Print & Features Editor Jess Parker interviews Caroline Spence, Producer and Writer for Raya Films’ ‘Best Geezer’

Print & Features Editor and MA Film and Television: Research and Production student.
Images by @RayaFilmsLondon on Facebook , image via Raya Films

Hi Caroline, it’s great to meet you! How are you doing?

Hi Jess, lovely to meet you! I’m on a boat in Spain at the moment so sorry if the background looks a bit weird!

Oh, not at all!

We’re the weirdest film production company – we do all of our editing on an old boat in Spain!

Well, there are definitely worst spots! So, for our readers who might not be clued in with your recent feature film Best Geezer, how would you describe it?

Best Geezer is a heartwarming comedy. It’s a real feel-good comedy. It’s kind of a gentle mick-take of the British crime, like early guy Ritchie stuff. Ours is about three guys, who are nice, but dim guys, who aspire to make a feature film – a geezer movie.

They work in a failing corporate video business, so they decide that they can make a geezer movie and hit the big time with this film. The film is about the ups and downs of how they get the money and how they cast the film. It’s not plain sailing, but as with all of our films, we don’t do sad endings…that’s a bit of a spoiler for you!

Working alongside director James Smith when you were developing the film, where did the idea originally come from? You mentioned Guy Ritchie?

Well, to be honest, those kind of movies aren’t really my thing – you know, all of this violence and smashing each other’s heads in and stuff. This movie was my stupid idea. We were actually here on the boat, and I think the latest Rise of the Foot solider film was coming out and they were filming in one of the locations where we shot Best Geezer, and we were thinking, is there some kind of film festival or awards ceremony that is purely geared towards these crime movies, and wouldn’t it be funny if there was such a thing? And thus, the story was born from that. J Smith grew up on Canvey Island in Essex, so he has a lot of the insight into the humour down there, and the idiosyncrasies of the people in that neck of the woods.

Thinking about the film’s themes, you’ve got a film where these guys start with a fairly low budget that suddenly becomes really big, and in turn, you’ve made this film with a budget of around £5000 and gone on to win two awards in Hollywood. Was this idea of life imitating art intentional when you started off?

we’re low budget filmmakers aspiring to do bigger and better each time

No not at all! In a way it was about life imitating art. We came into filmmaking in our 40s, we didn’t go to film school, we didn’t do anything formally. We just kind of fell into it, so we have a lot of background in working in different spheres. A lot of our experiences when we first started in the audiovisual realm we worked in corporate video, so we put a lot of that experience into the film and that’s taken from our real lives.

And of course, we’re low budget filmmakers aspiring to do bigger and better each time, and in every film, we make, we want it to be the best it can be and take it as far as we can possibly take it. Because these films are made on virtually no money, we are under virtually no illusions, but it doesn’t stop us from trying.

It was unintentional. We could not have predicted that the film would have been picked up by a film festival in Hollywood and would win two awards. That was definitely not on the cards when we were planning the film, but it’s so interesting how our lives have kind of mirrored the story of the three guys in Best Geezer.

Moving from that point, what would be the main takeaway that you would hope audiences to have from Best Geezer?

if you aspire to do something you should try to do it, because at least then you’ve tried

Well, we want audiences to have a laugh. There are no hidden messages or morals in the film really other than ‘if you aspire to do something you should try to do it, because at least then you’ve tried’. I guess that’s the main moral in that film. Other than that, it’s just pure entertainment and having a laugh at the film business. We’re poking fun at a business of which we are part, and trying to break into a specific humour that Essex seems to propagate. Entertainment is the main takeaway.

Now, moving on from Best Geezer, can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming feature film, Daggers Inn?

Daggers inn is very very different [to Best Geezer]. It still has a thread of humour throughout it, we always end up having humorous sides in our storylines, but it’s very different. We did film that in Essex as well but it’s not an Essex story. It’s an atmospheric murder mystery that revolves around a very small medieval village in the middle of the countryside. A young woman comes to the village to uncover who murdered her sister two years ago, and in doing so, she uncovers this web of conspiracy in a law firm that facilitates the village. So, all roads lead to this law firm. Using her specific skills, she dives into each person’s motives and manipulates them in a way that she hopes to get her answers in the end. We never state it specifically, but there is an underlying theme of witchcraft within the film that adds to the atmosphere and intrigue.

Something I was wondering, are we going to get any sort of reference to Knives Out?

Within the film no, but certainly within the marketing! We’re going to be saying that it’s like a mini–Knives Out in a way, because that film has a lot of humour, an ensemble cast, a lot of intrigue, and it involves pointy things that stab!

Now, to wrap us up, is there anything that you’d like to say to our readers who might be interested in breaking into the world of filmmaking?

To be honest, when I was in Education, we didn’t have any of this technology. We didn’t have internet, no mobile phones that you could make movies on, we didn’t have anything. You’re very lucky to be living in the world of today if you’re interested in the audio-visual market because you have so much affordable technology at your fingertips. There’s no excuse not to get out there and do it. I would say, watch as many films or TV shows as you can: from all eras, from all countries, just be a real movie guru. Then you get to see different ways of filmmaking and different directorial styles. Read screenplays as well. You can learn the basics on YouTube, and then you’ve got to get out on set and then you learn everything on set working on the job.

Best Geezer is streaming now on Apple TV+

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