The Crack

Simeon French lives a double life: daytime plasterer for his dad, Billy's, on a launderette refurbishment and cross-dressing diarist/philosopher, Ravella, through the night. Father and son's life goes rapidly downhill when the building gang is thrown off the job. Only Simeon's politically active and grounded girlfriend Sarah temporarily keeps his head from exploding, his life from imploding.

A cash flow crisis ensues: Simeon owes big numbers to the manor's public school educated drug baron, Belinda; while Billy throws precious rent money at legally pursuing slippery launderette owner, Jake Lyle. It all gets too much for gothed-out diarist Ravella. At his debut gig L-plate rapper Horace - Simeon’s best mate - goes on stage dressed in his work clothes looking like a Jehovah’s Witness. Simeon has not brought his stage outfit as promised. He’s so bad the image fits.

Meanwhile, Simeon’s now the gofer for Belinda. Billy and Simeon’s chaotic lives crash into each other, Simeon breaking down after holding a knife to his father's throat. Billy realises it’s time to forget the rules and fight dirty to save his 'lost' boy: he sets up Belinda’s minder, Freddy, to be nicked while arranging for Simeon to escape the drug dealers’ inevitable revenge by sending him to IRA Bob's safe-house in Ireland. Saying goodbye, Billy hands his son a wrap. He knows Simeon would never have arrived without chemicals to console him. Miraculously, Horace plays over the airwaves while in Kerry Simeon/Ravella - in bra and negligee –has found his soulmate, IRA Bob, who promises to send him back 'cleaner than a virgin's pussy'.

Phil Vasili, May 2015.

About this film

The making of The Crack: we had a script and no money. So what’s new? We had a group of ex-cons – bent thespians?! – who’d acted their way out of their cells. We had film studies students hungry to get dirty. We had love shown to us from those we begged. We had help given us by those whom we asked. We bared our arse cheeks, got slapped and survived.

We strong-armed £5,000 cash from a friend - who was repaid with a cameo role - for a 6 week shoot. Though originally set in London, The Crack was filmed mainly in Cambridge because of costs. It was easier to break the law on permits there. I borrowed a mate’s work van for the weekend and kept if for two months as our production transport. Thirty of us squatted a 7 bed-house; we broke into a derelict building to use as a building site set; our gaffer supplied his own lighting and electrics; we borrowed our 2 only cameras; had a faulty monitor that packed up in the first week. But made sure everyone – cast, crew and extras, about 100 in total – were fed and watered three times a day and had roofs over their heads.

We lied, ran away, cheated, lost friends and rowed all in the pursuit of an obsession: to tell a story of working-class people with challenging lives having to do extraordinary things in order to survive, against overwhelming odds.

As the director working in these conditions – that I and co-producers Eddie Shevlin and Reeta Varpama had largely chosen to create – it was important that everyone was made to feel an equally worthwhile part of the team. It was crucial that no cliques formed or hierarchies established. Everyone, cast and crew, was working for nothing except food, water and shelter – the production company was set up as a co-operative with potential payment at the back-end – so for the shoot to make it through the schedule in-tact, without walk-offs, fall-outs and fights we had to foster the tightest of team spirits. We got there!

But probably the greatest compromise was political: as a socialist filmmaker we shot most of the bar scenes in a Conservative working-men’s club! And they were very good to us.

We had fun and and, personally, I'd do it again tomorrow.

Phil Vasili, March 2015

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