Philip Barantini • Director of Boiling Point
"I wanted not to give the audience a breather"
by Kaleem Aftab
- The British director tells Cineuropa about the trials and tribulations of making his new, one-take movie
The Chef [+see also:
interview: Philip Barantini
film profile] (Boiling Point) sees a chef with personal issues and money problems have rather a stormy night in his new restaurant. The feature debuted in competition at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and we took the opportunity to speak to its director, Philip Barantini.
Cineuropa: When you made the short film that this movie is based on, did you think it would then go on to become a one-take feature?
Philip Barantini: Because of my background, having worked as a chef for 12 years, I had the idea of setting a film in a kitchen. I didn't think about its length until we’d decided to do the short film, almost like a proof of concept. The one-take thing happened after I talked about it with the DoP, saying, “I want to shoot it as something realistic and quite erratic, with overlapping dialogue, something fast-paced...”
Was it difficult to turn the short into a feature?
James Cummings, the co-writer, and I had a bunch of ideas about how to do it. I spoke to Stephen Graham, who was in the short, and I asked if he would be interested in making Boiling Point as a feature, and he said, "Definitely." One of the ideas was to use the short film, reshot, as the opening 20 minutes of a feature and have it play out more conventionally, with edits. However, I wasn't getting excited about it. The one-take thing and having the immersive experience just excited everybody – all of the actors, myself and the DoP – so I sat in bed one night and thought, “How could we do this as a one-take feature?” To answer your question, it wasn't like we thought it had to be a feature until we’d seen how the short was received.
In the short, you only follow Stephen's character; why did that change for the feature?
I thought that only following Stephen would be quite limiting as to what we can see and do because he can only go to certain places. As a chef, he wouldn't go to those tables. He would only go to the important tables; he wouldn't go anywhere else in the restaurant. So we came up with some rules: I wanted not to give the audience a breather, so the rule in the short film was that we would never leave Stephen, but the rule in the feature was that we would never leave a person. The camera could not roam off on its own. It always had to be motivated by someone.
How many times did you plan to shoot the single take? How long did you book the actors for?
Well, that was a challenge in itself. We decided to give ourselves four nights to shoot it; we were going to do it twice per night. It’s set in March, so it's still a little light outside. We would get there at 6pm. But then the coronavirus started exploding. On the second day, everyone got together and said it was getting too claustrophobic and too risky. There were over 150 people there at the same time. So we only had two days.
How did you plan all the camera moves?
I rehearsed it with the DoP every day for two weeks, first with his phone, where I'd be playing every character running around the restaurant. Then we brought along a DSLR and did it that way. Then we built a camera rig that was almost like a backpack, which enabled him to have the body of the camera on his back, and the lens could detach and he could hold it like a DSLR, with the weight distributed over his body. That enabled him to do those long takes. For the battery changes, every time we would go to Jason Flemyng's table, we would change the battery and the cards. We shot lots of behind-the-scenes footage and might potentially turn it into a 30-minute documentary to show people what we went through!
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