After receiving a BAFTA nomination for writing and directing his debut film Shifty, Eran Creevy decided to make Welcome to the Punch, an unashamedly commercial thriller set in a sparkling, stylised contemporary London. A strikingly ambitious young filmmaker, we chatted with Eran ahead of Welcome to the Punch’s release today.
How did you get started in the industry?
About a week after I left University I went around the production houses of Soho, giving out my CV. I managed to wrangle a job as a runner, making teas and coffees. After that, the first movie I worked on was Layer Cake, as a runner and stand-in for Daniel Craig. Eventually I set up a production company with some other like-minded runners I’d met, making low-budget music videos and commercials and that led to Shifty.
Did you gain anything from working your way up through the industry?
You learn all the inner workings of a film crew. The first day I walked onto the set I didn’t have a clue what anyone was doing or what the different departments did. If someone had asked me if the script supervisor was doing a good job I wouldn’t have known, but by the time I’d left I’d be able to tell you exactly what they were doing right or wrong. It was my film school. When I moved on I tried to take that professional, American style of filmmaking, onto my own set.
Why did you want to make an action film set in London?
I wanted to do something in London that was aspirational and more commercially-driven than the parochial cinema that we normally make so, after Shifty, which was a socio-realistic drama, I tried to set out and write something that people would want to go and see. It felt like a different path to take after a more nuanced, almost vérité way of filmmaking, but it’s a genre that I love and I wanted to make something within it.
Were you comfortable directing action scenes?
It was probably the thing I was most comfortable with, even though I hadn’t done it before. I grew up with Hong Kong action cinema and American cops and robbers movies. My dad used to own a video shop, and I used to go home every day and sit in the basement and watch every film I could. I studied the language of it and how the camera moved and how they edited the action. I felt confident that I knew how to put a film together – it was like second nature.
Welcome to the Punch has a relatively low budget compared to what it would cost to make the same film in America. Is that an advantage?
The difficulty of making an action film in this country is you could never really spend £20-25 million because even if it was hugely successful here it would struggle to make that money back. If you make a cheaper film, you also fall into the trap that you’d want to release it in America. Are they going to spend £25 million marketing something that cost £5 million?
You can see the difficulties and why we do more period comedies and comedies which travel well and don’t cost as much money to make. But it was an interesting process. I learned a lot trying to aspire to an American aesthetic. We’ll see if it works.
In that case, as your career progresses do you think you’d want to continue setting stories like this in Britain?
I worked with Scott Free productions and Ridley Scott was my executive producer; I’d wondered why he and Tony Scott had never made an action film here themselves, but I think they grew up with a different London. It was a different time and the city didn’t look the same. When I was writing the script the Olympics was on its way so you had this beautiful sexy metropolis springing up. I want to set more films in the neon world I created.
You were a set assistant to Woody Allen on the film Scoop. What was that like?
It was an amazing experience, and I think it really guided me. After being his blocking assistant on that film, I realised that even though he was in his early 70s at the time, he was winging it as much as the next man. He didn’t have all the answers. You see him flying by the seat of his pants on the set and you realise that these directors are just flesh and blood – they’re human beings and just the same as you.
It gave me confidence: if Woody Allen’s still figuring stuff out every now and then, even though he’s got so many films under his belt, then I could go out there and do it myself.