George & Sally take part in a government initiative that aims to reduce unemployment by putting anyone without a job into work.
A political-drama written & directed by Daniel Harding, starring Lynette Creane, Radley Mason and Simon Christian as the ‘Man In A Suit’. The film also features Neil James as the News Reporter, Harriet Madeley and Joseph Steyne, with original music from Mathieu Karsenti.
Man In A Suit was originally intended to be part of a trilogy of short films that would be presented as one feature – the other titles including Killer Bird, and as-of-yet made, Invasion. However, due to a restriction on funding, the scripts were broken down into smaller films and made as individual projects. ‘The News Reporter’ was intended to be the reoccurring thread through each story, and can still be seen in Man In A Suit and Killer Bird, played by Neil James.
Notes on Man In A Suit were first made in 2014 and a draft script soon followed. However, production on Killer Bird took over a year and after an exhausting post-production Daniel wanted a shorter and more light-hearted project to work on next, so Man In A Suit was postponed. More smaller projects followed, including Toast and Two Pound Forty Pence, until Daniel reconvened work on what would still be the second part of ‘The Herd’ trilogy.
Daniel made the project, like most of his films to date, with a very small crew of just two people and three main actors. The project is very reminiscent of an earlier film, Ring Ring, as it is almost entirely centred around one house and only a few core characters. The original script exceeded fifty pages, so Daniel spent several months and a period of feedback to help cut the story down to a manageable fifteen.
Casting was confirmed in March 2016, and filming was originally scheduled for June, but due to bad weather it was again postponed until July. The second attempt was successful, and post-production last several months and the visual edit was completed in December. Work on an original score took place over the come months, and Man In A Suit will be finally released online in 2017.
MEET THE CAST
Q&A WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR DANIEL HARDING
How did the story for Man In A Suit come about? I’ve written at length in my blog about a trilogy of short films I intended to make and present as a feature film – there was going to be a running theme throughout the three stories and a ‘News Reporter’ who would tie them all together. The first of the trilogy was such a huge undertaking, that the original thirty minute run time was cut down to just over twenty-one minutes, which meant I couldn’t viable continue with the project the way I intended. Man In A Suit is the second story, but it has been handled individually and is no longer part of a trilogy.
The film has a political undertone, where did this theme come from? The actual idea stemmed from my interest in how minimum-wage workers are treated, and how I’ve been treated in part-time jobs over the years. It is a heightened idea, and is actually set a few years in the future, and I imagined it as something that could eventually happen. I wanted to explore how two normal people could or would behave given an opportunity that they can benefit from, but at the detriment of someone else. I didn’t want it to be an extreme outcome, and I think people expect there to be some sort of murder or twist ending, but actually it is about the realisation that we often make the wrong decisions and then having to deal with that.
What are your hopes for the film? I just want people to enjoy it as a fulfilling story – that is always my aim. A lot of my films (if not all) are saying something, but that’s just the way I dive into a story. If people want to see what happens next, them I’m succeeding. Obviously if people watch the film and it encourages them to take a look at themselves and some of the decisions they make, then that would be interesting too.
What are your inspirations? For this, it’s hard to say. I know it has ended up a bit like a Black Mirrors episode, but that was never an inspiration. I guess it mostly came from some of the reading I was doing a few years ago, rather than one particular source. I have an interest in psychology and why we do things (you have to as an artist), and this story explores one stem of that.
How would you react if the government forced a Designate on you, or in turn, forced you into work? If a Designate was sent to me, I’d like to think I wouldn’t take part and cancel the initiative immediately. But I am fully aware that we often don’t make the same decisions in hindsight or when standing on the sidelines. Sally and George don’t really talk to him, or ask any questions, which I hope I would do – I’d be more personable. Alternatively, if I was forced into work (which I kind of am already), then I’d definitely take issue with it and would hopefully rebel.
