Hunky Dory

Hunky Dory

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* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Hunky Dory (2011/2013)

Opened: 03/22/2013 Limited

Limited03/22/2013
Music Hall 303/22/2013 - 03/28/20137 days
DVD07/23/2013

Trailer: Click for trailer

Genre: British Drama

Rated: Unrated

A very different kind of 1970s glamrock musical. From the producer of Billy Elliot. Featuring songs by David Bowie, The Byrds, Nick Drake, The Beach Boys and ELO.

Relive the summer of 1976 in this heartwarming British musical from the producer of Billy Elliot. Minnie Driver plays Viv, a fiery high school drama teacher determined to fire up her hormonal, apathetic students by putting on the best end-of-the-year show the school has ever seen... a glam rock-infused musical version of Shakespeare's The Tempest. But as the Welsh summer begins to heat up, can she compete with the typical teenage distractions of sex and drugs with some great rock and roll? Find out in this fantastic, rousing film- but remove all fears of the typical teen-pop covered high school musicals from your minds, as the songs in this film are from legendary artists like David Bowie, The Beach Boys, ELO, and The Byrds.

Synopsis

It's the long hot British summer of 1976 and Viv (Minnie Driver) has left London and her thespian aspirations, to work as a drama teacher in the local high school of her south Wales home town. Determined to fire up her hormonal, apathetic teenage charges, she sets about staging a rock musical based on Shakespeare's The Tempest for the school's end of year show.

Battling the summer teenage distractions of love, lust and the local lido, Viv perseveres and rallies the group to express themselves through music and drama. The shy and sensitive Davy (Aneurin Barnard) shows talent and promise as male lead Ferdinand, but his crush on the beautiful, yet flighty Stella (Danielle Branch) who plays female lead Miranda only adds to the behind-the-scenes drama.

Spurned by Stella, Davy transfers his adoration to Viv, Stella discovers older boys, skinhead Kenny (Darren Evans) fights ridicule and self-doubt about being involved in the show at all and Evan (Tom Harries) is confused about his sexuality. Only the school's jovial headmaster (Robert Pugh) seems to be genuinely enjoying his role as Prospero, but when the school hall burns down, the entire show looks likely to fall apart.

Adversity eventually pulls them together, and all the angst and excitement of being on the brink of adulthood is played out in an emotional, evocative and rousing musical climax. From the producer of Billy Elliot, this crowd-pleasing musical will make audiences young and old smile with recognition.

Production Notes

"HUNKY DORY" started with a conversation between director/writer Marc Evans and producer Jon Finn about how tribal the British are about music, "We've got this fantastic pop-cultural life that we don't always celebrate and explore quite as much as the Americans do" explains Evans, "the idea for our high school movie came long before High School Musical and it was pre-Glee".

Producer Jon Finn noted that half of the problem is that there's never enough sunshine in Britain to have the kind of campus life those American high school movies seem to thrive on, until he and Evans started talking about the long hot summer of 1976 in the UK. They also hit upon the fact that 1976 was also a very interesting time when you started to think about it musically, and it was also an era Evans remembered well as he was at high school in Wales at the time.

"I suppose you could say the film's autobiographical for me because it's set in 1976 and that was my last year in high school. I would say it's slightly autobiographical or perhaps therapeutic for everybody who was involved. When you start work on a script like this, everyone recalls their own schooldays. We found a great quote from Cameron Crowe who said "Nothing lasts forever except for high school" and I think he's right, there's something about high school, for better or for worse, whether you had a great time or a bad time -- it's a period you never forget, and it's very influential on the rest of your life".

Writer Laurence Coriat who co-scripted Hunky Dory with Evans, is French, but she came over to England in 1976 as French teaching assistant and there are elements of her in the French girl who shares a house with drama teacher Viv (Minnie Driver) in the film. "It was this really hot summer and punk music was just starting, and Laurence thought England was this wonderful hot place with punk music!" explains Evans, "that was a freak summer of course but nevertheless she remembered '76 very fondly and very indelibly".

Producer Jon Finn's film production career started over 25 years ago with Working Title Films. He went on to head up the company's low budget film label WT2, and the first project they developed was the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Billy Elliot. After leaving WT2 to pursue his independent producing career, Finn met director Marc Evans and the two first collaborated on the Canadian-shot horror movie My Little Eye. Much of the following six years was taken up with musical stage version of Billy Elliot, "so this is the first film I've done since my last one with Marc, and we started taking about it back on My Little Eye".

