Giving an exceptional, immersive powerhouse performance, one of Britain's best-loved actors Stephen Graham cooks up a storm as a chef heading for Boiling Point, in this edge-of-seat feature from director Philip Barantini – the acclaimed actor and director (Band of Brothers, Chernobyl). Stunningly filmed in one mind-blowing 90- minute take, the film throws us headfirst into the nerve-jangling world of a professional kitchen, for a raw and unremitting, unforgettable experience.
Now this critically acclaimed British drama, featuring an all-star cast is set for the much-deserved Boiling Point Limited Edition Blu-ray, from experts in the field Second Sight Films. In line with the film's lovely new limited edition blu-ray, Filmhounds spoke to the film's director Philip Barantini about all things Boiling Point.
Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind the short film first, and then adapting it for a feature, and now as a television series?
Well, I was an actor from about 25 years old and during that time I wasn't as successful as I'd liked to have been, I needed to make some money, so I started working in kitchens. I worked from the bottom all the way up to the top over twelve years and during that time I'd always had a burning desire to direct. The whole time I was working in kitchens I did love it, it was a passion to me, getting to be creative. In those ten years, I literally went on a rollercoaster journey, and I witnessed and experienced so many things, I always thought it would make a good film, or a tv show.
I've been sober for seven years, and you know during that time when I was working in kitchens, I went to a really dark place; drink, drugs, all of that. My mum died six years ago, I'd been sober a year and it was just a life confirming thing to me, you know, let me just jump off the cliff and see what happens here. A friend of mine had written a great short film about a boxer, I directed that and just got the buzz. That was like my addiction coming back, like this is something I could get into.
I wonder then, coming from the twenty-minute short film, I imagine that was the structural framework you used to flesh out the full feature?
Yeah, so some of the stuff in the short stayed in the feature, some similar narrative beats. The idea for the short was that the camera never leaves Stephen, it's Stephen's story, and the idea for the feature was to explore other people as well, even if it just a quick thirty seconds, or minute, with someone else, I wanted to do that. So myself, and Matt Lewis the cinematographer, had this rule that the camera is never allowed to leave a person, it can't just float off on its own. So that's how we wrote the script, we had the location already and we wrote the script around that location; normally you write a script, try and find a location and if it doesn't fit you have to adapt. With this, we had the location and had to write that space into the script. Once we knew we could do the one take, and we could shoot for a really long time we were all go.
What type of timeframe are we talking about in terms of pre-production, did you have a lot of time to rehearse?
Not at all. I mean we had a bit of time; me, Matt, and James my co-writer, had roughly three weeks before the actors came in. We were in the restaurant, and we would just map it out with a camera and our phones, I'd be playing all the characters running around the restaurant, Matt would be filming, and James would be writing new bits down. Then when the actors came in, before they set foot on the set, me and Matt knew exactly where they needed to be at each point. So, in rehearsals we kind of just built it in layers. We started from the beginning with Stephen walking into the restaurant, once that was right, we'd continue it on.
So, you're really working to build momentum here?
Exactly, and I made sure that it wasn't just the actors on set during rehearsals, we had our sound team there, so that they could chip in and create a real collaborative team effort. We just built it, built it and built it and at the end we all collapsed!
I can imagine, it must've felt like working one of those shifts again.
Well, that's how we treated it really, I wanted the audience to feel like they were dropped in midway through this shift and we pulled them out at the end after all this stuff has happened. In reality, the likelihood that all of this could happen in an hour and a half – I mean it could happen – but you know, it's a film at the end of the day. The way we shot it, with the one-take, we couldn't you know flash backwards or forwards or anything.
So, talking a little bit about the upcoming TV series, how did that opportunity come about?
Yeah, this whole process, I'm not going to lie, has been just madly organic. The way that it's all happened, I'm a big believer in energy and power of the universe and all that kind of stuff, especially since my mum passed away, you know, I do feel her presence and her energy driving me forward. So, the film was at London Film Festival, and you know we'd held back on the film for over a year because of COVID and stuff like that, and we couldn't release it, nobody knew what was going to happen with cinemas, we were like, ‘is it even gonna get seen?'. Then when it came out, I was thinking about exploring it a bit more, you know maybe we do a second film, because people would ask me like “what happened to this character” etc. So, I was thinking, maybe we should think about doing TV series, and I'm not joking, literally within a week, I hadn't even spoken to anyone other than Stephen and James, and I got an email from Mona, who at the time was the commissioning editor at the BBC, and she's like “Phil, can we have a call?”, I hop on the Zoom, and she says “Phil, I've been thinking, Boiling Point, would you ever consider doing a TV series about that?”. I was like, are you fucking joking me, I've got a tonne of ideas. So, we sent over a script, they green lit it, and here we are. The wheels are well in motion.
One thing I remember from the first time I saw the film, I saw it at a screening in FACT, which you and Stephen were at for a Q&A, it was like incredible screening and there are certain moments where I remember the audience who were totally packed into this theatre, and you could physically feel the oxygen from each audience member being sucked out of the room. It was incredible, and one of the moments that really stuck with me was the scene between Jamie (Stephen McMillan) and Emily (Hannah Walters). So, you kind of alluded to it yourself, you wanted to explore these other characters in the feature, is that something you're looking to do more in the TV show, or is it going to be still kind of central on a head chef?
No, it is exactly what you just said, we've got an opportunity to explore social realism and people's lives and what they're going through, without alluding too much to it. We also don't want to be massively expositional, you know, nothing's ever fully completed because that's life. So, we do explore that and the loose premise for the TV series is, we're at new restaurant, Carly (Vinette Robinson) with approached by this investor, she's the new head chef of this brand-new place in East London, she's brought the majority of the team with her, it's a much bigger place than the previous restaurant and that comes with its own issues.
I guess then aesthetically, the feature was one continues take. I doubt that is going to carry over into the TV show, but I wonder how do you go about transposing that kind of emotion and frenetic energy that it gave Boiling Point, onto a TV show?
It's a good question, we don't want to replicate it or limit ourselves in terms of what we can show or what we can potentially do, but there will be moments of that in in the show. There will be moments of long, drawn out takes because, I want the audience to feel that energy, that tension and that thrill of a packed space, it's important. So, there will be moments of that scattered throughout the series, but there will be cuts. We're still playing with the idea of whether we're going to use two cameras or will just using one work, so that we can get that real frenetic energy. Essentially, we want the audience to feel the same as they did in the feature, but without doing the one takes.
Finally, I know you're incredibly busy, but I'd like to ask what was the last great thing you watched? It could be a film, television, anything.
A film called God's Creatures. It's beautiful. I've also watched Aftersun, I'm on the main jury for BIFA this year and I've got to watch a load of these wonderful films. It's good for me, in the last year I've had no spare time so all these films are piling up and now that I'm doing the BIFAs this year, I'm so glad I can watch all these films. So those two are amazing, and as well I've managed to watch the first episode of The White Lotus, the new season. I love that show!
Boiling Point Limited Edition Blu-ray is available now from Second Sight Films.