When one considers partners; associates; cohorts; allies; the majority of us think of our significant others, teammates or business partners. Typically in film you think of law firms or the law enforcement like the FBI. However, very few of us look to the British Police Force (lovingly known as The Beat, The Old Bill and The Bobbies), when in fact all police patrol cars contain two police officers who are enrolled as each others' partners; in the assumption that one must always have the other’s back in everyday violent, and often frightening, situations.
This pondering topic is the basis for Charlotte Regan’s short film Standby. The film, set entirely in the front seats of a police patrol vehicle, follows Gary and Jenny, the latter of whom has recently been assigned as Gary’s new working partner. It is clear from the get-go that Gary is not the most talkative of characters – evident when Jenny undergoes thoughtful things such as welcoming him with a coffee at the start of each morning shift and bringing him a cake for his birthday. However, as each day goes by, you can view Gary slowly starting to warm up to his new colleague, who swiftly goes from his working partner to potential friend.
Standby director Regan, a London-based filmmaker, should be proud of her short film debut considering that it was shot over two days and included a small production team of only ten. “The biggest challenge for me was directing the majority of the scenes through a walkie-talkie,” she says. “We didn't have the money [for rehearsals] so it was all very rushed on the day but luckily the crew and cast were amazing and put up with my occasional meltdowns!”
As well as receiving a BAFTA nod – an already impressive accolade for such a modest project – Standby embarked on an exciting journey across the festival circuit, screening at festivals including the London Short Film Festival and The Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Short Cuts Programme. Upon attending the festival, Regan spoke with Toronto Film Scene writer, William Brownridge, stating: “I’ve never been to TIFF so I can’t wait to just get involved with everything and meet as many people as I can. The short cut screenings will be a highlight as all the short film directors have been sending each other trailers and chatting online so we’re all really excited about seeing each other’s films.”
Whilst Regan’s forte lies within music videos, the director was wary of a variety of obstacles that could have come her way; particularly directing cast and crew through the mobility of a vehicle. “It was completely different as I'd never directed a scripted piece I'd only done music videos, hundreds of them but they're still very different to a short film or any type of narrative content.” When asked how working on Standby compared to any other projects she'd done she said, "it meant spending more time with the actors on set and spending the weeks leading up to the project chatting with them online constantly about their characters and the progress of their friendship.”
The film’s leading duo, Gary and Jenny, are portrayed by two of the UK film industry's very own. London-born actor Andrew Paul, who portrays leading man Gary, is no stranger to the British Police Force having played PC Dave Quinnan in the ITV crime series The Bill. Paul portrayed the loyal police officer for 13 years before leaving the popular drama in 2002. He is perhaps now best recognised in fellow ITV favourite Coronation Street, having previously appeared in Eastenders, Where The Heart Is and Lewis.
Paul’s onscreen co-star is portrayed by fellow London-based actress Alexa Morden, whom many recognise for her brief appearance in the British millennial drama Skins. Since graduating from drama school in 2013, Morden appeared in the British biopic dramas Rise of the Krays and Fall of the Krays. Morden is joined onscreen in Standby by up-and-coming actors Margaret Towner, Richard Sherwood and John Layton.
Regan was fortunate enough for all of her contributing actors to be drawn to the script from the get-go after having reached out to casting agents. Leon Cunningham on the other hand – the rapper in the back of the car – is a friend of the director’s who “added tonnes of great improv on the journey to and from each location.”
Standby is a witty, original and interesting short film that is bound to make viewers chuckle. While the film succumbs to well-known British stereotypes, it does offer an interesting insight into the British working police force and the various individuals they come across daily. Its director is currently filming her next short Fry-Up in London and is already in pre-production for the subsequent short entitled Kelly. “Other than that I'm regularly staring at blank walls on my days off wondering when the inspiration will come,” she laughs.