Interview with Double Date Director Benjamin Barfoot

We at The Hollywood News have been in love with the film Double Date since we caught it in Edinburgh. It tells the tale of 29-year-old virgin Jim (Danny Morgan) and his best pal Alex (Michael Socha) as they go out on a night on the town with sisters Kitty (Kelly Wenham) and Lou Lou (Georgia Groome). The mission – to get Jim laid. Their plans take a very unexpected turn though, as the girls aren’t as innocent as they appear, and the quartet go on one Hell of a night. We can’t praise Double Date enough, going so far as to give it a mighty five stars when we reviewed it at Frightfest. The balance of horror and comedy is beautifully balanced and overall the movie is just a lot of fun.

After what seems like forever, Double Date is in cinemas across the UK. On the eve of nationwide release it screened at Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival and we were lucky enough to catch a few minutes with director Benjamin Barfoot. We sat down in the Broadway cinema’s bar and delved into the production process, iconic eighties tracks, and the importance of keeping regional accents.

Interview with Double Date Director Benjamin Barfoot

Double Date begins with Yazoo’s Only You. It’s used perfectly within that scene and has stayed in my head ever since I first caught the film. Whose idea was it to use that particular song?

Do you know what? That’s nothing more than knowing that I wanted the girls to sort of feel like they were in an old world. That’s why I went with Goat and kind of riffing Dario Argento and old cinema a bit. The idea in my head was that the girls were in an older world. So actually I wanted to try and find an old seventies song, and I ended up simply just listening to playlists endlessly of every old song I could possibly think of. I was listening to hundreds of songs, and then what you do is click what is a potential maybe, but nothing more than Yazoo made it all the way to the bottom. As soon as I dropped it into the scene it was just – this is the winner. That is literally the best one for that scene.

It’s a famous song so it must have been tricky to get the rights for?

Yeah it was actually. It was the most expensive track on the film for sure. In fact, the problem that we had was that because we’re a low budget film…everyone was very protective about what I was trying to do with the film, but I wanted that song and the thing is the financiers and everyone loved that scene so much that it was the one thing that everyone fought really hard for in terms of music. They knew it’s just got to be that song. I think I tried briefly once to replace it, and it was just like – no way man, it’s never going to happen.

Interview with Double Date Director Benjamin Barfoot

So you mentioned earlier that you’ve know Danny for years, and that you met him at MTV. How did that all come together?

So we were working on Zane Lowe’s Gonzo show about ten years ago. Danny was working on it in a piece called Ginger Bloke which I essentially edited. He would improvise, and then I would edit his improvisation down, and we just formed a friendship. He’s a sweet guy, he’s lovely. We kinda hung out a bit and then he left the Gonzo show. He started appearing in a few TV things and we were all so happy for him. I didn’t really see him for three or four years. Then he was in On the Road, and he came back from being in On the Road, and it was hooking up with him and having a beer and going like ‘Holy shit, I can’t believe what’s happened, that’s amazing’. He just suddenly appeared in this big Francis Ford Coppola production, the cast is insane, and we were all – ‘this in unbelievable, how did you do that?’ Then when he came off of the back of it he was told by his agent to be careful what he did next. They had to wait for the film to come out; they shot something like 70 hours of footage and it took about a year to edit down. So in that year he wanted to make stuff I wanted to make, and we were hanging out so decided let’s just hang out and make some stuff. I think all that happened was very quickly. We worked out that there was someone, that we can jam together, we could collaborate; it was very, very simple. We have this ‘try very hard, but do do very silly’… there’s a lot of freedom in what we’re doing, but we’re trying to construct it well.

So how long was it from the idea of Double Date to it being on screen?

I can’t remember the exact date when Danny wrote it, but let’s say Danny wrote it six years ago. He was writing it maybe six years ago; Matt [Wilkinson] optioned it four or five years ago. Matt then watched what I was doing with Danny – so they were shopping around for other directors – I was not involved at all. I was working with Danny, Danny was doing stuff with Matt, and just through osmosis and being around each other it worked. Matt really loved the film I did with Danny about Ron Weasley, Where did it all go Ron? That was my first real short, it was the one that really got me the feature. So that was me and Danny making this stupid little short about Ron Weasley killing himself. Then I guess, maybe three years ago they asked me to sign on. Then a year of trying to make promos and fake trailers and stuff that people could see. So then two years ago, you know what, not even two – a year, sixteen months – people started taking interest, money, banks. Actually we shot it this time last year. So within a year we’ve shot it, edited it and got UK distribution. So it went quickly.

Congratulations on the distribution, that seems to be where a lot of films hit snags these days…

We are totally blown away. Full credit to Maggie Monteith who essentially was one of the producers on this film. She put the funding forwards for it. She came to a screening that we had for it, it was one of our test screenings, and she just completely fell in love with it and went – ‘I’m gonna release this, this is brilliant’. We’ve been really lucky in that sense.

