The Gigolos make screen dream come true

JON WELCH He began his movie career scooping popcorn and tearing tickets. Now Richard Bracewell is a fully-fledged director whose debut film is a hit with festival audiences and critics alike, and it’s coming to Norwich this month, ahead of its national release. JON WELCH reports, and reveals how you can win tickets to a gala screening

JON WELCH

He never went to film school and learned nearly everything he knows about movies while working as a cinema usher.

Now the film-maker from Norwich is about to see his debut feature go on national release, following a gala screening in his home city.

Richard Bracewell directed and co-produced The Gigolos, which delves into the twilight world of two Mayfair male escorts. They are played by newcomers Sacha Tarter and Trevor Sather, who co-wrote the script with Richard.

Their clients are smart, successful older women, played by British screen legends Anna Massey, Sian Phillips, Susannah York and Angela Pleasence.

Richard shot the film on location in London but produced it from his home in Norwich, editing it at a farmhouse near Wymondham.

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The movie, which has already been well received at film festivals, is to get a gala screening at the Norwich Odeon later this month, before opening in London, Manchester, Cambridge and further afield.

“It was always my aim to produce a feature film with international stars and a glamorous setting without leaving my office in Norwich,” said Richard, 37.

“People thought I was mad to try it - but they're not the ones premiering their movie at the Odeon on March 20! We had so much help from people in Norwich that I really wanted it to be shown here.”

Richard moved to the city eight years ago with his wife, Susie Phillips, who is originally from south Norfolk. She designed the costumes for the film, which is likely to be awarded a 15 certificate.

The couple met while working as ushers at The Clapham Picture House in London, where The Gigolos will be screened as part of its run.

Richard, who already had ambitions to be a director, took the job in order to learn more about film. “Watching movies again and again - even bad movies - can teach you so much,” he said.

In between tearing tickets and scooping popcorn, he read as much as he could about his favourite film-makers, and taught himself some basic techniques from a 1970s BBC TV training manual.

He made some short films and managed to find work as a television director and producer on programmes including The 11 O'Clock Show, Blind Date and Ruby Wax.

The idea for his debut feature film came after Richard heard the song Just A Gigolo playing on a car radio. “I just thought 'gigolo' sounded such a great word,” he said.

His collaborators added their own ideas. Sacha had just been on holiday with his parents and two family friends, women in their 50s.

“He was in demand as a gigolo himself - they were giving him the come-on, chasing him round the swimming pool!” said Richard. “He would phone me every night telling me these stories about what had been going on.”

Trevor, meanwhile, had just returned from Japan where he had been fascinated by “host bars”, venues in which independent, single, career women go to meet men.

The trio pooled their ideas and wrote a screenplay based around the characters of gigolo Sacha, played by Sacha, and his “valet” Trevor, played by Trevor.

The movie, made on a budget of £280,000, was co-produced by Richard's brother, Tony, his partner in production company Punk Cinema. The pair are currently working on a thriller entitled Cuckoo.

The Gigolos is a dark comedy that has been compared to TV shows The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Like those programmes, it is shot largely on hand-held cameras and much of the dialogue is improvised.

Surprisingly, given its setting, the film features no sex at all. “Gigolos are part of the sex industry, and we could have made a film about how people are forced to do this by circumstances, but we didn't want to make that kind of film,” said Richard. “It's just a setting for Sacha and Trevor's relationship, really. It's just another job.”

The film has already won some favourable reviews, with Empire magazine calling it “a slow-burning teaser… witty and quietly savage” and the Los Angeles Times calling it “a subtly delightful film”.

Richard, Sacha and Trevor will be at the gala screening, possibly with some of the other cast members. It will be for invited guests only, but The Gigolos will open to paying customers at the Odeon on Friday, March 23, initially for a week.

Richard said: “I hope that they will forget they are watching a film that was produced here. I hope they will be enveloped in this world and find something for themselves in this film. I'm hoping there will be elements that will strike a chord for everyone.”

It is rare for an independent film by a first-time director to be screened at a major cinema, and Amanda Kane, technical manager at Odeon Norwich, urged cinema-goers to turn out in force for The Gigolos.

“I watch a lot of films and this one just so deserves to be seen. This is the time for the community to support their own talent,” she said.

The release of the film is being supported by regional screen agency Screen East.

t The Gigolos opens to the public at Odeon Norwich on Friday, March 23. Screening times are to be confirmed.

t Richard, Sacha and Trevor will be hosting a workshop at the cinema at 7pm on March 21. Entitled From Script to Screen, it will feature clips from the movie and is aimed at anyone interested in movie-making. For more details please visit www.odeon.co.uk or telephone 0871 22 44 007.

t Find out more about the film at www.the-gigolos.com.

TICKETS COMPETITION

The EDP has five pairs of tickets to give away to the gala screening of The Gigolos at Norwich Odeon at 7.30pm for 8 on Tuesday, March 20.

To stand a chance of winning a pair, please answer the following question: Who is the director of The Gigolos?

Answers on a postcard to: The Gigolos Competition, Newsdesk, Eastern Daily Press, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or via email to jon.welch@archant.co.uk.

All entries must be received by 5pm on Friday, March 9.

Please include your full postal address and a daytime telephone number.

Please note the film is likely to be a certificate 15.

Usual EDP competition rules apply.

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