With an all-star cast that includes the likes of Jewish actress Sophie Okonedo, Ewan McGregor and Catherine Tate, Scenes Of A Sexual Nature is the first full-length feature film from Jewish director Ed Blum.
The low-budget comedy drama follows a string of straight and gay characters as their stories unfold on Hampstead Heath, with love, romance, divorce and reunions all playing a part.
As the film is released on DVD, SJ's Caroline Westbrook talks to Blum about the film, his past career and his future plans.
How did you get such a prestigious cast together for Scenes Of A Sexual Nature?
Well, I think there were several reasons really – one is that the film was always written with the view that we were going to do several short stories, so I felt we had more chance of getting talent. I asked the write of the film not to make any of the stories any longer than would need filming for two or three days, so in a strange way the film was always designed with the idea of attracting talent. And then the other major key thing that happened was that I'd won a pitching competition in Cannes, and I was introduced to a casting director who came up with a wonderful idea that because I was a first time director and we were going after top talent, she basically set up a whole series of meetings with top agents in London, and instead of reading the script she said to them, "I want you to meet the director and hear the pitch, and if you like it then you can read the script." So the agents found this very interesting, and from the beginning I said firstly we would only need their clients for two or three, secondly that it was Equity minimum – which took out all the negotiations when the budget is bigger but also it meant all the actors were protected.
Did you have a hitlist of actors?
We did, and basically everybody on that list came on board eventually. No-one said no, which was amazing. When I made the pitch I said we would only need the actors for a couple of days, if some big Hollywood project came up we wouldn't hold them to it, and if they were in the theatre we would get them back in time for the performance. Ewan's principal reason for coming on board was the script – he was in the theatre at the time, he lives in Hampstead, and the person he was in the theatre with at the time, Douglas Hodge, had already said yes, so Ewan knew he would be working opposite one of his good friends who's also a really good actor. So his first response was to the script but we reassured his agent we would break at 4.30 in the afternoon and get him back to the theatre. And he was fantastic.
What did you do before you became a filmmaker?
I've done a variety of stuff. I directed a short film, The Last Host, which was nominated for a Bafta and I think got me into filmmaking. I've directed The Bill, which I think everybody has done. And then I did a whole spate of drama documentaries, and at the same time I was developing feature film scripts, and a lot of time I kind of worked six months in TV and then took time out to develop scripts. There were a couple of times I was stuck for work, and one year I went off to to SAS Are You Tough Enough in the Borneo jungle, which was one of those jobs that only comes along once in a lifetime. And in another fill-in job I ended up as Deputy Editor of BBC News and Current Affairs Development. It was a fill-in job and it was great, very interesting – I trained as a journalist originally – but it was the last job I did, I just needed some money to come in while I was developing the script. I suppose directing drama documentaries are my main background, those taught me how to direct and produce at the same time.
Is it true you also worked on Leon The Pig Farmer?
Yes, I just worked on the test shoot. It did very well, and Gary Sinyor has had a really good career off the back of it. Funnily enough I think it was set up in a similar spirit to Scenes Of A Sexual Nature, they got all their money from private investors, it's low-budget, and it got into the cinemas.
What are you working on now?
Well, I've been very lucky. The William Morris Agency picked up on me when they saw the film, so I've been out in LA meeting and greeting – that's a weird place. So they've sent me a lot of scripts which I've been reading and a couple of projects I've been developing over the past few years. But at the moment our minds are focused on getting Scenes Of A Sexual Nature into American cinemas. Because we distributed the film as well it's taken a whole other year of my life, more so than it would have if I had just been the director.
Scenes Of A Sexual Nature (Cert 15) is out now on Sony DVD