I first heard about director Jamie Patterson’s work through actor April Pearson. April joined me on The Screenster Podcast for a chat last year and we’ve kept in touch, since. So, when she recently mentioned Justine, Jamie’s latest film, I thought I should have a watch. Full disclosure, though; it’s been a battle to get me to sit down with anything other than Below Deck (I know, I know). But, also, I’m not going to apologise. We’re all craving comfort in different ways and shows about drama on yachts and also the legendary Housewives, are just what I need when I want to shut myself away from the stresses of the outside world.
That all said, I’m so glad I listened to April. Because of my Netflix preoccupations, I’d almost forgotten how many filmmakers are out there, trying to get their independent films seen in the middle of a pandemic. And Justine is a beautiful watch that deserves all the attention.
I sat down with Jamie, to find out more.
Justine is a story of addiction and also of love. Why did this story resonate with you and how did you come to direct it?
The script came my way via producer Sarah Drew. It just felt honest and real, I hadn’t really seen a character like Justine before. She’s angry at the world, something I think a lot of young women can relate to. The film illustrates the power of love and friendship, themes that I explore in pretty much all my films.
What was the filming process like? Was it a long shoot?
We actually shot the film in ten days. I think there was something like twenty locations, so it was quite full on. The most days I’ve ever had to shoot a film is fourteen. I’ve got an incredible team though and the cast was extraordinary, it was an absolute joy to make.
Tallulah Haddon and Sophie Reid are perfectly cast as Justine and Rachel. What’s your casting process like? And in this case, how did you know you had found the right actors for the job?
I think casting is 90% of my job. If we cast right, then I shouldn’t have many notes on set. I don’t tend to give many performance notes as a director, I also don’t really like to do more than three takes. A lot of the time we end up using the first take in the edit, as it’s the most natural and real. The actor is going on instinct – you only get that once. I had seen Tallulah in a show called Kiss Me First, my wife was also in the show. She just had a wonderful energy about her, amazing screen presence and incredible eyes. She had a real vulnerability about her, something which was crucial for the role. She nailed the audition and is amazing in the film. As for Sophie, we’d actually worked together before. She’s an incredible actress and her chemistry with Tallulah was electric. She brought this ghost like quality to Rachel, something which wasn’t on the page but elevated the whole film.
You shoot a lot of your films in Brighton. Why do you think Brighton offers such a special backdrop for your work?
It’s just the most wonderful city. I’m Brighton born and raised and just love it. Brightonians are just amazing, it’s such a creative, vibrant city with so much to offer.
I particularly loved the first scene that Justine has with her counsellor, played by Sian Reese-Williams, where she’s asked what she wants from life. Did you have any favourite moments from the project?
Sian is incredible. We only had her for one day, she shot all of her scenes back to back, which was around twenty pages. I loved working with her. I think the beach sequence is my favourite, it was the last day of the shoot and just felt magical, especially when they were running towards the sea. I remember when we wrapped, we all sat round the fire and ate a curry. It was a special moment.
And any more difficult moments of filming?
A lot of the film takes place outside, which always causes problems. When you shoot outside, you lose control. We were a small film so we couldn’t shut down streets or even locations. I remember the cafe we shot at was still open; there’s someone having their breakfast just out of frame. Again, this is what I love about Brighton.
Intimacy is something we’re all still craving at the moment and it’s lovely to see intimate moments between the characters, especially with the close-up shots that you use. I read that you like to shoot handheld when working with these types of scenes. What difference does this make, technically, and why do you like this approach as a Director?
I shoot most of my films handheld, it makes it feel more alive. I also like to do a lot of long takes, again it just feels more real. I hate it when films are over-cut and choppy, there’s no need, it takes you out of the moment and that’s what a film is; a selection of moments. I love the awkwardness of intimacy, the hesitation, the fumbling hands, it’s real and something an audience can relate to.
And finally! What has it been like releasing the film in the middle of a pandemic?
It’s been tricky at times. We felt we really needed a festival run with this film, that obviously didn’t happen. We were due to premiere at BFI Flare the week we all got put into lockdown. Indie films rely so much on festivals, it helps with exposure, reviews etc. That being said, we partnered up with Bulldog who distributed my previous film Tucked. They’ve done a brilliant job and secured as an exclusive deal with Curzon Home Cinema. I love Curzon, they really give a shit about the films they put out there! We’ve had some brilliant reviews and hopefully the film continues to find an audience. We’re currently in the process of trying to secure worldwide distribution.