Oscar-less 'Cashback' will grow into feature
By Tatiana Siegel
Although the filmmakers behind best live-action short nominee "Cashback"
left Sunday's Oscar ceremony empty-handed, their film is poised to enjoy a
That's because writer-director Sean Ellis and producer Lene Bausager have
turned the sexy, 19-minute supermarket dramedy -- think a U.K.-style
"Clerks" with lots of nudity -- into a feature-length film, reuniting the
short's ensemble cast.
"Originally, there were no plans to turn it into a feature film," says
Ellis, an accomplished fashion photographer and director of music videos and
commercials. "Then it did the festivals, and I saw people's reactions to the
film. It really connected with people, and they really identified with
people in the short."
In fact, Ellis said audiences continued to ask what happened to his quartet
of disgruntled night-shift workers -- played by Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia
Fox, Michael Lambourne and Michael Dixon -- as well as their Ricky Gervais-like
overlord boss (Stuart Goodwin). "I was like, wow, there seems to be life
after the short," Ellis recalls.
So, in 2004, long before "Cashback" had been shortlisted by the Academy,
nevermind nominated for an Oscar, Ellis and Bausager began the arduous task
of building a full-length movie around the footage already in the can.
"We already had 20 minutes of footage," says London-based Ellis, whose
credits include the 2001 short "Left Turn," which, like "Cashback," was
produced by Ridley Scott's RSA Films. "That means it saved us 20 minutes of
story and shooting, and it (brought) our budget down. We thought if we write
a script around the existing 20 minutes, then it is something we can
privately finance without the help of a studio."
Raising the money posed the usual indie film challenges. But for Bausager,
the biggest obstacle was finding the same window of availability for all
"We couldn't have done it without them returning," says Bausager, a Denmark
native who has been collaborating with Ellis on music videos and commercials
for more than seven years. "It was a miracle that they were all available at
the same time."
The new film, also titled "Cashback," finds protagonist Ben (Biggerstaff)
suffering from insomnia after a difficult breakup. As a result, he takes a
night-shift job at a supermarket, where his imagination runs wild. Shaun
Evans ("Being Julia"), Michelle Ryan (BBC series "EastEnders")(cq one word),
Marc Pickering ("Calendar Girls") and Brit TV regular Nick Hancock round out
the augmented cast.
Although Ellis and Bausager have yet to find a distributor for the
full-length version of "Cashback," the pair signed a deal with Gaumont to
sell the film internationally, excluding the U.K. Gaumont, which will
release the film in the fall in France, is expected to offer rights in other
territories at the Cannes Film Market.
Till then the short version of "Cashback," which is available for download
via the iTunes Music Store, will have to serve as an extended sneak preview.