If you thought it was hard breaking into the film industry living in Los Angeles, imagine doing it from thousands of miles away, say a small town in England That’s what the Jagger Brothers- Dean and Ben Jagger- are doing and winning ‘Best in the Fest’ at the So-Cal Film Festival earlier this month for The Paddy Lincoln Gang is just the beginning. The boys are back in Los Angeles again this week, selling that film and pitching their future projects at AFM.
The Paddy Lincoln Gang focuses on a rock band with everything- including total immersion in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Their charismatic lead singer (Dean Jagger) holds a dark secret from his past, a secret that is about to explode, and the band risks losing it all. The film which was co-written by the Jagger brothers and directed by Ben Jagger recently took home the top three prizes at the So-Cal Film Festival: Best in the Fest, Best Male Performance (Dean Jagger), and Best Female Performance (Amy Lawhorn), as well as nominations in all categories. A tall order and quite a success for a first time feature director, and a team who only a few years ago were known as professional skaters, not filmmakers.
Before sitting down with Ben and Dean, we spoke with lead actress Amy Lawhorn about working with this duo from across the pond whom she met at a callback after submitting her initial audition on tape. “From the first meeting, there was an ease and comfortability that was unmistakable. On the outside, watching Ben and Dean, I was able to experience the bond these two share. There is immense respect the two have for one another. They are both intense in their own ways. On the inside, the experience was wonderful and intense. I liked them both immediately and joining the already close cast was seamless. My experience with them was one of mutual respect. Our success at the So-Cal Fest just makes all the hard work and long hours that went into this film even sweeter. It is truly a labor of love on all accounts and to have it recognized in such a way was just wonderful. Seeing the film for the first time was indescribable. I loved it. I laughed, cried; I felt every moment. It was so beautifully done. I have faith that this is just the beginning for our film.”
And so does Press Pass LA, which is why we were thrilled Ben and Dean could take the time to talk with us about how they got started.
PPLA: Tell me about how The Paddy Lincoln Gang came about.
BEN: We started the actual film as a short. Dean and I came up with the concept for a short film which was called A Night at Robert McAllister’s which we set out to shoot in Los Angeles. It was a little concept that Dean and I thought of and we worked on that with a writer from back home and were quite successful with the short. Dean and I were then both tee-ing up to do a feature back home, but to make a long story short, that film had to be postponed because of scheduling and it created a window of opportunity for us to turn our short film into this feature.
DEAN: The reason we decided to make the short into a feature film is because the short film had gotten some acclaim and then was mentioned at Cannes Film Festival to a few producers and a sales agent. The producers told the sales agent more about the concept at Cannes and they loved it and agreed to finance, so we were able to adapt it and make it into a feature. Originally, it started off as just a short film.
BEN: What’s really interesting as well is that we used a bit of the footage from the short in the feature to pay homage to the original film, so that was really cool!
PPLA: Where did you shoot the film?
BEN: We shot back home where we live in Yorkshire and elsewhere…
DEAN: (interjects) …some scenes in the film which are really integral- scenes where the character goes into his mind and has this darkness about him and these visions- all that was shot back home in England. It’s almost like a satellite place in his mind, it’s where he finds his creativity and his negativity. We had a great location, really fantastic. It looks grandiose, dark, dingy, cell-like.
BEN: It looks like it was shot back here and some production designer had spent about 2-3 weeks on it. We got really lucky with that. The rest of it we shot here in Los Angeles, locations like Molly Malone’s Pub. That is where the band played its gig in the film. We spent like two days there. The band got to play with a real crowd. We got to be rockstars; it was great.
PPLA: What instruments to do you play?
DEAN: To be honest I, I don’t really play that much. I do a little bit of guitar but I’m not a musician. We got coached by a really great player, Colin McGuinness, a.k.a Lizzard. He has worked with everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Madonna. He is a huge session musician. He is fantastic and actually wrote some of the music for the film.
BEN: I want to make a big mention as well to Julien Diaz who composed the music for the film; the score is so powerful. It’s a nice package.
PPLA: You just won Best in the Fest at the So-Cal Film Festival, as well as winners for Best Male and Best Female Performance. What are your plans now?
BEN: We have entered into about eight more festivals which don’t come up until later in the year. The thing is when we finished post-production on this film, we just missed a bunch of the deadlines for the festivals so now we have to wait. There are some smaller festivals that we have entered sooner and some bigger ones we are looking forward to in the back end of the year. The film will be entering some major film markets as well for instance the AFM, Berlin, Cannes, and that kind of thing. We have a pretty hot list along the way! The film is more tailor made for the American market being set in Los Angeles and being about a rock band, so it flies better here than back home.
PPLA: Do you have any upcoming projects that you are working on together or individually?
DEAN: We are both working together actually. We have a film back home called Dark Peak and Pinewood (British film & TV studio) is looking at it. It’s a feature set to go next year, which takes place not far from where we live back home in England. It’s a horror-thriller. The cool thing is that the marketing has been fantastic because it’s set in a real place, Dark Peak, which is like the Bermuda Triangle of England. A lot of planes, like war planes as far back as 1945, have come crashing down in Dark Peak..
BEN: (interjects) …Over 50 planes, about 300 lives lost.
DEAN: It’s all about these guys who go on this buddy trip and go to Dark Peak to explore and then it all unravels from there. We’ve got another project that we are super excited about as well but we can’t talk too much about it.
