Little Favour, Big Impact
Posted on Sunday November 3, 2013, 21:59 by Nev Pierce in Off The Wire
This is the story of a Little Favour made of big ones, a personal trainer with a gift for storytelling and a British actor proving he can kick ass like a Yank.
Of course, Benedict Cumberbatch has already battled beyond the stars, but Trek is fantasy, whereas the brisk, punchy Little Favour – apparently the highest selling short on iTunes, even before release – is a resolutely contemporary piece.
Cumberbatch plays Wallace, an ex-serviceman haunted by his past and pulled back into violence when a former comrade-in-arms (Colin Salmon) asks him for the titular kindness. Revealing much more would be to spoil the surprises of a short that pulls off the rare trick of leaving you both satisfied and wanting more.
Writer/director Patrick Victor Monroe has known Cumberbatch for a few years – introduced by mutual friend Tom Hardy – but they got to know each other better when Monroe trained him to play Khan. “Because I was bulking up so quickly and doing it, he was like, ‘You can do this – great!’” recalls Cumberbatch, speaking on the night of the film’s London premiere. “We talked a lot about doing action or thrillers and he started to develop a script and very quietly, very humbly, in his way, said ‘Do you want to read it?’”
Cumberbatch was smitten with the story and they set about finding collaborators and finance, quickly lining it up as the first outing for SunnyMarch – a production company founded by Cumberbatch and industry friends Adam Ackland, Ben Dillon and Adam Selves. But they had a brief window before their star was due back at work on Sherlock – and needed to find 25 grand to fund it. They turned to crowd-funding site indiegogo and within 12 days... had £86,240.
“I was blown away, completely blown away,” says Cumberbatch, “To have that much goodwill come back.” The enhanced budget meant that though there was inevitably a bit of kick-bollock-scramble due to the timeframe, the production values were A-list.
“It grew and it grew and it grew,” says Ackland, who points to how the boost to the budget allowed them to use Sony’s new F65 camera – which does produce remarkable results: the versatility of digital with the beauty of film. “It’s truly feature-worthy in its quality,” says Cumberbatch. “And I think that kind of goes across the board, the kind of quality jump, which makes it look as slick as it does – it sort of all happened exponentially.”
The star describes Monroe as “quite an extraordinary individual” and there certainly can’t be many boys from the South Bronx who moved into filmmaking via a stint in the Marines, years of suffering a degenerative bone disease, learning to walk again and then training Bane and Khan to fight. He’s a curiously peaceful man, who speaks in an accent caught between New York and well-bred England. The extra budget didn’t, he says, lead to extra pressure. “Because all the pressure I needed was already there. The main pressure came from wanting to achieve something that Benedict could benefit from. I didn’t want this to be charity, I wanted it to be something that showed the world what I see in Benedict, that I don’t think he’s really had a chance to express.”
Little Favour certainly does that, conveying the sense that Cumberbatch – far from being bound to period dramas or elementary detectives – could carry an action film, in the lead. “That’s what the goal was,” says Monroe, “to make sure the world can see that he’s got a lot more to offer. He’s absolutely the leading man, absolutely the hero. I’m excited to see what comes his way. I have never met anyone that works so hard, that is as disciplined. He worked as hard on Little Favour as he did on Star Trek 2, which is such a testament to his integrity.”
The film itself manages to balance character and action, fully convincing with what is essentially an American genre, but within an English environment. It’s perhaps setting your expectations a little high, but it has the feel of The Ipcress File as directed by John Woo. “I wanted to do something that had a film noir element to it,” says Monroe. “Kind of a British espionage drama, with American action and Asia Extreme kind of ballsiness, so to speak.”
As well as Cumberbatch and Salmon, there’s a convincing turn from Nick Moran as an Eastern European heavy, but perhaps the most impressive performance is from Monroe’s 11-year-old daughter – Paris Winter Monroe – in a key role, the details of which should remain secret. “I’m just so happy she delivered and she was what my instincts kind of told me she would be,” says Monroe Snr. “She surprised even me – even given our preparation. I’m just really, really proud.”
Monroe is now expanding the short into a feature – “I have it all mapped out” – though there’s no telling if it will be SunnyMarch’s first full-length production. Cumberbatch describes the nascent company as “spoilt for choice”, with both original material and adaptations under consideration – including a “fantastic” script by Selves. “Which we can’t tell you about,” says Dillon, quickly – to much laughter. “This is what friends do,” says Cumberbatch, of being reined in. “Should always do.”
The team don’t rule out trying crowd-funding again, though more traditional financing is expected for future projects, and they are adamant that should Little Favour recover its costs, its backers will be reimbursed. “If we do ever make the money we spent, we’ll pay back every single person who has put into the film,” says Ackland, “because they’re the ones who have made it happen.”
The broad, worldwide support for the short certainly augurs well for the company’s future prospects, from the crowd-funding campaign itself to the vociferous fanbase evident on Twitter. “Adam showed me one the other night,” says Selves, “where these two girls – one in Canada, one in Japan – were teaching someone in Turkey how to set up an iTunes account [to order the film].” Cumberbatch laughs: “For that alone, I’m happy with the film! By facilitating a global interchange on how to master modern technology, I can walk away from this a very proud man!”
Little Favour is available for download now, from iTunes.