Chicken is a debut film from Joe Stephenson. It is a coming of age film based around a teenage boy, Robert. His relationship with his brother will be pushed to its boundaries when he meets 17 year old Annabel.
I had the pleasure of going to a screening of ‘Chicken’ and talking to Joe.

Why did you make Chicken, why did you want to adapt it to a film?

It was originally a play and I saw the play - first off, the lead actor, Scott Chambers, he’s been my friend for years and he was the lead on stage then he was living in London at the time, so he slept on my sofa. I used to help him with his lines and I got to know it very well and it kind of developed from there. When I saw the play, it felt very much like a film, I don't feel that way about plays very often. When you make a play into a movie you can tell it's one, and it's not personal.

How long was the process of the thought of ‘I want to make a film’ to this?

I first seen the play 5 years ago so since then (laughs), but that was mostly due to finding money.

With this project, you made your own production company to create this film, it’s so hard when you're an independent in the industry and it’s monopolised by the major companies, how did you get the funding and make it come to cinemas?

Well we went to a lot of the big companies and they all said no, so the thing was that we had hardly any funding. We went around asking everyone who was anybody if they knew anyone who might put a little bit of money into it. In the end it came down to around 4 or 5 people which was mostly friends and we didn't even meet the lowest budget. We thought we have to make this with what we got, if we waited a year to get a little bit more money, would we lose some what we’ve got now. So you just kind of go with it and do the best you can with what you got. Luckily, I found a crew and cast that was very understanding.

You filmed over 19 days, how was the possible, was it filmed in order?

The first of the film was very calm and we kept that for earlier on and then we saved all the drama for the end which really made sense. We spent a whole day filming scenes that didn't even end up in the final cut so technically it was filmed on 18 days.

I’ve been told it’s very hard going from theatre to on screen. How did you find these actors, and how did you cope with communicating with these acting and extracting their talents that they’ve learn by being on stage to on screen?

Each actor has their own way of working, it’s all about method and what works for the individual. You have to balance those things. We talked a lot and put a lot of thought in about the characters and so on the day on set everyone knows their character and how they behave, how they communicate. Before starting production I would ask the actors questions and they’d have to answer in character, so for Scott and Morgan I would ask what happened when dad died? What happened when mum left? So they got this grasp on the characters.

You talked about Chicken being a low budget film, how low was it?

I don’t normally like to talk people who are going into the film and tell them because they go in and expect the film to be a showing of that budget. Have you ever heard of a film called The Selfish Giant? Well that was known as a low budget film and that- we had a tenth of that budget. So when we say low budget, we’re talking micro. You wouldn’t make a film on this budget if you was sane (laughs).

You gotta start somewhere

Yeah, exactly.

There was a lot of strong scene in this, could you only do them once? They didn’t seem forced.

The thing about the scenes is that the actors are worrying about not being about to reproduce the feelings, or that the tears are going to dry up. It was tough but we allowed the actor to go around the script and do what felt normal. Every take we did was different and it would allow them to be a little bit- we only had one camera so we was only allowed to do this take and then stop and that take and stop. The actor playing Polly, Morgan, would stop so we could get Scott’s reaction, so it was really tough and it was hard. If i remember right, when Richard walks out the caravan to see the chicken on the floor, that was the first time Scott seen it on the day. It was a very long take and we let it run and just cut it together. We wouldn’t of been able to do that again. Once scott would see it, he would know what it looks like.

Did the finished film alter greatly from the initial vision?

Urm, no. I think my initial vision had a few more crane shots (laughs).

Robert is such a fascinating character, could there potentially be Chicken 2?

I think- it would be nice to know where he is now, what Richard is doing and how he is, to make sure he’s okay, but I think that the sequel wouldn’t be a happy film. I wanted to end this film on hope. That was the idea anyway. The ending was so he could move on from his past, but reality is, if this continued he would be having a very different time. I don’t think I would want to do that. Scott and I love Richard to pieces, we’ve talked about where he is now, would he be on Britain's Got Talent (laughs) but if we carried on the film, I wouldn't want to put him through anymore drama, quite frankly and that's what you have to do for any film, there has to be conflict and drama.

Do you have any other projects?
Yeah, the next one is a documentary. It’s not what I wanted to do but you get what you're given. And I’ve got a drama, it’s the story of Noel Coward and his early life. It’s a coming of age and realising who you are. And yeah, it’s to do with Noel Coward.

Where now for Chicken?

We’ve got a few more showing around the UK and then probably TV, online, and hopefully places like Netflix and Hulu and other streaming sites. Keep an eye out on social media.

You can find more information about Chicken on their site www.chickenthefilm.com.
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