Black Pond


Written by Dan Hampson
06 Sunday 06th November 2011

Much has been made about the seriously impressive budget you made this film on, which I think was £25,000?  Did you write the screenplay with the budget in mind or was it an obstacle you had to work around?

Will Sharpe: We tried to keep to as few locations as possible and to make sure the locations were definitely achievable. No scenes in places like airports or hotels, which would have meant more admin and probably more cost.  

Tom Kingsley: It can be hard working with a small budget, but in a lot of ways it forced us to be more creative. Restrictions can be helpful. Also the more money you have to make a film, the less creative freedom you have. 

A lot of the cast come from stage backgrounds and consequently the film is brilliantly acted throughout, what informed this choice?

WS: I knew Amanda (Hadingue) from working with her at the RSC.  And I'd met Colin (Hurley) a few times having seen him perform with a theatre company called The Factory. So I already knew they were good and that they could handle text, which was important because there's a lot of people talking in the script - sometimes in an everyday babble sort of way but also, sometimes, in quite a heightened way. I'd also seen that they were both very funny, which was important as well.  

TK: Helen Cripps and Anna O'Grady, who play the daughters, are good friends from university, so it was a similar thing.

Chris Langham’s performance as the father/husband is absolutely inspired and almost Partridge-esque at times. Did you have him in mind when you wrote the part of Tom?

WS: He was in our heads as an ideal Tom Thompson from very early on, back when we were talking about story, pre-script even. Chris is one of the finest comic talents living today but there's also a frailty and vulnerability in his performances and it's that combination which is so great to watch I think.   

I’d probably describe Black Pond as being a uniquely British comedy, with the subtle and often quite dark humour in mind but perhaps it’s more complex than that.  What films/TV did you two watch growing up that informed your writing?

TK: We have a very broad taste in film - but we didn't try to make Black Pond in the style of anything else. Even if we had, the process of constantly adapting the story to fit in with filming constraints would have meant those influences would soon disappear. Unexpectedly, District 9 is the one film that probably did inspire Black Pond directly - because it showed us that it's not too strange to mix documentary footage into a conventionally told film narrative. 

WS: I know what you mean by British, but I'm not sure you need to be British to enjoy it. It's basically just about being a human being. My Japanese aunt watched it recently. She can't speak a word of English and she lives in the suburbs of Tokyo. She phoned up and gave this incredibly detailed appraisal of the whole thing. It was like there wasn't a single nuance that had passed her by! So I don't think you need to be from Britain to get what's going on between the characters and to take something from it.  

The chronology of the film lends it a strange feel. The climax (as it were) is inevitable, as we already know how it will play out, yet it doesn’t feel any less compelling or affecting when it does. Did you ever toy with the idea of adopting a more conventional approach to the structure?

WS: Yes. Originally it was much more linear. 

TK: Some of the feedback for early edits would talk about the 'twist' at the end. But we never thought of it as a twist. It was just the end of the story. So we thought if we said what was going to happen right at the beginning, then you wouldn't be trying to guess what the characters are going to do next - but would instead try and understand why the characters behave the way they do.

The plot centres around a family teetering on the brink of total collapse, held together at times by an animal and two semi strangers, are you making a comment on the changing face of the nuclear family in 2011?

TK: We didn't set out to make a political point or anything. It's sometimes a bit annoying when a story is trying to get a message across. However, we were just trying to be naturalistic and truthful about it, so I suppose it's inevitable that it reflects part of modern society.  

WS: We didn't set out to comment on anything, no. I suppose one thing is that the film deals a bit with solitude and the need for human beings to be with each other. To Blake, and to Tim for that matter, The Thompsons are this rich source of human interaction; they seem like a perfect picket-fence family, something to be jealous of, something to want to be a part of. But to The Thompsons, The Thompsons are just a crushingly ordinary group of people who live out this infuriatingly bland existence. . 

Black Pond screens at the Prince Charles Cinema, London, from 11th-17th November. Book tickets, watch the trailer and find details of regional screenings at

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