Interview with Double Date Director Benjamin Barfoot

I really liked that you let the lead cast keep their accents. It sounds like a really strange thing, but being a Nottingham girl it was really nice to hear the midland accents. I mean, just some of the stuff that Alex says, you don’t hear that anywhere outside of the midlands. I was saying to friends – if I said ‘Gi’it me’ will you know what I mean?’ and they were just like, ‘what?!’

Do you know what? There were a few lines I think he said now and again [that we had no clue about]. There was one thing he said to Danny in the toilet, I can’t remember what it is now, but Matt came over to me and was like – ‘Dude, he’s going to have to change that’, all of us, literally all of us were going – ‘we have no idea what he is talking about’. I think that happened like once, but the rest of don’t want to corner [Michael] Socha in. You don’t want to corner  him in, you want to let him go. That’s the whole point. That boy wants to run, so you let him.

With the exception of Kelly [Wenham], the cast all seem to be quite a lot like their characters in real-life. Georgia for example, seemed quite shy up on stage.

Yeah, but then if you actually know Georgia, she’s got a filthy sense of humour.

So it’s all a front then?

Yeah, she’s got a gob on her, and she’s got a fucking dark sense of humour, and Kelly is quite shy. But it all depends, it’s all based on the context in which you know people. So I would actually say it’s a little more of opposite ends going on with the girls.

Interview with Double Date Director Benjamin Barfoot

Kelly did a lot of prep for the film, were you impressed that she was committed enough to want to do it?

I give Kelly the biggest amount of praise and credit because she did really go for it. We talked early on and I said to her…basically she did a little fake sort of promo for the film, a test thing for the film, and at one point I asked her to lift two fake weights and she had to pretend that she could lift them, but she could barely lift them. I just remember watching her and thinking if we’re going go for this, that can’t be the case. You can’t be an actress pretending. I knew I wanted to do big fights, big action, her to have a presence. It was like there is no way I’m going to put you into that [right now]. You go up to me and ask me to throw a punch on a film, I’m gonna look a bit crap because I’ve never thrown a punch in my life. So it was very, very important to me that we had that sort of person who, when I said ‘throw a punch’ when shooting for twelve hours a day, can nail it every time. She jumped at that. She was pretty much, I’d say like as an actress, going ‘this comes along very rarely’. What’s great about her is that she put herself through all of that, but also has the mind and the ability to improvise, and to be a comedian. I think that’s quite rare really. To have a girl whose fully going to go the full hog, strip down and doing a Robert De Niro, and then at the same time, matching good comedy performances and improvisations and hitting all the improvisation notes where she can go off cue and it doesn’t matter. Full credit to her.

I imagine that night shoots were probably quite tough, was there a lot of fun on set to counteract that strain?

There was, and again it went back to me and Danny. Me and Danny came from a background where all we did was… I had the camera and a laptop, and we would just be me and him, and we would just muck about, and all me and Danny ever knew was a camera, and me and him and laughing. So when we came to this, the biggest thing I was scared of was – you can give me money, but don’t take that away from me. Don’t block me from what I know, because if you get rid of that, well that’s why you’re employing us, because you saw something you liked. Matt Wilkinson was amazing with that because even for him it was ‘that’s not really what’s done on set too much, there’s a certain amount of professionalism’. It always was professional, but by the last day on set when we were wrapping, there were young twenty-two year old sparks coming up to the costume designers hugging and crying. I was blown away as it was clear that this lot have had literally had a party, they had had such a great time. We have this big What’sApp group where we all talk to each other. In a way I feel like the vibe on set was like, the average age on set was late twenties, early thirties, and just a lovely family/friend vibe that me and Danny were really wanting it to be. That’s why I think you get Socha performing that way. Because everyone felt like they can do what they want, and it was fine.

You’re screening next in LA, in a screen that has hosted premieres of the likes of Titanic and Avatar. Are you nervous, excited?

Actually none of this is nervous because I’ve worked hard, I’ve tried hard, and I’m not nervous because I’m with Danny. Me and him have been on an adventure together, and now it’s Matt as well, and it’s like the three of us. We’re all doing it together. Matt is the same age as me, we’re all essentially the same age, we all feel like we’re breaking out a little bit together. I think for any young, struggling filmmaker, it’s what I wanted to happen. I’m not feeling nervous, I’m more – ‘I can’t believe people like this, this is amazing!’

Interview with Double Date Director Benjamin Barfoot

Double Date has been doing the festival circuit, on Friday 13th October it arrives in mainstream UK cinemas, what do you hope that Joe Public, who may not know anything about the film prior to watching, get from watching Double Date?

The most honest and truest thing I tried to do with this film, and it was the one thing I kept hold of the most, all I wanted was that you go out and sit in the dark and felt like you went on a night out with these people. That’s all I really wanted. As the night progresses it gets more full-on and you just leave hugely entertained. There’s lots of artistic things I’m trying to throw in there, but all of it has been centred around me wanting people to go out and have a good time.

What are the plans post Double Date? Are you working on something else?

We are. We’ve got another project in development, script development. All I can say is that if we pull it off then it’ll probably be an action-comedy-road movie with a Brexit political satire involved.

Double Date in in cinemas across the UK now.