Imagine a 1942 where Hitler wins the war and the SS controls Britain – would you be brave enough to join the Resistance? This is the idea behind Manchester-born director and screenwriter Eric Ian Steele’s ambitious new film, ‘Forty-Two’, which was filmed over just eight days in the north of England. Eric told us about the challenges of making it historically authentic, his talented cast, and how sometimes writer-directors need to survive on just four hours’ sleep…
Why did you decide to write and direct a WWII film?
‘Forty-Two’ was inspired in part by my love of classic British cinema from the 1940s and 1950s. My first film was the vampire movie ‘Boy #5’, my second was the post-apocalyptic lockdown film ‘Day of the Clones’, so I wanted to do something different. I’d been toying with the idea of writing a dystopian film set in a totalitarian future, but it seemed that an alternate history film set in WWII could work just as well.
What is the story about?
The film is set in an alternate 1942, where Hitler has unleashed a superweapon that has won the war in Europe. Britain is occupied by Nazi forces. The SS and the Gestapo control every aspect of daily life. A group of ordinary British people is arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Resistance and must find a way to escape the clutches of a ruthless SS officer and somehow get to freedom. The film deals with how different people react to waking up in a totalitarian nightmare where the state runs everything. Some people rebel, some people passively go along with things, and some people actively join in the persecution of others. I wanted to explore the moral choices people would have to make in that kind of situation.
Did you face any challenges filming it?
No matter what level of filmmaking you’re at, there’s never enough of two things: money and time. All our 1940s props and costumes needed to be as authentic as possible, so this was much more expensive than our other films. Having a location shoot for our entire cast in Oldham town centre in full costume on a wet Sunday morning was especially difficult to organise. We also had to make the entire film in eight days, because that was the limit of our stay in the church that was our main location. We knew we could never go back because it was being redeveloped. I was on set for about 14 hours a day, then would go home and reschedule and rewrite until about 4am to be back on set for 8am. Sleep became a luxury. But it was definitely worth it.
Who’s in the cast of ‘Forty-Two’?
The film stars some wonderful actors, both seasoned professionals and newcomers. Oliver Devoti (‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Coronation Street’) plays engineer Arthur Fletcher. Mia Vore (‘Portal’) plays Marilyn, a midwife arrested on the way to work. The Reverend Steve Murphy (‘Shameless’) plays one of our main baddies, as does actor Matthew McCloud. We have Allan Nicol (‘Emmerdale’, ‘Coronation Street’) as a pub landlord who gets innocently caught up in things. Laura Montgomery Bennett, Adrian Palmer and Adam Weldrick all starred in our first feature, ‘Boy #5’. We also have fantastic newcomers Lauren Stokes, Damon Spillane, Johnny Vernon and Matas Kidelis, who give really terrific performances. Honestly, there isn’t a weak performance in the entire film. Which made life a lot easier for me on set!
The film’s now in pre-production; when do you expect it to be released?
We only finished filming the last scene at the end of August. There are many steps to go through yet, such as editing and getting the soundtrack in place, and we are totally independent and self-funded, so we’re currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help with these post-production costs. People can find and follow us on Instagram @fortytwofilm and on Facebook under ‘Forty-Two Film’. If we get enough people funding us through that we should be able to move along with it fairly quickly. The difficult part has already been done!
Featured photo credit Vamoose Productions Ltd.