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FILM TALKS: The Inbetweeners

Film Talks is back! Since its launch back in October, Film Talks has seen presenter Dan Charles speak with some of the biggest names in film and television production, all willing to share some wonderful insights with our members. This week, it was the turn of The Inbetweeners stars Simon Bird and Joe Thomas, as well as director Ben Palmer, to shed some light on their time with the show and films.

In the words of Simon Bird, since The Inbetweeners was first aired back in 2008, the show has become “iconic...or whatever.” The show follows Will, Simon, Jay, and Neil, attempting to navigate their way through adolescence, high school, and all the social expectations that accompany being a teenage boy. Speaking to many of our prospective members in the run-up to the event, it’s evident the show is indeed iconic. With many members being under the age of ten when the show first aired, I was delighted to hear of their excitement when I told them about the event! The Inbetweeners has clearly remained incredibly popular, with Simon and Joe remarking they still get the odd ‘Bus W@nker!’ shouted at them on the street.

Dan kicked off the show by asking Joe, Simon and Ben about their beginnings in the industry. Joe and Simon spoke of their time at University, attending the Cambridge University comedy society, the Footlights. The Footlights has launched the careers of many famous British comics, including Richard Ayoade, Hugh Laurie, and Sue Perkins. Speaking of their first meeting, Simon stated his relationship with Joe was ‘true love’, upon meeting each other in the pub after a night with the society.

Ben Palmer spoke of his time on PopWorld with Channel 4, before meeting comedian Leigh Francis (Keith Lemon might be his more familiar title!) and transitioning into the world of comedy. Dan and Ben also shared some memories of their upbringing in Barrow-in-Furness in the Lake District, an entertaining coincidence seeing as the town is 'a tiny little cul de sac’ (at least according to Ben!)

Film Talks offers NYFA members the opportunity to ask our guests some of their questions. Filmmaker Georgia Inkely was first, asking Ben, Simon and Joe their favourite moments to film. Favorite moments included James Buckley nearly catching fire by not listening to a safety briefing on launching a flare, and the unfortunate crashing of a new motorbike. Ben spoke of the importance of simple filming when planning comedic scenes; sometimes the simpler the better! Simon and Joe also revealed that they were initially turned down for roles in the show, but eventually managed to convince the producers to audition them.

‘Rather than go to town with multiple angles and cuts and make it all whiz-bangy, sometimes

just in the playing of a sequence like that the more basic coverage and the simplicity of it….

just gave us the best results.’ - Ben Palmer

‘[the producers] just flatly turned us down...said we were far too old. And in my case, too

Camp.’ - Simon Bird

Following further talk of Joe Thomas' strange fashion choices prior to shooting the show, member Grace Ward asked if the cast ever ventured into the world of improvisation. This was said to be limited, with a fairly strict script being followed during filming on the show (despite some cast apparently claiming otherwise!) Joe revealed parts of the script have come back to haunt him, occasionally getting ‘Carly!’ the name of his character Simon’s love interest, shouted at him in the street. For future reference readers, Joe would prefer his own character's name being shouted at him in future.

‘James would say that he was improvising but it was more he just...hadn’t learned the lines.’

- Joe Thomas

Member Ashlee-Rose Brisely wanted to know if perceptions of Simon and Joe had changed since their roles, which she described as being ‘the fabric of British comedy culture.’ She further queried how Simon and Joe combatted this and how they have used it to their advantage. Joe revealed he never intended to be an actor, with his icon being Ricky Gervais, suggesting he intended a more stand-up route rather than character-based roles. Simon agreed, saying that although this wasn’t perhaps the career he intended, the success it has brought him has been humbling and exciting. He did mention the difficulty with now being associated with this role, which now makes it occasionally more difficult to get work. Both Joe and Simon have gone on to have successful roles following The Inbetweeners, however, with Joe starring in popular sitcom Fresh Meet, and Simon also having great success in Friday Night Dinner. Ben has also since gone on to direct Man Up, starring Simon Pegg, and Breeders, which has just finished filming its second season.

What about lockdown then? What do actors and directors get up to during the nation-wide lockdown? As mentioned, Ben said he has been lucky enough to continue working through lockdown and has been shooting throughout the year. Joe mentioned he partook in a Jonathan Creek Zoom quiz, a process he described as very stressful. Not quite as stressful as his virtual London Marathon, however, talking us through his misery running through rainy London, before a faulty app made him end up running far further than he had to. Speaking of quizzes, however, Dan then began the ‘Film Talks Zoom Quiz, with the Inbetweeners.’ Simon Bird, ever the smart cookie both on and off-screen, took the prize, winning a lovely mask of Joe Thomas. Masks were in good supply, however, as Joe was offered a mask of Simon, with Ben being offered masks of James Buckley and Blake Harrison. A nice touch from Dan, with myself and fellow talent manager Sonia playing along on our zoom call.

‘You run it on your phone holding an app on your phone that tracks your movements….It was miserable…I was running in silence around raining London.’ - Joe Thomas

Member Sam Shaw then wanted to know if there was any apprehension about the fans' reaction to the film, asking if there were fears the show would be deemed a sell-out. Ben said this was very much a fear with the show being so successful, with the big fear being that budgets would increase and the actual film would never be as good as the show. Ben mentioned there was a balance to be obtained, as bigger sequences were needed, but the show needed to remain true to itself.

The final question came from Filmmaker Rosalyn Harper, who wanted to know if any jokes were too extreme to make the final cut. The short answer? No. Simon said if anything, some jokes just weren’t funny, but writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris never shied away from controversial jokes. Probably a good thing!

As Dan said, we could have chatted to them all day, but time does fly when you’re having fun! We hope you laughed with us learning about the show and Ben, Simon, and Joe’s careers. Or at least laughed at Joe’s technical incompetence when it comes to new microphones. What final advice did our guests have then, for our members?

‘Perseverance is key when you’re trying to get into the industry, and also when you’re making anything...Just keep going.’ - Ben Palmer

‘Work with people that you genuinely like. Don’t work with someone who’s a dick because they’re professional and have status.’ - Joe Thomas

‘Don’t burn bridges… It’s important to be a self-starter to a certain extent. Joe and I, for a couple of years, for no financial gain, and for no reason, wrote jokes for Iain and Damon...It was a foot-hole in the industry...Take any job you can get and maybe it’ll lead somewhere.’

- Simon Bird

Some fairly sound advice! We believe here at NYFA, networking is extremely powerful, and this advice definitely supports that ethos! One connection can lead to a world of opportunities.

We spoke to Simon Bird after the show about how he found the experience. “I always enjoy taking part in NYFA events and sharing my admittedly quite limited, not to mention rambling and inconsistent, ‘wisdom’ with the next generation of film & TV talent.” We found Simon’s insight wonderful, and hope our members enjoyed his wisdom.

Join us next time for Film Talks, where we are speaking to actor Noel Clarke. Noel won the BAFTA’s Rising Star Award in 2009, and will be discussing his film Brotherhood, which he wrote, directed, and starred in. We can’t wait!

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