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Suffolk film puts Russian World Cup at the heart of the action

PUBLISHED: 18:34 15 June 2018

Ben Freeman stars as football fan Ed Leighton in the Suffolk-shot film Hooligan Escape. Photo: Picture Perfect

Ben Freeman stars as football fan Ed Leighton in the Suffolk-shot film Hooligan Escape. Photo: Picture Perfect


Suffolk film company Picture Perfect has found Suffolk to be a wonderful production base. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to producer Lucinda Thakrar about turning RAF Bentwaters into a Russian prison compound

Ben Freeman stars as football fan Ed Leighton in the Suffolk-shot film Hooligan Escape. Photo: Picture PerfectBen Freeman stars as football fan Ed Leighton in the Suffolk-shot film Hooligan Escape. Photo: Picture Perfect

For film producer Lucinda Rhodes Thakrar, the move from Romford to Framlingham, was just what the film doctor ordered. They set up their production company four years ago, so they were well-placed to take advantage of the explosion in interest in Suffolk as a focus for film production.

She has set up Picture Perfect with her sound recordist husband Jeet Thakrar to produce genre pictures for online and DVD markets and have struck gold with a series of ‘Hooligan’ thriller-action films through which they have developed a repertory company of tried and tested professionals both in front of and behinbd the camera – including former The Bill alumni Ali Bastian and Ryan Winsley as well as writer-directors Nicholas Winter and Terry Lee Coker.

Now, Lucinda is expanding the company’s focus by adopting new take on the Robin Hood legend starring Emmerdale’s Ben Freeman as the English outlaw and the larger-than-life Brian Blessed as Friar Tuck.

Lucinda  and Jeet Thakrar at Bentwaters Parks. Picture: TOM POTTERLucinda and Jeet Thakrar at Bentwaters Parks. Picture: TOM POTTER

Although, Lucinda has a castle on her doorstep, other production requirements, meant that shooting took place in north Wales, nevertheless Lucinda says that Suffolk is the perfect location for a film production company.

“We shot all of Hooligan Escape at Bentwaters Park and we’ve used locations there on a couple of other occasions as well and we would want to use more Suffolk locations in future projects

“There’s a lot of rubbish talked about the need to be based in London. I talked to the Bond producers before we set up Picture Perfect and asked them straight out:

Ali Bastian as undercover agent Veronika in the Suffolk-shot film Hooligan Escape. Photo: Picture PerfectAli Bastian as undercover agent Veronika in the Suffolk-shot film Hooligan Escape. Photo: Picture Perfect

‘Do we need a London office?’ and their answer was ‘Absolutely not’. Lucinda started her career as an actress – and still acts on occasion – but is increasingly concentrating on being a film producer. “I still act, I appeared in The Detectorists filmed here in Framlingham but I am trying to limit how much I do because, quite frankly, being a producer takes all my time.”

She said that spending 15 years as an actor, 10 years working in television, gave her a working knowledge of film production and a desire to move from in front of the camera to working behind it.

She and husband, Jeet Thakrar, pooled their collective professional experience, took a deep breath and formed Picture Perfect, a company which, initially at least, specialises in producing exciting, commercial, low budget features which have found a lucrative home online and on DVD.

Robin Hood The Rebellion 2018 2Robin Hood The Rebellion 2018 2

Tell us something about Hooligan Escape?

LRT: “It’s about five English football fans who find themselves caught up in a violent encounter with a group of Russian hooligans at the European Cup. Their fight leaves one man dead and we have a vengeful Russian with a vendetta.

Robin Hood The Rebellion 2018 3Robin Hood The Rebellion 2018 3

The action then jumps on two years, when former SAS man Ed Leighton, played by Ben Freeman, and four of his mates travel to the World Cup in Russia, hoping for a trouble free tournament. Unfortunately for them, the Russians are waiting.

Herded into a Russian prison and dragged to an unknown secure location, Ed and his mates must find a way out. Aided by the mysterious Veronika, Ed and his mates the must evade a dangerous Russian gangster intent on retribution for events at the European Cup.

Ben Freeman stars as football fan Ed Leighton in the Suffolk-shot film Hooligan Escape. Photo: Picture PerfectBen Freeman stars as football fan Ed Leighton in the Suffolk-shot film Hooligan Escape. Photo: Picture Perfect

Does it help having a repertory company help when it comes to casting? Does it help that everyone knows everyone when you are on a tight budget and shooting schedule?

“Ali’s ( Bastian) back in this latest film Hooligan Escape, this time she is playing an undercover agent, a Russian, so that presented a wonderful challenge for her which she enjoyed. Ben is in this latest film and we then imediately cast him in Robin Hood: The Rebellion, which he loved, and that will be out later this year.

Is it easy to shoot in Suffolk?

“We were onto Screen Suffolk about getting Suffolk crew members because we knew we wanted to shoot at Bentwaters and we want to shoot another film here later this year and Suffolk is very film-friendly and the local crews are great.

Robin Hood has just wrapped, was doing a period a real challenge?

“Robin Hood is currently in post-production. It’s due out in October and in many ways it’s a lot like a Hooligan film, lots of boys running around, but the preparation took longer. We had to have extra rehearsals because they using swords and horses. It was hard work. I am happy to make any genre of film but next time perhaps we’ll do a nice easy horror – although nothing is easy.”

Would you say you have decided to specialize in the action-thriller market?

“We have done well with the Hooligan films but we are happy to make any genre of film. It’s nice to do something different. Contemporary films are easier because you don’t have to worry so much about the locations and costumes but at the end of the day story is king. It’s all about the story.

The budget for period movies must be greater?

“Oh yeah because you’ve got to have the right wardrobe and you are working with animals, also the production team is bigger. Also, if you doing a night-shoot at 2am and Robin Hood damages his tunic you can’t send a runner off to an all-night Tescos for a new polo shirt, you’ve either got to have a new tunic or repair the one that’s torn.

“For Robin Hood our production department was eight people, that’s huge for us, and one of the sets we had to build outside because we there were candles and open fires as part of the set and then we had to burn down part of the building and clearly you can’t do that to a national monument.

“The prep time is enormous because everything has to be built from scratch and then taken down again when you leave – it’s not a case of grabbing a gun and then shooting an action sequence as you do on a gangster movie.”

How important is casting?

“Casting is hugely important because not only do you have to get the right person for the role, you have to get the mix of personalities right, so everything goes smoothly on set, and you want people who can trust and who are reliable. You want people who can turn in a great performance in one or two takes because we haven’t got all day to do one little 30 second sequence. It’s a real team effort.

“We are very hands on and the actors can see that. I’m not sat in the office demanding to know why more scenes haven’t been shot. I am on the set, trying to clear the way for the director, so he can get on, trying to solve problems before they arise.

“Jeet is there as well doing to the sound, I am going around making sure everyone’s all right, do they want a cup of tea, making sure they’re not too cold or too wet or on other days not too hot. We try and look after our cast and crew and hopefully they will come back and do something for us again.

“We were thrilled to cast Brian Blessed as Friar Tuck and he was brilliant, but his language, oh my God, I have never heard anything like it. He didn’t mean anything by it, but he’s a colourful individual.”

How did Robin come about?

“It was presented to Jeet and I by Elizabeth Williams, another producer we work with, and it seemed a great idea. We sat down with Nick (Winter) and came up with a storyline, which takes places over one night, and is centred on a siege of a castle to rescue an imprisoned princess. It’s a very simple, contained story but it works very well because it involves you, as an audience, every step of the way.”

Hooligan Escape The Russian Job, written directed by Nicholas Winter, made by Picture Perfect, is now available online and on DVD.

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