Students at the University of Nottingham (UoN) are always making an impact. Whether through clubs, societies, or academia – there’s a huge array of talent on offer. Joe Archer is one such individual. Over the past year he’s been directing his very own film project, now set to finish shooting over the next two weeks.
House Party Raiders follows the downward spiral of 2nd year Economics student James into a life of crime. After the realisation he is working his way into thousands of pounds worth of debt doing a course he doesn’t care about and living with housemates he detests, James hatches a plan with his drug dealing friend to rob drunk people at house parties. Throughout the piece, James and his gang gain infamy for their violence, leading James to question his actions, decisions and future.
IMPACT caught-up with Joe for the following interview.
Is this your first time directing a film?
It’s definitely the first feature film I’ve made. Before that, I can only think of shorts in secondary school. That’s why I had to get involved with people from the New theatre, and the film society, things like that.
Overall, how many societies have been involved in making House Party Raiders?
Quite a lot, it’s a big cross-campus project. First we went to the film society to get cameras and lighting equipment – stuff like that. I’m mainly working with Dominic Howlett, who’s doing Anything Goes at the moment. I saw it last night – absolutely brilliant. I’d advise everyone to go and watch it. Dom uses this thing called a red camera – the highest quality you can get. We filmed in 4k, which makes everything look beautiful. As director, I had to make the call whether to go for realistic shots, or something more artsy. In the end, we went for artsy. That’s the sort of effect we’re going for. The colour palette is very moody. It’s got the look of a Danish detective drama.
After the film society we needed to get actors, which we found via Nottingham New Theatre. We have a cast of about 15 to 20 main characters. Choosing them was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. It happened over two days. God…it was just terrible! 60 people auditioned for each of the roles. It was very difficult trying to narrow it down. The New Theatre has such a wealth of talent.
We’re also working with music society – potentially. URN is involved partially, but it’s mostly my own project. There’s a lot of other people involved too. Improv society are doing work as extras. It’s brought a lot of people together.
“We have a cast of about 15 to 20 main characters. Choosing them was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done.”
The plot seems heavily inspired by student lifestyles. Was this an idea that came to you during your student years?
It was the summer exam season last year – I woke up one morning and this idea came to me. It must have been 6 o’clock in the morning, on the day before an exam. I remember thinking – this is great. So I scribbled down the basic outline, what was going to happen – this and that. After exams, we had a lot more time. So the idea grew. Sadly, I couldn’t dedicate my full time to it as I was working down in London, in Leicester Square. I had an internship with a radio station. My brother is coming here (UoN) next year, and I knew he was very good at writing, so I trusted him with the script. I’d say he did about 99% of the core dialogue – which is what makes it so good. I’m amazed at what a great job he’s done.
What genre of film is House Party Raiders?
Well, it’s difficult to say. There are lots of funny moments, but some bits are very touching and emotional.
The main character isn’t really a character – but he’s surrounded by interesting people. Typical students. His house-mates are the worst people that we all know. So it’s a bit of a satire as well. In terms of drama, it’s got a downward spiral. There’s lots of different elements at play, it’s an interesting mix. Coming to a cinema near you – if you live in Lenton (Laughs).
Was it difficult negotiating with cinemas to play the film?
It depends on the type of cinema. Savoy are very, very chilled. Literally – they want to know ticket prices, what you’re gonna show, is it a party, premiere – stuff like that.
“The main character isn’t really a character – but he’s surrounded by interesting people…His house-mates are the worst people that we all know.”
It wasn’t that difficult because Nottingham has a rich history of filmmaking. People like Shayne Meadows, who’s been a massive influence on the film. Also, there are lots of film festivals throughout the year. Broadway cinema was where Tarantino first showed Reservoir Dogs, so they’re always up for new films – for that exact reason.
Do you have any standout memories from your time filming?
For me, the best moments are when the cast and crew contribute ideas. Usually, they come up to me and say – “what if we did it like this?”– and it turns out brilliant. Although, the most satisfying moment came when we were doing call-backs, and we had two casts. We had the edgier group, and the solid one. We started to mix and match, crossing them over. But afterwards, seeing the script come to life for the first time – even though it was in a seminar room – that was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever seen, especially after 48 hours of stressful casting!
What have been the biggest challenges of directing this film?
What’s interesting about House Party Raiders is that 90% of it takes place at night, so all we need [in terms of sets] are the inside of people’s houses. Actually, there’s one scene that we filmed inside Hallward, but when we shot the exterior – it’s the library on Jubilee (laughs). Nottingham students are going to be so confused.
One of the hardest tasks was writing the script with my brother. It turned out well in the end, but at first – it was like handing over my baby. There were a few things that I wasn’t ok with, but once I realised he had a firm grasp of the idea, I began to trust him more. In the end, it worked out really well.
“One of the actresses went to A and E…She had to be taken out of filming for weeks because her eye was messed up.”
Timetabling was also an issue. We’d have everything planned out neatly – then something would crop up at the last minute. We were trying to shoot this couples scene – and one of the actresses had been to A and E the night before. She had to be taken out of filming for weeks because her eye was messed up. Things like that have a knock-on effect.
The other story was when I got quite angry at this guy for being late. I was on the phone saying, “Look, we’re all here, where are you?’ And he was like “I’m sorry, my charity meeting ran over” (Laughs). I felt pretty bad afterwards. I ended up apologising.
How did you manage to balance filming alongside the pressures of a full-time degree?
I missed a lot of lectures (laughs). I think I just about got away with it. It was very stressful – but worth it in the end. What really made it worthwhile was when we first saw the footage. Seeing something on set and watching it back are two different experiences. When recorded, you can see so much that you missed at the time – so much that’s wrong. You stress over every detail. I remember the first time me and Dom watched Anything Goes, he pinched me every time something went wrong. I was loving it – it was really, really good. But he was being super-critical. I remember the first time we showed footage of the film. People were amazed, and lots were like ‘This is really good’ – and I was like, ‘No its not’ (laughs). But when you take a step back, you realise that it’s actually not that bad. In fact, it’s pretty good.
House Party Raiders will be released in June – catch it in cinemas!
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Image sourced from House Party Raiders, The University of Nottingham.