that I organised. I hadn’t told them that they had got the roles yet but in my head they were pencilled in I guess. Gaz, one of of the characters in the film, his spine is to care for those around him and Dan who plays him he woke up early and by the time we woke up all hungover he had cooked us breakfast and made us coffee. Matt who plays Peter…..well I urinated on his car and he got very cross and Peter’s spine is to be respected and that’s where I knew I had got him…it just sort of followed on from that.
AGF: So finance and distribution was hard work but what did you find most difficult about the actual shoot as this is your first feature film? I gather you had a bit of a fallout with your 1st assistant director.
Jack Spring: Yeah I sacked him on day one. On a short you do everything but you spend your day being asked questions and you can’t do that when you’ve got your head in a creative space and trying to run a proper film set is impossible. So we did have some trouble. We had trouble with food. I’d put all the money on screen made it look and sound as good as it possibly could…and everyone kind of bought into that. We had one production house where we must have had about 15 people living in it on the floor which is just nuts. It was worse than being a student. If Equity ever found out about those living conditions I‘d be done for a minor war crime. But everyone dug in and the average age of the crew was 22. For all of us it was our first feature and we knew we were making that short term sacrifice to get us up that feature film level.
AGF: You’ve said that you learn on every film so in retrospect what mistakes did you learn from here?
Jack Spring: well in terms of…well there are parts that all glue together very well, everything emotional works as it should do, there are a few bits at the start of the film you know the stuff we shot in the 80’s we had to do on the cheap and I think that’s the only part of the film which I think it comes across as a low budget film. We cut a scene that was set in the 80’s with the guys talking about what they want to do when they’re older but we cut that scene because 3 weeks before the shoot we worked out that we were going to run out of money half way through week four so we cut a week of shooting and that was one of the scenes that in retrospect would have set the story up nicer. I would have liked to have given myself more time.
AGF: As a bit of trivia was it you that did the drawing on the teachers white board of one of your characters in a compromising position?
Jack Spring: (laughs) We actually had an artist come in and do that. That was his sole job. He was from Leeds Uni I think and was the art departments house mate. I remember sitting round a table one day thinking about what my career was looking at pictures of Hitler with his pants down giving it to our lead character on a whiteboard. Actually funny story about that white board…we shot in a school over a weekend and obviously wiped it off but you know when you wipe it off too well and its sort of still there as a white outline and all the kids came in on Monday and saw the outline and we weren’t allowed back into the school and we had to find another one. I remember on set getting an earful from the producer and we were sent a picture of it from the school. I’m surprised it didn’t go viral.
AGF: So what’s your next film?
Jack Spring: It called, Three Day Millionaire’s and its set in the fishing industry and it actually happens so a fisherman will go out to sea for 21 days and they come back to land for three days and if you didn’t have financial dependants, wife and kids, it was fisherman folklore that if you went back out to sea with money your ship would sink. So therefore as a fisherman you’d go out on a massive 3 day bender, and this all actually happens, they’d go get a pin stripe suit, take a load of ecstasy and in our movie they’d be introduced to all the girls in the fish factory so it’s a sort of working class hyper real group and one of the guys gets one of the girls pregnant and then the lads get the call a few days later after three days spunking all their money before they go back to sea only to find that the fishing industry has gone tits up and then they’re a little bit stuck and they decide to do a heist on the company’s head quarters as they suspect foul play in their accounting and inevitably it all goes to shit.
AGF: And who can we expect to see in that?
Jack Spring: (laughs) I’m not allowed to say yet Simon…Ok well there’s a BAFTA winning actor a couple of guys from ‘This is England’ and we’ve sent an offer out to a very exciting name for a two or three day role so we’re hoping to get someone very big for that and I’ll get my ears cut off if I say who.
AGF: Sorry, was that Brad Pitt, did you say?
DESTINATON DEWSBURY opens MARCH 1st 2019