Welcome to Westover
WESTOVER is a crime drama. A gambler, a hit-woman, a call-girl and a conman, and the city that threatens to consume them all.
This is the feature film debut of a collection of Master’s students from Bournemouth University, an attempt to do something bigger and bolder than anything we’ve ever done before. My name is Nash Sibanda, and I’m the film’s writer and director.
Our crew includes cinematographer Christina Stathatou, who’s got a great eye for colour and composition; Antti Mäki, a perfectionist sound designer; the great editorial team of Owen McKeever and Neil Morgan; and the tenacious production duo Slavica Rockov and Carlos Fesser. This nucleus is surrounded by wonderful people, from fine artist Catrin Richards to production designer Liz Caplen to musician Inti Rowland.
JAMIE is a compulsive gambler, who falls into debt with RICHIE, the crime lord of Westover City. MARIA, Richie’s right-hand – and Jamie’s ex – gives Jamie a gun; he’ll pay off his debts in blood. Jamie’s young wife EMMA has fallen for her boss, NICK, a credit fraudster. He’s in love with a young call-girl, SADIE; he puts together fake credit cards for her, and behind his back she brings this information to THEO, a detective who’s agreed to protect her from the law in return.
The film tells the story of how the lives of these characters are built up and torn down, and the results of the choices they make. Some things never change, no matter how hard you try to fight them – and this is true for us as filmmakers, where nothing matters unless the story is worth it.
The most important thing is that we’re trying not to think of it as a student film, but rather as a feature film being made while we’re still students. We want it to be a film that wider audiences can enjoy, one that doesn’t just talk to students and indie filmmakers, but to all kinds of moviegoers.
WESTOVER is a crime film that blends elements of film noir and arthouse independent drama, as well as a strong emphasis on ensemble narrative. Drawing from naturalist character dramas such as Blue Valentine (2010, Dir. Derek Cianfrance) and Fish Tank (2009, Dir. Andrea Arnold), the film also operates in poetic, fugal modes akin to The Thin Red Line (1998, Dir. Terence Malick). By employing a tandem ensemble narrative in the vein of Guillermo Arriaga, themes are explored through different perspectives; this juxtaposition generates the thematic links between characters, alongside the narrative links.
With this film we want to make a crime drama that operates in a humanist mode, by focusing on characters rather than spectacle. It is a film concerned with fate, which the characters struggle against throughout; it is also a film of guilt and the elusive promise of redemption. WESTOVER also comments on the nature of crime films in and of themselves, appropriating the fatalism of film noir and applying it to arthouse drama. It is a timeless story imagined for a contemporary cinema-going audience, familiar enough to grant access to all whilst committing to stylistic and thematic exploration throughout, and aspiring to artistic recognition.
WESTOVER has been in the works for months, and development on the film has been a constant forward journey. The original concept was drafted in Summer 2012, and since then the film has been refined and the script written. Several drafts later, schedules have also been drawn up, locations are being locked down, scripts have been broken down, auditions have kicked off all week and we’re ready to come forward to look for a bit of help.
After making short films and web products for a few years, we’re all used to bringing projects together to high quality in limited timescales. This has forced us to become instinctive planners – we’re all happier with solid and detailed plans, and with the time afforded to us to work on WESTOVER, we’ve been able to put together a project that fulfils our desire to build something ambitious and creative, whilst also being realistic and feasible. From script to breakdown to schedule to budget, the film has been designed from the ground up to be a realistic prospect that doesn’t force us to sacrifice the artistic foundation that it’s built upon. Our focus is story and character, and thankfully these don’t cost us anything.
There are a lot of things we need that do cost money, however. This film will only be able to survive as a product of generosity and collaboration – the cast and crew are all involving themselves as a labour of love, for the craft and for the film. The shoot is scheduled to take 26 days; feeding and transporting this small army is the main priority. A hungry crew is an unhappy one!
Renting equipment and a van to transport it all is another major expense, and critical to raising the production value of the film to the level we feel it deserves. WESTOVER is a film about people, set in the present day, and we’re determined not to use special effects or equipment that wastes money without bringing anything to the storytelling. Thus, all our equipment hires are for high-quality essentials – using what we know we can use to its full potential.
Lastly, our third major expense comes from the production design wing of the film, including wardrobe, set dressing, props, location fees and makeup expenses. Wherever possible, we are using real, existing environments and locations – we don’t feel the need to create a constructed version of something that already exists in reality. All the same, we can’t make this film without acquiring several key elements, much of which we’re hiring to further reduce costs.
Below is a visual breakdown of the budget:
A Word from Producers Carlos Fesser and Slavica Rockov
"My name is Carlos L. Fesser, I am Television Production student at Bournemouth University. An increasing interest concerning the media industry reflects an experience of production assistance & producing. As Production Assistant within Westover I contribute to a complex pre-production process, which involves general research, location scouting, legal forms & casting among other matters. Together with associate Slavica Rockov, our role during this stage determines the quality of a smooth shooting."
"Hi, My name is Slavica Rockov, I'm studying Television Production at Bournemouth University. Using everything I have learned from my previous work experience, I am sure that along with other members of the crew we can insure a production of the highest possible quality. I truly believe in Westover as I believe in our talented director, Nash. I know this film could not only be original but one of the most impactful films you will ever see. I am honored to be a part of the crew as a co producer with Carlos L. Fesser. Please help our dream become true, make Westover happen."
A Word from Sound Designer Antti Mäki
"My name is Antti Mäki and I am an MA student of Sound Production in Bournemouth University. I have been a film sound designer for seven years already, but Westover is the first feature film I have worked on. The reason for getting involved is my full confidence in the script, as well as in Nash’s directing skills. We both share a passion for sound and music, not just for setting the mood of a film but also for adding to the narrative itself. Great sound can and will lift a story to another level. I am looking forward to making this true for Westover."
A Word from Editor Neil Morgan
"Hello, I'm Neil Morgan, a MA Post Production Editing student at Bournemouth University. Though my main role will be as an editor, I have also expressed a willingness to help on set as DIT in order to help speed up our post-production workflow. Having enjoyed working with Nash earlier in the University year, and seeing his other films, I'm looking forward to starting work on this ambitious and challenging project. My main enjoyment of the filmmaking process stems from the collaborative nature of the creative process - coming together to overcome the various obstacles that we'll encounter in order to produce a film we'll all be proud of."
We Need Your Help!
As a feature length film, we would be completely lost without the help and support from any and all film-lovers and enthusiasts who would be interested in this project. We truly believe we have the capability to produce a lovely film, and with your help we can only go from strength to strength. Please consider making a contribution, or sharing this project with anyone you think might be interested in it!
In return, you will get our personal thanks, as well as numerous other incentives as described in the perks section to the right. From copies of the completed film, to shooting scripts and production stills, all the way up to producer credits, invitations to the cast and crew premiere and original artwork produced by our resident artist Cat Richards. You can even come visit us during production, and see your contributions being put to use.