BEN: We can’t say much because it’s at concept stage and what we’ve got now is this outline for a full film. We’ve written quite a bit of it, but we are still working on that. It’s shooting back here in Los Angeles hopefully early next year.
DEAN: It’s a kick-ass film!
BEN: It’s kick-ass! The funny thing is that even though it has a much lower budget than the film we just told you about (Dark Peak), the concept is just so fun. I’ll admit it’s a genre that you’ve definitely seen before and has been proven to be successful, but what we have done is flip that genre on it’s head. It is a real joy ride of a film and it takes place over one night in Hollywood. That’s all we can say.
PPLA: How did you each get involved in directing and acting respectively, and what is it like being brothers who work so closely together?
DEAN: Acting I’ve done since school. I’ve always loved performing, being on stage or what have you. When I finished school, I joined the local theater, then I got into equity- the theater union back home- and began doing productions around England. Then I got into skating and became a professional skater. That took me all around the world, but I missed acting and I had to go back to it. I just decided to go back to the industry, and I came out to L.A. and studied at TVI and took some great acting classes. Then I went back to London and studied some more there and got myself prepared and ready. I got myself out in the indie circuit, did some short films and indie features, and here I am basically. I work with my brother and we both write, he directs, and I act.
BEN: My story is shorter than that (laughs). Dean and I were both professional skaters in the X Games and things like that. I actually started out shooting skate videos. I started on that and then I got interested in stunts, while Dean was pursuing his acting career. I am really into the physical side of entertainment so I started in stunts and learned a little bit about filmmaking that way. Then I learned more about filmmaking on my own, got as many books as I could read, and learned myself. Then I went out and shot a short film, followed by a bunch of music videos. I shot another short that got three official selections and won an award at festival. That’s when I decided to start writing and made my first feature film,The Paddy Lincoln Gang, which just won multiple awards at the So-Cal Film Festival. This was my first feature, so it’s pretty cool.
DEAN: We both have a background in mixed martial arts too. So we both fight, we like a good old scruff.
PPLA: Since you brought it up…as brothers who work together, do you ever fight? Not just physically, but over the work?
DEAN: We always get asked that! (laughs) If there are any rivalries? We are kind of glued at the hip to be honest with you. We aren’t twins but we should be. We just help each other throughout, with training and certainly with writing the films. It’s great because we are in each others heads which is really helpful especially when you are writing together and know what each other likes and dislikes. Certainly it is useful when I am working with him as an actor as well. I can finish his sentences and he can finish mine. It makes it all convenient. I know what he wants right away, I’ve just been around him my whole life. It’s really, really great.
BEN: That’s the beauty for me working as a director. I think the key to getting a good performance is getting to know your actors- knowing what makes them tick, knowing how to get them to that place. I always spend a lot of time before filming just to get to know them.
DEAN: One of the key things for me on any film is preparation. Preparation is everything, but with this film it was just an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up despite the short time frame. The time we had to shoot this film in was crazy! We literally got the script, booked our flights, and were here filming in a total of three weeks. So a lot of the background work- story boards, shot list, what have you- we didn’t have the luxury of that or the budget. So the shorthand we had as brothers really helped.
BEN: As a director, I spend a lot of my time preparing the actors and their motivations, getting the actors where they need to be emotionally. Especially on indie films where you are always compromising on time and budget, you have to adapt. Your shooting day is so long and you only have a certain amount of money to shoot ‘X’ pages each day so it’s vital that you get the characters right. The content and the way you shoot it is obviously important, but I try to focus and hone in on the characters and work my way out.
PPLA: How hard is it to come over here and work? Both from a legal standpoint and to be able to break into this industry.
DEAN: There is a lot of red tape and of course I’m dealing with that still now with my Visa. But as far as the industry, it is far grander here than where we come from. You see, we don’t live in London, we live in Yorkshire which is a small place and you have that sort of small town mentality that doesn’t really give you the needed drive and passion. Then you come to a place like this where everyone is so energized and just wants to be here. It’s so active and inspiring. That’s the whole cool thing about L.A., you just never know what might happen. People are here just doing what they love to do.
BEN: I agree, it’s inspiring. There are a lot of flakey people here too (laughs), but mostly it’s just great. The amount of red tape you have to go through at home to get your film made is crazy. Here, there are so many more people just willing to give you a hand and pitch in just to get your film made. What we did this film for here, would have cost twice as much back home. That’s crazy because we even paid to ship over a small crew and it was still cheaper. I’m not knocking back home, we are proud of where we come from, but it’s just easier here. There is an enthusiasm because the business is here. There is just a buzz being here and being around filmmakers- people who love this industry.
PPLA : Anything you want our readers or industry movers & shakers to know about you?
DEAN: Watch out for these next couple of features that are coming out because they are going to be killers!
BEN: That’s right, Jagger boys are bringing it!
Their lead actress, Amy Lawhorn would agree. “To quote Will Smith,” she said, “There’s the ‘X’ factor that you just can’t value, the chemistry between us, and we have a very powerful chemistry that I hope people are going to enjoy on screen. That chemistry was shared by the entire cast and crew. We all worked together beautifully and that is rare.”
Press Pass LA is sure looking forward to seeing what comes next!
The Paddy Lincoln Gang can be seen as an Official Selection of the Sun and Sand Film & Music Festival in Mississippi November 7-11th. For more information on where you can see this film in the coming months, visit The Paddy Lincoln Gang on Facebook.