From Short to Feature with filmmakers Sam Bradford, Kyla Frye and Sam Benjamin

This week, Giles Alderson sat down to chat with filmmakers Sam Bradford, Kyla Frye and Sam Benjamin about their heist feature The Pay Day.

They started off by making short films together. ‘Having fun, but also feeling each other out as professionals. Sam Benjamin and Kyla knew each other long before I had stepped into the picture, but it was an opportunity for us to flex our muscles in the short’s world.’

People loved the short and ‘didn’t want it to end. And we were looking at each other going, maybe we’ve got something and it wasn’t long before we started talking about how we grow on this, how do we make this something bigger.’

But due to financial commitments – mortgages, etc. They went their own ways for some time to work on their own projects ‘but we always knew we would come back. It was just finding the right script and the right time for us all to do that.

Luckily, we managed to come back together and put The Pay Day onto paper. We were told, throughout the years between the short and the feature, you’ve got to do something with those characters. But we didn’t want it to be a direct link to the short.

We wanted to tip the hat to what we had done there and just go bigger with The Pay Day.’

Writing the Film

There are always so many drafts before a film gets made. And Sam Benjamin says that on a recent job, a director told him that ‘a script is never finished, it’s just abandoned. My role on the script was on a more screenwriting structure level.

Bradford and Kyla often had awesome ideas that got us out of situations where we were stuck. And when I was approaching it, I wanted to make sure that we a well-rounded feature film so we would then be free to try different things.’

Finding Spaces

‘Fortunately, Bradford was great at sourcing (locations) because we were just coming out of lockdown and the majority of London was very quiet, which was hugely beneficial. We shot in a new office development site in the Docklands and the east of London. 

Kyla went on to say that due to some promo work that Sam Bradford had done for a company and due to their good relationship, when the team were developing the script, Bradford had already considered asking if they could use the space.

‘During the lockdown, there were no other businesses in there, no one else needed the space. It was the perfect playground for us. It couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.’

Getting Started

Sam Benjamin credits Sam Bradford for making it happen. He recalls a meeting that Bradford had called to gauge everyone’s interest in making this feature. 

And he says they were wondering whether they were ‘going to do this? We could chase funding or why don’t we make it ourselves? It was that phrase that set the ball in motion.’

Working Parents

Kyla ‘added’ another element to the filmmaking pot, in that she had just ‘given birth (in 2019) and was still breastfeeding by the time we came to shoot the film.

The first day on set was the first time I’d left my kids to go back to work. And it was a bit like, what am I doing? And my husband, who’s also an actor, said to me, Kyla, remember who you are. You are an actor, you are a filmmaker, and you’re going to go in there and do what you do best. 

And that’s a thing for a lot of moms who are going back to work or finding their place back in the world – reminding themselves of who they are, and what it is they love to do. And creating movies is as much my baby as my babies are.’

She went on to say that it helped to have Benjamin and Bradford on set with her. They are ‘not just my colleagues and collaborators, they’re amazing people and friends. They were so supportive and considerate and we were really able to work with each other.’

Shooting The Film

They shot the film in three weeks. Sam Bradford says that ‘parts of it were dictated by the availability of talent. But everybody was more switched on and in tune with everything that we had to shoot, and I felt like that would serve the film.

On an indie, you’ve got to shoot more than you really should per day. So, time was really of the essence for most of the three weeks that we shot.’

And one thing that stood out for Kyla was when Sam Bradford shot ‘12 pages in 12 hours. That always gave me faith that no matter what we were up against, we were going to be able to get it done. If you could do 12 pages in 12 hours, that’s like miracle-making.’

Raising the Funds

They’d tried the crowdfunding route but Sam Bradford said ‘it’s difficult, especially when there are so many platforms to choose from.’

Raising money is a job in itself. ‘We first identified our immediate hard costs, like location and people’s time. Fortunately, I’m part of a production company called Prima. So we were able to lend kit and recruit through the production company on borrowed time, I guess.’

Sam believes that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get. We all have made good friends on our way and it was a case of speaking to those that we felt comfortable talking to, that we knew would be interested in supporting us and not putting any pressure on how much they wanted to give us.’

People need to trust you so that they don’t feel at risk when investing. ‘We wanted to demonstrate to them that we could do this well. And eventually, it’ll pay off. If not this one, it should be a launching pad for us to continue to make movies, and we want to invite you along for the ride. And thankfully those that we asked really responded well to that. 

It was just about being open and honest and wearing our hearts on our sleeve and saying, we really want to do this. We were as prudent as we could be during the prep of the film because we knew there were certain things that we would have to come back to.’

For more from Sam Bradford, Kyla Frye and Sam Benjamin; listen here.

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