Ricky Gervais and Stephen merchant's new project, movie Cemetery Junction, hits the big screen this week.
Cemetery Junction tells the funny, touching and universal story of being trapped in a small town and dreaming of escape.
In 1970s England, three blue-collar friends spend their days joking, drinking, fighting and chasing girls. Freddie (Cooke) wants to leave their working-class world but cool, charismatic Bruce (Hughes) and lovable loser Snork (Doolan) are happy with life the way it is.
When Freddie gets a new job as a door-to-door salesman and bumps into his old school sweetheart Julie (Jones), the gang are forced to make choices that will change their lives for ever.
And with the movie being set in the 19702 Gervais and Merchant were keen to get the look at the feel of the period just right.
"We didn’t want to fall into the trap that so many films set in the 1970s fall into where everyone and everything looks as though they’ve just stepped out of a fashion catalogue from the time," says Gervais.
"England wasn’t like that in the early 1970s, in some places it was more like the 1950s particularly if you were middle-aged. People didn’t walk around looking like David Bowie.
"In 1973 the backdrop was just post-war Britain and posh middle aged men looked Victorian and everyone else was in the 1950s. 1973 wasn’t that different from 1943."
But that sense of being stuck in the past didn’t mean life then was dull and boring. "I remember it being fun growing up in the 1970s, even though I grew up on a working class estate," says Gervais.
"We didn’t want the poverty of the people in the film to be degrading or depressing, that just because you were poor you didn’t care about your surroundings. Our characters are good, decent people, they’re house proud.
"We wanted a coolness to the look, where places and people look cool and colourful. We wanted to create a British Saturday Night Fever."
It was also imperative that the film have a cinematic scope. "People talk a lot about ‘cinematic versus TV’ and about size and scale and special effects," says Merchant, "but ultimately it’s about giving the audience an experience that they wouldn’t have got anywhere else, of transporting them into another world."
The behind-the-scenes collaborators were key to ensuring their vision was brought to the screen. Cinematographer Remi Adefarasin’s quiet confidence and creative integrity impressed the film-makers and, in turn, he knew exactly what they wanted.
"Ricky and Stephen wanted to make a movie, they didn’t want TV," says Adefarasin, whose credits include Elizabeth, Match Point and Sliding Doors. "They asked me to imagine I was making Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, but in Reading. And they wanted to shoot wide screen which worked out very well."
The template of films from the 1970s was an inspiration but also sounded a warning note. Says the cinematographer: "The lighting in some 70s films could be brash and we didn’t want that.
"We needed to love our characters so I lit them nicely but not in a mannered way. Back then there was a lot of smoking in public places and Cemetery Junction reflects that - there are lots of interiors with smoke."
Adefarasin manipulated the lighting to create contrasting tones for different scenes. He gave the main parts of the Kendrick’s home a very austere and cold look which contrasted nicely with the bright cheer of Julie’s room, while the Taylor’s home had a more human touch to it with a softer, more lived-in feel.
One of the biggest challenges was the many scenes that were shot day for night. For the Vigilant party, shot in a location with a very low ceiling, a system of wires and Chinese lanterns on dimmers was rigged up so the cameras could be repositioned easily.
But the rewards were great. "I loved every minute of working with Ricky and Stephen," says Adefarasin. "They are so clever and funny together. I had to sometimes turn away from them because they were unintentionally making me laugh!"
Cemetery Junction is out now.