"Everything is terrible right now, so f**k it, we're making a musical."
To tell you the truth, the idea for Heart Failure initially came from how completely shit everything was.
I don’t want to get into it too much, we all know how dreadful a pandemic is and how especially shite it's been for young people. We were bored, angry, scared, horny art students stuck inside watching the best years of our lives slip away and the deadline for our final year film project fast approaching. We thought about making a thoughtful thriller about isolation or a dark horror about mental health. Instead though, we decided to make what we wanted to watch… a fuckin musical, with dance music in it and also a bit of sex.
Nothing inspires creativity like the end of the world, oh and breakups…SO many lockdown breakups.
When there's a Will, there's a way.
Heart Failure is the brain baby of the Cool Bean Team. We're a Cornish production company founded by two Wills: Will Wightman (writer, director and editor of HF) and Will Marchant (cinematographer and music producer of HF).
Heart Failure began as a university project, but since then has got actually quite out of hand. Why not check out our Instagram and see the snowball for yourself.
"I think the initial idea for Heart Failure honestly just came from a desperate need to make something that actually captured what it’s like to be a Gen Z. I get really frustrated with how so much of the world talks about young people, and the nature of the film industry is such that basically no high end content is ever written or directed by anyone under the age of 25. With that in mind, writing Heart Failure was really just about trying to distill down my own experience of being 21 into something that captured that as authentically as possible and creating this alternative musical seemed like the perfect way to do that. "
Read the full interview on Directors Notes 23/02/22
THE COOL BEAN
Before we go any further, let’s be clear, this film was not made by just two of us, that would be hugely vein and also just a big lie. To tell you the truth, Heart Failure would not exist without literally the best team ever. We’re honestly so proud of this bunch, so in awe of the work they’ve done for Heart Failure and also so grateful that they put up with all our bullshite. Thanks for sticking with us guys, you are all amazing and we don’t deserve you x
IN FIVE HOURS.
I really want to say it isn’t all about money, but there are definitely points in the filmmaking process that are ALL about the money.
Musicals are expensive man. You have to pay for props and kit and costumes and actors and locations and insurance and just the most INSANE quantity of food. Meal deals, I’m telling you, they add up.
Because the project was initially a student production, we couldn’t apply for any funding, so instead, we launched a Kickstarter campaign. We did it just as the third lockdown began (that’s early 2021 if you’ve lost track, don’t worry I had). With some of the team bubbling together in Falmouth and others working remotely, we made a video, created our rewards and launched our project with no idea if anyone would even look at it, let alone give actual real money…
The project was staff picked, hit number one on Kickstarter and reached it’s target in less than fives hours. By the time our campaign ended, we’d raised nearly double our target. I still sort of can’t believe it even now. People are fuckin amazing sometimes.
400 Applications later...
Everything got pretty nuts from their. There was a shite load to figure out, but more than anything else, we had to find our cast. Take it from me: trying to find three great actors, with great chemistry that can fit your schedule is always a nightmare, but finding three great actors who can sing the way you want on top of that, is actually quite anxiety inducing.
Lizzie came together the easiest; Izzie Frymann is a good and insanely talented mate of ours that we’d always been desperate to work with. Then, we found Harry Hancock, who plays Frank’s best mate Ali, through an open audition up against about 200 other applicants. But Frank? No one was right. No one.
It was a lot to ask: someone who could sing, was available for a 10 day shoot and comfortable with the sex scenes and nudity that the script included. We received hundreds of auditions, searched every acting school in the country and put out another two casting calls. For a little while, it looked like Will Wightman, the director, would have to step up. Finally though, through a friend of an old school friend, we found Leon Newman, our Frank. Believe me, he was worth the wait.
The whole point of Heart Failure was to help us forget the bloody stupid virus for a bit, but we still had to plan and shoot all through the plethora of government orders/parties...
In our 10 minute film, there are 200 camera and lighting setups, 15 locations, 30 costumes, dozens of props and because of the COVID-19 situation, only 6 people on set at a time. A crew for a project this size is supposed to be 3 times that, so everyone had to do at least three jobs. It was a logistical balancing act that I still don’t know how Georgia Cunningham, our first AD, pulled off. Short credits for our graphic designer though so… silver linings?
For inside sequences, we had to get actually quite clever with the way we filmed everything to keep numbers down. We shot a lot of the film through these POV shots so both actors didn’t have to be in the room at the same time. We also used a lot of whip pans and digital masks to bring our actors into the same space.
Believe it or not, we also bought a mannequin that was used in the sex scene to pull that sequence off. Hugh Grant was its name, though I think it’s a different Hugh to the famous one. In the end, we also squeezed a couple of extra more intimate shots (like the kissing scene) a little later on when restrictions were lessened.
I think we’d all agree those 10 days were the most stressful and beautiful of our lives. Everything went wrong. We had to recast Frank’s second girlfriend on the day of shooting when the original actor got a haircut. We had to find a new location for the bus stop scene in 10 minutes because the original one was closed. Poor Leon had to sit and watch the last 20 minutes of forrest gump in the garden for the crying scene because he couldn’t cry when the camera started rolling. The neighbours hated us, every day ran hours over schedule and the weather was an ARSEHOLE. Looking back, it’s sort of mental we pulled any of it off to be honest…but we did. We shot a musical in a pandemic.
Production ran for 8 days plus a day for recording music and 2 days for pick ups. It was all shot on an Alexa classic with sigma zooms/primes and black promist filters. We had a couple of arri hot lights, small aperture smart bulbs as well as a load of old fashioned 60w bulbs that we bought online for a couple of quid (the light they make is better for some reason you just have to trust us).
Most of the film was shot in our student house, which made it a lot easier for us to bubble and we could plan the film out even when we were in a full lockdown. Because of covid, a couple of our house mates had moved out so the house was pretty much a blank canvas. Our art director Grace Fortune and set dresser Hannah Bradley did an amazing job bringing that gross building to life.
By the time we had filmed the fuckin thing it was graduation and the whole team spread over the country with all the new and exciting stuff they were doing. For three months Will W edited the film on his 12 year old MacBook in Final Cut Pro before both Wills teamed up to produce the final soundtrack. We spent nearly two months at Will M’s parents house making that music track work. The day it finally came together was one of the best days of our entire lives.
We did the sound design ourselves and then got Marco Caminiti in to do the colour for us. He probably had more experience than all of us combined, but it was so great to get someone that knowledgeable in for that last step. Marco was based in Italy, so we shipped all the footage across Europe, nearly had it confiscated at customs and… finished the final exports.
That’s it... it’s done. Holy f**k.
REAL TALK FOR A SEC...
We are so completely amazed with how far this project has come. To everyone who has helped in any way at all, thank you. To anyone who has shared their time, money, kit, knowledge of just emotional support, thank you. There was a point mid-lockdown where it felt like we’d never get a chance to make anything again, so to have had the opportunity to put all our energy into something we’re so excited by is really just a testament to all the amazing people who have supported this mental thing. We made a musical in a pandemic and I hope the film brings you at least a little of the joy it’s brought us.
WE'RE JUST GETTING STARTED.
Heart Failure will have it’s world premiere in February 2022 at the BFI future film festival and it’s online premiere on Director’s Notes shortly after that. That might seem like the end of the road but don’t worry we’re just getting started. Heart Failure will be touring festivals throughout 2022 and beyond, while the Cool Bean team also have some new projects on the way. We’re developing two new short films, as well as a… Heart Failure TV series?
We can’t wait to see what happens next.
lots of love
the Cool Bean team xx