Finn teamed up with LA-based producer Dan Lupovitz, to assist with the financing. Finn was able to utilize his experience and contacts from both the Billy Elliott film and stage musical for the whole process of putting Hunky Dory together, "For Billy, we had to find very specific kids who had a very specific skill base" explains Finn, "and we had a similar situation here. So we set up a casting department run by Jessica Ronane, as she constantly goes out and looks for kids for Billy because those kids have to be able to sing, dance and act. For Hunky Dory we wanted completely authentic kids who had to be around a certain age range". Ronane went out on the road and scoured the country, holding workshops and also searched the country for musicians to cover the orchestral work. "It was a long process, but we knew who the characters were and exactly what we needed. Aneurin Barnard we found quite quickly for Davy, and Danielle Branch to play Stella we found quite quickly as well, though finding Tom Harries for Evan took a lot longer."

"The south Wales area has produced so many amazing actors, especially around Port Talbot" explains Finn, "the last person to come out of there was Michael Sheen, and the first was probably Richard Burton. We got most of our kids from the Royal Welsh College in Cardiff which has produced this amazing crop of kids over the last couple of years. The college was incredibly supportive- both Aneurin and Danielle were there, and Tom (Harries) is just finishing and will graduate this year. South Wales seems to be slightly on fire with creativity right now."

To make the project really authentic, the production's agenda was to make everything live. As producer Dan Lupovitz explains, "we didn't want people lip-synching, so it's not just about the singing but also the playing. We constructed a forty-piece youth orchestra of high school kids playing and a chorus of twenty-six kids singing the choral parts. Joby Talbot composed the score and Jeremy Holland-Smith arranged the music to be suitable for a high school orchestra as well as being suitable for the songs that they were arranging. So musically, we ended up with an incredibly unique blend of adolescent innocence and these very hip rock 'n' roll songs."

With such a heavily music-led project, one of the major challenges was getting clearances and permissions to use certain tracks from the 1970s. As producer Jon Finn recalls, "the permissions were really tricky and they took such a long time. David Bowie was quite quick in coming back, but we wanted to do Lou Reed's 'Venus in Furs' for this whole opening and I spent a year trying to clear those rights. In the end we just couldn't get them so we had to change the opening of the film, but that was the only one we were really defeated on."

Trying to recreate the hottest summer on record for over thirty years in Wales during the less than sweltering summer of 2010 was certainly a challenge for the production. "The schedule was insane and the pressure was on everybody and on the budget because of the weather, which kept changing so much, so the shooting schedule changed every day. Working with Marc at that point was like working with a slightly demented farmer!" laughs Finn. "I'd go and pick him up in the morning, he'd step out, and he'd go, 'the weather's going to be fine today!'. And it never was, it always rained and no matter whatever little homily he came up with about the color of the sky, it was bollocks, and it rained every day... sometimes twice a day. So, we just kept dropping scenes and rescheduling constantly. Everybody was very enthusiastic about standing in the sun, the little bit there was. There are a couple of scenes that take place in the sun that were actually shot in the pouring rain, and our director of photography Charlotte did an amazing job because I don't think you can tell!"

"The other thing about the look of the film is all to do with Marc's strengths" notes Finn. "When Marc was younger he wanted to be a painter so he approached the film from a very visual perspective- he didn't want to do any color grading in post. He wanted to set the tones the way they did in the 1970s and for that reason, we used two filters throughout, one was an antiques way and one was a low contrast filter, so it would blow the whites out slightly and saturate the oranges and make it warm. That look was planned from the start."

One of the most important locations was the lido (ed.: "lido" = a public swimming pool and surrounding facilities), because that was often ground zero for typical 70s teenage life. The opening scene that takes place there was one of the biggest challenges of all, as Finn explains: "the lido scene is at the opening of the film. The lido where we filmed was the last lido that still exists in south Wales... we found it the year before. But two weeks before filming, they closed it down because of health and safety. They drained the entire pool of something close to a million liters of water. So our location disappeared two weeks before, and we had to scramble like hell to get the location back in time. This meant meeting the local councils, as that lido was built by miners on the top of a mountain and is only used by the local community. Because it was drained, we had to try and fill the pool up, so we spoke with the water authority who told us we'd have to fill it at night because the local village would be short of water pressure otherwise."

Things went from bad to worse, as Finn recalls, "we discovered they normally fill it from the river, so we tried that but were told we needed a license so had to call a halt." Committed to filming there, production resorted to asking the local fire service to calculate how much water it would take to fill it, so they could bring huge containers of water in on trucks. To Finn's horror, it turned out that the firemen got their calculations wrong and he got a call in the middle of the night to say the pool was only half-full and they'd run out of time- and filming was scheduled for the next morning! "So, in the film, the pool's only half full of water. Every time they jump in, it's a six foot drop before you hit the water!"

The joys of filmmaking...

 

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