We were commissioned to create a full EPK / behind-the-scenes package for independent drama Giantland, which was filmed pre-COVID.
It’s the last heat of summer. Ten years old, Ryan spends his time fighting aliens and befriending wild animals on the Giantlands, a forgotten industrial wasteland behind his estate. He dreams of the dad he never knew. So when he discovers a bearded man, injured and hiding in one of the shipping containers stored there, it’s a dream come true. Or is it?
This was a very ambitious production, pitched as ‘Kes meets Whistle Down the Wind’. It was all filmed in and around a location near Pinewood Studios. The talented cast included Joshua Herdman (Harry Potter) and Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake) and we caught up with them in the makeup trailer to hear a bit about playing their roles. Mitchell Norman who played Ryan was completely new to acting. Goran Bogdan, who plays the stranger Ryan meets, describes the script as like reading a great novel, and used his memories of actually being a refugee as a child to influence his performance.
Director Yousaf Ali Khan told us that they had ‘literally built everything’ and this was indeed the case. The production designers had used many of the existing locations within a very small radius – woodlands, lakes, wasteland – but had also modified them, including building a short section of railway line in the forest (using real sleepers, insulation coving and poly rocks) for Ryan to walk along. And that, as Co-Producer Michael Taylor tells us, “is how you shoot a little boy walking along a railway line on a budget!”
For Ryan’s home, the production used the downstairs of a real house, but recreated the upstairs on a nearby stage. With the space built around 20% bigger than what the real upstairs would have offered, this gave far more room for the cameras and allowed for such common film set tricks as floating walls and no ceilings. Lighting techniques courtesy of Director of Photography Kyle Heslop could then provide shadows of looming construction cranes outside Ryan’s bedroom (which were small cardboard models!) and car headlights, which were simply spotlights mounted on a track and dolly moving past the fake windows.
Stunt coordinator Russell Macleod oversaw a sequence where Ryan is supposedly knocked off his bike by a car. This made use of several tricks – a VFX plate was filmed to combine the boy and the car skidding to a halt in the same frame, while a shot from inside the car showed Ryan hitting the bonnet, where he was able to land on a stunt pad below. Finally Ryan was filmed rolling on the round with dust clouds settling. There was also some pyrotechnic effects in the film including a van explosion.
The shoot was a great example of what can be achieved with an inventive crew on a small budget, and it was great to be able to document it.