Q&A WITH ACTOR RADLEY MASON
How did your involvement with Man In A Suit come about? I worked with Dan on one of his previous short films The Missing Hand and he remembered me. He saw a film I did called The Cashier and he said that he saw the character of George pretty much as the same as the character I was playing in The Cashier and so he asked me if I was interested and I said I was.
Would you agree that the film has a political undertone? And what is it trying to say? I do agree that it has a political undertone. It shows a kind of alternate reality where the government are introducing schemes to get young people into employment. I actually thought it was quite a good idea because some young people are quite happy to just sit on their arse and not go out and find work, that is what I was like when I was 16. It’s portrayed in the film to a bad thing but I agree with the character of George in the film that its a good thing.
How did you help to create the role of George? Dan said he saw the character of George as similar to the character of Jeremy who I played in The Cashier (which was based on my own experiences of working in a discount warehouse). The character of George works in a warehouse and I used to work in one so I kind of just reverted back to how I was back then. I did make a few suggestions for the character of George which were overruled by Dan – my favourite was when I said that I saw George as the kind of guy who would have one hand down his pants, having a rummage while watching TV.
What are your hopes for the film? It would be really nice if it got into some festivals and won some awards. Maybe the award for best male actor?
How would you react if the government forced you into work? Depends what it was. If they forced me into working in the film industry I wouldn’t mind. It depends, if they were getting me work now and it was sort of entry level work, at McDonald’s or something then I probably wouldn’t be too happy but if they were getting me work when I was 16, when I just left school, then I wouldn’t have minded because I was really lazy and couldn’t be bothered to find my own job so it would’ve been quite handy for them to do that.
Q&A WITH ACTOR LYNETTE CREANE
What was your first impressions of the script? My first impressions of the script was that the film starts as something so simple but gradually shows the darker side of human nature as the piece goes on. I love scripts like this – nothing is obvious.
How far do you agree with what George & Sally do in this story? For a couple that are so wrapped up in correcting each other, they don’t seem to have a handle on their own morals. I do feel they are pulled into a situation but they didn’t take any time to ask any intelligent questions about what exactly was going on. So I think they frustrate me. There is no way I would even consider having a stranger in my house anyway, I’m too distrusting.
What decisions did you make with creating Sally as a character? Sally is obviously wrapped up in her work and where she is in life. So I tried to really piece together in my mind her family sitauton, career, relationship with George and then how she wants to see these elements improve in the future. Its obvious from the script that she has high expectations of everyone and not much patience. This gave me a great idea of how she views each situation, so I applied this to each scene.
What are your hopes for the film? I want the film to go all the way!
How would you react if the government forced you into work? Government forcing me to work? Feels like they do already.
Q&A WITH ACTOR SIMON CHRISTIAN
Can you give us a brief overview of your acting career to date? Although I’d been acting since kindergarten, I started acting professionally in 2013, giving my debut at Vienna’s English Theatre. I worked closely with them, being part of their Youth Ensemble until I moved to the UK in 2014. My screen debut was a Viennese short film, ‘Das Glück is a Vogerl – Luck is a bird’. I’ve since then worked on many shorts and Television movies, as well as working in Theatre, recently with The Pensive Federation in “The Collective Project”.
What interested you about Man In A Suit? In the script you don’t have any dialogue, how did you cope? What drew me to the project was the subtle delivery of it’s strong message and the mundanity of the characters, which makes them very relatable and the ending most shocking. Having no dialogue actually gave me unlimited freedom to find the inner life of the character. Man In A Suit could be anyone, the boy next door you see riding his bike, the child your sister taught at school. It also automatically makes you listen to and process the dialogue of the other characters with utmost intensity.
