Kimberley Sachs: Inside The Art of Film Production

The Notebook | 22nd May 2019

Eclipse Films' Kimberley Sachs on the orchestral art of film production, the challenges of a family business and shooting Timothy Spall in The Corrupted 

Eclipse Films is an independent film company originally part founded by Andrew Berg, later joined by John Sachs, and it fast grew into a family business, which has been making real waves in Europe already with titles such as it debut Urban Hymn, which played no small part in making Letitia Wright into an A-list Hollywood star, and the acting royalty hit Finding Your Feet, which brought together much-loved household names such as Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton and Joanna Lumley. It's latest feature, The Corrupted, witnesses Timothy Spall, Hugh Bonneville and Sam Claflin come together in a dark tale of corruption that runs through all levels of British society, and is something of a paean to the classic gangster masterpiece The Long Good Friday. Mortimer House member Kimberley Sachs is an associate producer for Eclipse Films, and is a pivotal player in the family-run business, which often holds its apparently often ‘colourful’ board meetings here in our Fitzrovia home. Here, she gives us a unique insight into the-ups-and-downs of making a successful proposition of an independent film company, and explains why the collaborative process of filming production is not unlike conducting an orchestra of madness.

Talk to us about the whole process of pulling together a film like The Corrupted?
I am definitely still learning, but some words my dad once used to describe a producer to me have always stuck –’the producer conducts the orchestra’. I think it sums it up pretty nicely. The producer is also a firefighter, constantly putting out metaphorical fires, overviewing the whole production, from the very seed of the idea, nurturing it into fruition. Often an idea can came from a photograph or an article in a newspaper and grow from there. The producer then goes on to work closely with the writer on getting the script in shape, which can take over a year, sometimes longer. The next stage is casting, which, again, can take months depending on cast availability, and so on. Whilst all this is happening, we are simultaneously lining up finance, sales and a distributor whilst trying to keep within budget. Then the production ‘circus’ (another phrase my dad uses) is brought in for the actual production, which includes all the heads of department, such as the director of photography, production designer, costume designer–all part of the army employed to help bring the directors vision to life versus balancing what the producer tells them we can afford. It is a very long journey making a film, and you have to be passionate, and probably, a bit mad to see it through. Must be in my blood.

Eclipse is a family-run business–what are the rewards and the challenges of that paradigm?
Working in a family business is certainly colourful. It has its highs and its lows, and our board meetings certainly throw away all the rules. We put our blood, sweat and tears into everything we do and sometimes there just are not enough hours in day. We all care so much and if we don’t do it ourselves, it won’t get done. There have been clashes but what’s good is that as we grow, we all get to know our niche and roles, and that has happened over time, organically. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have learnt skills I didn’t know I had because very often I have been thrown in the deep end. It has helped me a lot with my anxiety of thinking I can’t do something. I have been given responsibilities beyond my experience, and have no choice, because it’s a tiny team, and if I don’t do it, it won’t get done. I am grateful for being given the challenge. Every day is different, and I have had the pleasure and honour of working with some extremely talented and lovely people.

What is it like to work with Timothy Spall? How did he approach taking on such an unusual role for him…
Tim’s performance in The Corrupted is utterly chilling. This is the second time Eclipse have worked with Tim, the last film being Finding Your Feet, in which he had to learn to dance, and he couldn’t have had two more different roles, which just highlights how versatile an actor he is. What he can portray in one facial expression is just unbelievable. He is British acting royalty–surely, he should be getting an invitation from The Queen soon (laughs). He is very scary indeed in this role. Working with Sam and Joe Claflin was great, as well, because they had that chemistry of brothers. Sam trained for months at a real spit-and-saw dust boxing gym to get into the role of amateur boxer, Liam. These actors really are dedicated. I have to say, I am in awe of actors, the schedules are always so tight that they have to get it right within a handful of takes–it amazes me how they are able to get into character while there are so many people standing around, especially in the more intimate scenes.

Film is a collaborative process–how does it all come together on-set?
The schedule on The Corrupted was pretty grueling. The first day of the shoot we were in an abattoir, the following week we were in a multi-million pound mansion on the Wentworth Estate, another day we were defying the elements under a very windy QE2 bridge with a prosthetic decapitated head and then, a few days later, in a derelict flat with no running water. On set, the boss is the director, and Ron Scalpello, who directed the film (and is working with us on our next feature soon to be announced) has a certain magic about him, in that he can connect with people on a level that they immediately relate and trust. This is important for actors because often they are so insecure. It doesn’t matter if you are A -list cast, the producer, runner, or a unit driver, he will treat everyone with the same respect. It is because of this respect that people are willing to go above and beyond for him. Ron is a true gentleman.

Tell us about the associated single and the video you produced…
Emma Hatton is a really talented artist we have taken on recently within our Eclipse Music arm and she wrote a track especially for the film. It’s got a real Bond-like sound it fits the mood of the film perfectly. We filmed her music video rogue around West London, and it was a lot of fun. We have lots of projects at different stages of development, currently. We just announced our first feature documentary at Cannes, which follows the extraordinary life of legendary cricketer king of spin Shane Warne. We will be filming our next feature in the summer, but that hasn’t been announced yet, so shhhh…

The Corrupted is in cinemas now.
Interview and Image by John-Paul Pryor