‘The Phone Call’ Director Mat Kirkby’s Next Project Will Make ’50 Shades’ Look Like ‘Mary Poppins’: TheWrap’s ShortList Quickie

The British filmmaker explains how KFC, Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” and help lines informed his short

Director Mat Kirkby had to wait in line behind another helmsman before starting production on his short film “The Phone Call,” but if you have to cede your turn to another director, it might as well be Woody Allen.

Kirkby who’s directed music videos for Adele, Muse and Basement Jaxx, decided to make the 20-minute short film while suffering a “crisis of faith” from filming Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials. (Apparently, not everybody needs a little KFC.)

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Then he waited around for a year while the film’s leading lady, Sally Hawkins, wrapped work on Allen’s 2013 film “Blue Jasmine.”

“It was the longest wait in my life but definitely the best decision I’ve made, ever,” London-based Kirkby told TheWrap.

The resulting film, about a shy woman working in a helpline call center who takes a phone call from a distraught man, leading to an encounter that will change her life forever, also stars “Cloud Atlas” actor Jim Broadbent.

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Kirkby recently spoke to TheWrap about the virtues of patience, and his not-so-virtuous follow-up project — which, he says, will make “Fifty Shades of Grey” look “like ‘Mary Poppins.’”

TheWrap: How did you come up with the concept for “The Phone Call”?
Kirkby:  I wrote it with my work colleague James Lucas, we found out that we both had family who worked on helplines. He already had some great dialogue down, then I stole it off him, hid in the loo with my laptop and amped up the drama. Then he stole it back and put some jazz refs in it. Hey, presto!

How was “The Phone Call” made and where was it created?
We approached Sally Hawkins and she loved the script. We then waited for almost a year for a gap in her schedule. We got her just after she finished Woody Allen‘s “Blue Jasmine.” It was the longest wait in my life but definitely the best decision I’ve made, ever. Oscar winner Jim Broadbent then came onboard and we shot in London over three days. Working with them was the best experience of my life. It was like being lent a Ferrari and a Rolls-Royce for a week!

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Who else worked with you on making it?
I worked with the same crew I do my commercials with, from DOP to editor, locations to sound guy, art director to first AD. It helped that we had all talked about it for so long when we were on other jobs. They all worked for nothing in a freezing, rundown old office. My girlfriend baked them buns and I paid some of them with those. They were good buns.

How much did it cost to make “The Phone Call” and how was it funded?
I paid for it, I was having a crisis of faith working in advertising, doing KFC adverts and thinking that there had to be something else! I sold my car and put in my fees from a KFC advert I did, it probably cost me about $30,000. More importantly, though, everyone worked for nothing. I owe them big time. We also got a free Alexa and anamorphic lenses from Panavision, free lights from Arri, free online and grade from The Mill. I’m going to pay them all back big time when I do my first feature.

What will you do with your $5,000, should you win either our industry or audience prize?
It would all go straight in the pot to help get the next project going. I now ride a fold-up bike around London, so I don’t need a car anymore!

If you win the industry prize, what will you offer at your pitch meeting with a studio?
Since I finished editing “The Phone Call” I have been locked away in a cabin in Wales writing. I now have two finished screenplays, one thriller called “Call-Girl.” It makes “Fifty Shades” look like “Mary Poppins.” Imagine Tararantino doing “Basic Instinct”! And also a biopic called “Hair of the Dog” set in the ’80s, a true story about an ex-con who sets his sights on winning Crufts, the biggest dog show in the world. It’s “Shawshank Redemption” meets “Best in Show”!  It’s more of a funny drama, it’s got a “Little Miss Sunshine” feel to it. And yes, it does have a funny dog in it.