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Q&A with Adrian Tanner, dir. of Redistributors, at the East End Film Fest

Thursday 30 June 2016, by Anne-Sophie Marie

What was your background in film prior to Redistributors?

I started out as an editor and got indulgently trained at the BBC in Bristol on wildlife shows with David Attenborough. Then moved to London and cut a lot of TV.

What sparked the idea behind the film? Do you have a background in PR?

I worked for some years filming corporate CEO interviews where people talked utter drivel. I kept wondering ‘What if one day someone told the truth?’ - this gave me the idea for the inciting incident of ‘Redistributors’.

Can you tell us a bit more about the development process? Biggest hurdles and luckiest moments in the process? Any "happy accidents" during filming?

I wrote the first draft while the Occupy Movement seemed to be offering a way forward in 2008. I visited the camps and planned to shoot there, but then had to watch them deteriorate into ‘weirdos only’ after everyone with a more conventional life outside the camps left. We were all set to do a test shoot when I went past Finsbury Square (the second London camp) and saw that they had been evicted and it had disappeared overnight. This was probably a good thing though as it forced me to evolve my fictional rebels as well, and the idea of the ‘Redistributors’ was born; effectively an Occupy Movement that has taken the fight onto the net and has the ability to produce real change through hacktivism. We later found a real squat in Camden where we shot those scenes.

Getting locations without much money is a massive pain. There’s no point trying if someone has to go up the chain for permission – it won’t happen. We got quoted 6k for a foyer for one night, but then I had the idea of contacting turnstiles companies, and someone who had just fitted some for a huge place in Canary Wharf sorted us out permission for free. Apparently if you’re filming a corporate for a money-making company, that’s fine, but if you’re making a low budget feature from the heart with a load of student volunteers you don’t get a look in. Obviously all the public places in the film were done without permits, but I used a hand-held camera smaller than many tourists’, so no-one would have had the right to stop us.

In the story, the protagonist doesn’t learn her lesson until quite late (would have even been too late if not for a lucky break). What was behind this choice? Do you think many of us are deluded to the extent that we can’t tell right from wrong?

I think the layers of delusion needed to be quite deep for my heroine to overcome – but it’s not unusual structurally to have that change of heart at the end of the second act, when the hero hits rock bottom. But you always have to see the potential for the change - and I think when we meet her family and realise that she’s been rebelling against the rebels, by being so conventional and corporate you can sort of guess where she’s going to end up. To make it as dramatic as possible, that choice of corporate bullshit with nice clothes versus honesty and shopping at Oxfam had to be borne out of violence.

Redistributors will be screening a week after the Brexit aftermath. There’s been plenty of corporate/political corruption talks around this. Any comments?

I wish the film had predicted Brexit – but it certainly did highlight the fact that the inexorable flow of money to the richest has to be stopped. I do fear that like in 2008, when I hoped for a changing of the guard and some economic justice, volatile times simply make the rich richer. Let’s hope somebody like our hero Micheal Manning comes along with the ability to infiltrate the digital fortresses of the rich and share their money around.

You were also DoP on Redistributors. Why did you make that choice? Would you ever consider a collaboration with a DoP?

I have worked with several great DoPs and would have loved to involve them in the film, but there simply wasn’t the time or budget. Also DoP’s have drunk the koolaid a bit when it comes to technology, and would have wanted more camera kit. The little cameras are so much better now you really don’t need the clutter of a Red or an Alexa. I was able to go ahead with a £1700 camera and three lenses in a small bag and that made it a very fast shoot.

What’s next for you?

I’m looking for an agent who might be able to get me working in TV - so that I can really learn my chops. No-one seems interested yet! I also have a script which is attracting a lot of attention – ‘The Sandwich Experiment’ is a true story of a group of middle aged men in Kent in 1991 who were invited to take part in the first trials of a drug designed to treat angina. The drug turned out to have unexpected side effects, revitalising the men’s marriages and self-esteem and ’Viagra’ was born. I’m hoping to get a really veteran director on board for it and work as a producer on it as it is designed to be packed with stars!

Redistributors is screened as part of the East End Film Festival at Genesis Cinema, on 2 July at 5.30. The screening will be followed by a Q&A. More info here.

Any message or comments?

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