Your performance is subtle, what sort of decisions did you make in pre-production? What came to my mind was the image of animals in a zoo in Winter. They are behind thick glass and often you can’t hear their sounds, but they are in plain sight. This is how I worked myself into the character. Behind that glass there is a lot going on, therefore in that suit there is actually a lot of life, dreams and passion, but a lack of direction and drive, making him vulnerable to a programme like he fell into. To me the character is also going through a constant struggle between wanting to speak up and the fear of doing so, resulting in becoming quite passive and building his comfort zone around functioning rather than acting.
Man In A Suit is a fairly political them, how do you think an audience will react to the plot and George & Sally’s involvement in this scheme? Seeing our society as polarised as it is right now, I think the audience might be divided as well. There will be people in the audience who might feel shocked and angry by what they’ve seen and the concept presented in the film. But I think there will also be those who, openly or not, will go ‘Why don’t we have a programme like this in place, this sounds like a great idea.’ Ideally the two parties would get together and discuss, I think that would be very interesting and we need more open dialogue about the things that are going on. There are always at least two opinions and more on each topic.
Lastly, what would you do if you were sent a ‘designate’ to do with as you pleased? I wouldn’t just put the person to work, but question this dubious programme, even if it has or maybe especially because it has a governmental stamp on it. I also would ask the designate for his or her name, invite them in and talk to them. I don’t think I would be comfortable with someone doing chores for me that I could easily do myself, anyways, so the government better leave me out of this
Q&A WITH COMPOSER MATHIEU KARSENTI
Can you give us a brief overview of your musical career to date? I started off professionally over 6 years ago, firstly as a music producer on prime-time TV shows for BBC, Sky and ITV and then I specialised as a composer for film and TV since 2012. Over the years, I’ve recomposed existing music, composed in many genres according to what was required in TV and eventually developed my own voice as a composer when I started film scoring. I’ve also worked closely with UK celebrities such as Diversity’s Ashley Banjo, Miranda Hart, Lee Mack and the Eastenders cast.
How would you define your style and how does it relate to the work you did on Man In A Suit? I would say my composing voice is open-minded but my aim is always to bring out the identity of the project I’m working on with hopefully a strong understanding of its dramaturgy. Music is such an integral part of any visual project that the right choice of instrumentation and arrangements are important to represent conceptually the intention of the film. Most of the time, the project will ‘tell’ you what it needs musically. In the case of Man In A Suit, a very subtle soundscape was needed rather than a full blown musical score.
Man In A Suit is heavily dialogued, how did you go about complimenting that with a score? After discussing the film with Daniel who gave me some great insights into his vision, I worked carefully first to find the right sound palette that would be unobtrusive to the dialogue and that would also be pleasing to him. Then it was a matter of ‘spotting’ the film to find the right points where music could creep in and out with subtlety. Respecting the dialogue was very important and we felt that something too musical would simply get in the way.
This is your third collaboration with Daniel, can you give us an insight into your work together and was anything different on this film? With each director and with each film a new mindset is needed. On Killer Bird, our previous film together, we felt the music could add another narrative layer and it had a more definite job to do at certain points, driving the film forward with pace and underlying the existing drama. On Man In A Suit, we went for a more ambient approach because we were so aware of the dialogue, we were subtly setting a creepy situation that hopefully will make the audience think about themselves. Daniel made a great analogy that music here would paint subtle shades on top of a grey background. As the pace is fairly even throughout and the scenes aren’t so dramatic, the music just guides you gently on a dark path, leaving the way for the actors to do their thing.
How would you react if you were sent a ‘designate’ to do with as you pleased? Tricky question! I think I would have a few questions about them before asking them to do anything for me. I would also be very interested in them (I am naturally curious about people!) and why they chose to be a designate in the first place. If I found out they were paid a pittance, I wouldn’t want them working for me and I certainly wouldn’t want to take advantage of the situation! Having worked in poorly-paid jobs in my early twenties, I can certainly empathise with anyone who might be on the bottom rung of the social ladder. At the end of the day we are all human beings and we are/should be equal, no matter your background. Respect for each other is very important to me. If I met a designate, I would probably try to help them get out of their job!