Sunday, 1 November 2015

Interviews Interview with The Cleaners aka Justin Walters & Craig Handley

Interview with The Cleaners aka
Justin Walters & Craig Handley

By DJ Forrest

‘This is the story of two brothers who run a crime scene clean-up business, when it suddenly takes a downturn, brought on by his dad’s death. This story brings out the human form at it most desperate.
Soon things take a turn for the worst.’

With an alumni of Who cast and crew, it was inevitable I was going to ask Justin Walters and Craig Handley about their new drama series.

Hi Justin, I'm curious as the next man to know more about ‘The Cleaners’.  I'm thinking, probably wrongly that you're like a forensics team, who clean up the crime by solving the cases or are you like 'Victor the cleaner' doing the job after the 'assassin' has botched it? Also is it a drama series for the internet, or is it a short film?

Justin Walters: They are actually Cleaners as in your everyday Cleaners.  Cleaning up of the bits of blood, brain splatter amongst other secreted body fluid after death or be it domestic clean ups. So, it's not only cleaning up of crime scenes that they do as will become apparent in the First episode.

It is a dark comedy drama TV pilot rather than a short film or Internet series, due to the plot of the First episode, which unfortunately I can not give too much away as it will ruin the twist and turns of further episodes and series.

I like the idea of it being a TV pilot rather than an internet series.  Where did the idea come from, what influenced you to write from the point of view of Cleaners?

Justin Walters: Thank you. I have no idea where it came from. I just guess one day it popped into my head and I couldn't stop writing the script. I guess I have a good imagination or about 13 split personalities. Of course, only joking on the personality’s part.

Your cast is really picking up, a great selection of actors/actresses, with a few familiar surnames, was that purely by chance or do you know many of the cast from previous roles? 

Justin Walters: A few I do know as Friends. Especially Nia as I have worked with Nia's Mum Menna on a Welsh language TV series called Yr Pris. Saran was suggested by the Casting Director Leigh-Ann Regan who is also doing the Wales casting for Kurt "Sons of Anarchy" Sutters new Welsh based series The Bastard Executioner. Saran is the daughter of Sharon Morgan who played Gwen’s Mum in Torchwood.

All our actors/actresses are an amazing talent to have on Board. Glyn Morgan who I have had the pleasure of working with before will play my brother Sid in the pilot/ series. Saran will play our Niece. Richard Mylan from Waterloo Rd will play the Boss. Daniel Rochford from Hinterland will play DCI Blake.

Apart from Glyn, Nia and Stefan everyone else was cast by Leigh-Ann Regan and her team at LARCA.

Not just a brilliant cast list, your crew list is pretty awesome too, you have onboard Craig Handley.  How do you guys know each other?

Craig: Justin and I got to know each other, only recently: despite both of us working on the same projects, in the past, we never actually got to work together. Until now!

Hi Craig, are you still auditioning for cast or do you now have your full crew? Plus, when do you start rehearsing and filming?

Craig: Principal casting is complete, although we are now starting to cast supporting artists. The crew, that we have managed to assemble, come from a wide variety of backgrounds; from broadcast television drama to film degree students. Many of those, behind the camera, I have worked with on other productions.

We start rehearsals in two weeks' time and principal photography commences on 5th November.

Despite the pilot being set in Cardiff, it will mostly be filmed in and around the South Wales valleys. Several of the key scenes will be filmed in Merthyr, as well as Tredegar and our studio in Aberdare.

When you're filming for an internet series, how different is it to filming for a television pilot? Are there different rules for each?

Craig: It depends on the web series. With Whovians, the brief from the very outset was specific: it had to be shot as though it was going to be broadcast. So, from re beginning, we filmed it in exactly the same way as we would a conventional series.

With The Cleaners, that same principal applies: although HD broadcast can be a little less forgiving than the Internet!

Incidentally, we are using the same camera equipment as that for Whovians.

I'm not really a fan of HD broadcast it always seems to come across like a documentary style.  I felt that in the Doctor Who Anniversary special when 10th was chasing after the queen/Zygon. 

Craig: You are right and this is why broadcasters need to be very careful, when producing content for HD transmission. Sometimes it can be too good.
With The Cleaners, as with Whovians, we will be colour grading the edited footage; so that it appears "filmic". Have you watched Saving Private Ryan and/or Band of Brothers? They both used a colouring technique called "Bleach Bypass"; where the colours seem washed out and almost monochrome. We will be employing that same process, albeit digitally, for The Cleaners.

Justin: I only found out recently that the actress, who will be playing Betty, Deborah Thomas, is under the same agent as Ricky Gervais, also Matthew Rhys and Rob Brydon.

So having such actors on board at the level they're at is a testimony to the strength of the script and also Handley Films, who I'm sure will do a grand job.
I knew it had potential a few years back as I e-mailed it too Kevin Allen and he said that he loved it and the idea of it and wanted to see it develop. As I ran into him the other day, I mentioned about the script being made by Craig and Handley Films, so he said to keep him updated as he said it's the best way to film the pilot first. So I keep him updated on the developments every 4 days.

I had an experienced camera man from S4C get introduced to me the other day and saying that he would work for free as he had read the script through a mutual friend.
So on the Buzz and strength of this, lots of people want to work on it and believe in it.
Also having somebody like Leigh-Ann Regan and also her clients on board is just going to make it bigger as Leigh-Ann is one of the biggest and best agents and casting directors in Britain at the moment.

Along with writing the script Justin, you also play a role, who do you play and how vital is your role within the story?

Justin: My role is that of JJ. One of the lead characters. Vital wise - everyone in The Cleaners is vital, as they really have their own stories which will be evident in later episodes.

I hear that Handley Films production of The Cleaners is environmentally friendly?

Craig: That's right; we are taking our environmental responsibilities, seriously, by becoming a "paperless production": with all documents being digitally distributed (including scripts, call sheets, schedules).

Thank you so much for a cracking interview. All the best with the new drama. 

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