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Sightseers – Alice Lowe and Steve Oram interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

ALICE Lowe and Steve Oram talk about creating Sightseers and some of their research for the film. They also talk about their choice of locations and why they view the film as an intelligent comedy that could also function as a horror. They were speaking at a UK press conference…

Q. You’re both from the Midlands, aren’t you?
Steve Oram: The whole idea for the film started as a bit of a joke. We thought it would be funny to have Brummies killing people then going to castles… that just made us laugh. The rest is history, as they say. Six years later it becomes a film.

Alice Lowe: It started off as a character comedy double act.

Steve Oram: We’d come on stage with sandwiches and talk about castles we’d visited, geek stuff, then talk about disposing of a body in a lay-by. That was our act basically.

Alice Lowe: We developed it as a TV idea but didn’t get anywhere with it because all the channels said it was too dark originally as an idea for television. So, we decided to develop it as a film. We sent a short film taster to Edgar Wright and he said I think there’s a film in this, I would like to exec produce it. Ben Wheatley had finished Down Terrace and Kill List was due to be his next film, and was just about to go into production.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about any research done and how you decided which characters you would kill? Have you got a hit list?
Alice Lowe: We actually did go on a camping trip together as part of the research, in a caravan, for a week. I guess we picked who annoyed us most from genuine experience. We did a lot of research on camping and what annoys people. It’s quite often children playing ball games. It’s a huge debate in the caravan world whether children should be allowed to play ball games or not [laughs].

Steve Oram: They shouldn’t, no!

Alice Lowe: People dropping litter and stuff. Our backgrounds informed the characters. I think both of us, once we decided to do comedy, knew that we would have to come to London to do that. Both of us have forged our careers here, but a lot of my comedy influences come from my family and my childhood. The Midlands doesn’t have… Manchester has a certain reputation of being cool, London’s got a reputation… It’s hard sometimes to find ‘what is the thing that makes Birmingham’? Growing up, I didn’t feel very cool having come from the Midlands. You can see that in Tina’s character, that she’s someone who has struggled to find her voice. It’s a kind of parallel me if I had been much shyer as a person. It’s that version of me who is perhaps still living at home with my mum [laughs]. When I was a kid the highlight of my week would be doing a fossil hunt at the local quarry… that kind of thing.

Q. How did you find the right tone to balance violence and comedy?
Alice Lowe: When writing it we felt you had to care about the relationship. The film is really the story of the journey of a relationship, so the killings are almost a metaphor for the trials they go through. We wanted people to identify with the experience of going on holiday and having a quarrel with your wife, boyfriend, whatever. We knew if we didn’t crack that it would not be watchable as a film. You need to have some identification with the characters to be able to stick with it with them as anti-heroes.

Q. How did you choose the locations?
Steve Oram: That was my dad… He’s a sightseer, my character is based a wee bit on him. He’s very into sightseeing and castles and he’s extremely knowledgeable. When we were doing the research trip when we went caravanning he designed a route for us from Birmingham through the Peak District. That stayed the same for the film.

Alice Lowe: We wanted somewhere that took you to smaller scale tourist places… It’s a luxury as a writer to get inspiration from those places. So many films end up being filmed in London or in the same places over and over again. Once we went to those locations it just genuinely inspired us. It filled our heads with what film should be.

Q. I take it the locations didn’t mind?
Steve Oram: It comes from a place of genuine affection for all these places.

Alice Lowe: I hope more people visit those places, but also maybe more people film in those places because they’re so amazing.

Q. Isn’t this film more unsettling than a lot of horror films at times?
Alice Lowe: I take that as a compliment. I hope it does make people think about things or feel something. We always wanted to make a comedy that was a little bit more than that, which had tragic elements to it… that people engaged with – an intelligent comedy essentially. It’s nice to think people might be talking about it after they’ve seen it. With some comedies it’s a bit ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’, and then you just go for a pizza.

Q. Did you drawn on other film influences when creating Sightseers?
Steve Oram: Loads of stuff… from Ealing comedies to Mike Leigh and Badlands.

Alice Lowe: And Honeymoon Killers and Natural Born Killers.

Read our review of Sightseers