Giles Alderson and Dom Lenoir met Ado Yoshizaki Cassuto as an indie film producer about two years ago at their MakeYourFilm Event. Since then he has made The Pale Horse (2020), and the new Channel 4 TV Mini-Series Deceit (2021).
Working in the Pandemic
Work started on Deceit last June. “We were in the first lockdown – the kids weren’t in school and it was about three or four months before we were actually in production. There was a period where the coronavirus cases were quite low during the summer.
Very steadily through the last five or six weeks of our prep, the numbers started to go in a pretty worrying direction. And then when we started the shoot, we were at about 5,000 cases a day, and it started to go nuts after that. Every single day until December, when we finished, was a trial. It was hard work.”
How it All Started
Ado had met David Nath from Story Films around March last year. “Dave, who’s a BAFTA-winning documentary filmmaker himself, and has done some amazing shows – true crime sort of stories – wanted to get this off the ground in May, then the pandemic struck and I was wondering what was going to happen.”
Later, he came back to Ado to let him know that Channel 4 were interested and were exploring whether they could go ahead and what the costs would be to make Deceit with COVID restrictions and regulations.
“And then basically in July, it was greenlit. Niamh was already attached and we searched for directors and got Niall MacCormick on board. It started to become more real through August. September was prep. And October is when we started. And 52 days later we’d finished shooting – it was a marathon.”
Ado said that he wasn’t really involved in development. Deceit “had been in development for about four years. The amount of research and getting the consent of victim’s families. They spent years doing that. So I’ve really been lucky to come in at the end.”
Making Real Life Cinematic
“I remember being on a call with the commissioner (of Channel 4) and she said we want to be different – more vibrant, more dynamic, more colourful, more cinematic. And we sort of went down that route straight away.”
Everything that was depicted in the show happened at some point in real life. It was all based on true life.
“Each episode starts with a whole bunch of legal captions – what you can, and can’t say when you talked about undercover officers and the lengths that they went to.
I wish I’d been able to add because I think it would add something to it, that every single phone call between Lizzie and Colin is verbatim and every single letter is word for word.
All the police interviews of verbatim, obviously chopped and edited down and moved around. I think it just adds that layer, because you could do a docu-drama where you have the people reading the letters, you’re reading out the transcripts and then a vague attempt at drama reconstruction, but it’s trying to embed all of that within.”
Film Vs TV, as a Producer
He said that the film and TV worlds are so different. In the film world, “you do everything from the start and you’re in charge of absolutely every little bit of it. And you have responsibilities entirely on you and if it happens, you feel it’s like your baby, it’s such a labour of love.
With the TV series, I came in at a later point. I would get sent things that were either greenlit or almost greenlit, and that’s how the TV world functions at the minute. It’s sort of more of a business and it’s more stable in terms of what’s doable.”
The Pale Horse
Talking about his experience on The Pale Horse, Ado said “Leo is spectacular. I had the best experience working with Leo.”
About eight or nine weeks before shooting, Ado was planning the shoot with Mammoth and they were discussing who would direct. There was someone in the running and “I thought they had it and was fully prepared to go down that route. And then there was a series called Endeavour that Mammoth made, Leo must’ve come in for an interview about one of the episodes and then somebody had a brainwave and said I’ve just met Leo Lonsdale, it’s a crazy idea, but maybe we should think about her. And about a week and a half later she was in the director’s chair.”
Ado asked her to read the book, and after working through the night to make her pitch document, they met up the next day.
What Made Leo’s Pitch Stand Out?
The bulk of it was her short film. “She’d done a short film called Beast, produced by her husband Jack Sidey and starring Billie Piper.
We watched Beast and it had this sort of goth beauty to it. It was really well done – composed but vibrant. And it had a sort of sensibility that was really exciting.”
In the room, Leo talked about The Pale Horse and the scripts.
“Sarah had written some scripts which have all this unbelievable strength to them – brute strength and just unbelievable dialogue, and Leo brought a sort of elevated classiness and sheen to it, which sort of merged the two worlds. Mark Easterbrook (Rufus Sewell) looks absolutely phenomenal because Leo wanted him to look like that and the whole series has this beauty to it, which is makes the horror even darker.”
Leo’s pitch documents complemented her thoughts and included black and white photos, and references from sixties movies where they had that sort of vibe.
“I sat in with about six or seven directors and each one had something different that was intriguing. And at the end of the day, it’s just the decision: who do you feel you can trust with the material the most?”
You can listen to more of this masterclass on producing with Ado, here.