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“LIFT”

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					“LIFT”
A Hartswood Films production written by Mark Watson for BBC FOUR Starring: Douglas Hodge Nina Wadia Siobhan Redmond Rasmus Hardiker Executive Producers: Beryl Vertue, Sue Vertue Producer: Mark Freeland Director: James Hawes

For further information please contact: Anya Noakes/Rebecca Dix (Publicists for Hartswood Films) Julian Wyth (BBC Picture Publicity) Emma Jacobs (BBC Preview DVDs) 020 7483 2005 020 8008 3183 020 8225 8463

LIFT Introduction

Douglas Hodge (Vanity Fair, Mansfield Park, Spooks), Rasmus Hardiker (Lead Balloon, Saxondale), Nina Wadia (New Tricks, All About Me) and Siobhan Redmond (The Catherine Tate Show, The Smoking Room) star in LIFT, a new half hour comedy written by the Edinburgh 2006 if.comeddie Panel Award winner Mark Watson who also recently won the 2006 TIME OUT CRITICS’ CHOICE award. LIFT is one of four comedies in BBC FOUR’S new series TIGHT SPOT in which the central characters are all stuck in very different situations. The series started on Wednesday 28th February 2007 at 10.30pm and LIFT was be the third programme to go out, on Wednesday 14th March 2007. LIFT: On the edge of meltdown, businessman Paul Sykes (Douglas Hodge) is late for a make-or-break meeting. Sunita (Nina Wadia) will not shut up about her inappropriate life experiences. Rocco (Rasmus Hardiker) is a 17-year-old with seven different, very major phobias. Christabel (Siobhan Redmond) is dangerously jolly and is challenged in the bladder area. Four ill-fitting people who want to be as far away as possible from one another. Unfortunately this isn’t possible. They’re stuck in a lift. Will they ever get out? If they do, will there still be four of them alive? It’s like LOST but quite a lot more cramped.

LIFT is produced by Mark Freeland (Supernova) and directed by James Hawes (Dr Who), the Executive Producers are Beryl Vertue (Coupling, Men Behaving Badly) and Sue Vertue (Coupling, Fear, Stress & Anger) and it is a Hartswood Films production for BBC FOUR.

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LIFT Production Notes

It’s 8.30am. Christabel, Sunita, Rocco and Paul Sykes are stuck in a London Underground Station lift. We see a series of snapshots documenting the characters’ gradual slide from irritation to panic, as they realise they’re properly stuck. At first they just sigh and tut as the lift stands still. They look at each other – apart from Rocco who’s oblivious listening to his iPod. No one says anything. Paul Sykes starts impatiently pressing the lift buttons in vain whilst muttering: “Unbelievable!” “What is this? A Third World country?” looking at his watch. Some minutes have passed and Paul Sykes is now pressing the buttons frantically. He has commitments; he’s going to miss his career-defining presentation. Christabel is shouting “Hello? Is there anyone outside?” whilst Sunita is simply saying “We’re stuck”, over and over, with the calm, resigned confidence of a stuck-in-a-lift veteran. As the titles end, Christabel is trying to talk into the emergency intercom; Rocco is still slumped in the corner – noone is yet aware that he suffers from multiple phobias – including claustrophobia; Paul Sykes is hammering on the doors in mounting panic; Sunita looks as if she’s seen it all before and is already settling down for “a long one”. Writer Mark Watson and Producer Mark Freeland Mark Watson is a writer and stand-up comedian whom The Evening Standard branded “a Scholar, a gentleman and a brilliant stand-up.” He won the if.comeddie Panel Award at Edinburgh 2006 for his stand-up show I’M WORRIED THAT I’M STARTING TO HATE ALMOST EVERYONE IN THE WORLD which transferred to the Soho Theatre, was Perrier nominated in 2005 and has just won the TIME OUT CRITICS’ CHOICE 2006 award. His first novel BULLET POINTS was published in 2004 and he makes regular television appearances on shows like MOCK THE WEEK and NEVERMIND THE BUZZCOCKS. Mark has been nurturing the idea for LIFT for some time, originally as a short film idea: “In fact it had its roots in a play I wrote at school, almost ten years ago. At that point I wouldn’t have believed this would happen. It was called FOUR BLOKES AND A GIRL IN A LIFT. I

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wanted to replicate that ‘you never know who you’ll meet’ sensation of getting into a small metal box with a bunch of strangers.” Although Mark has been stuck in a lift once, in Australia, on his own, for about fifteen minutes, he was actually mostly inspired by wondering what was the most confined situation he could put characters in: “People are always saying that the best sitcoms come from characters being ‘trapped’ and I thought it would be interesting to explore that idea literally. A few years ago I wrote a script about hostages being kept in a room – and a couple of people were keen on the project – but then there were some high profile hostage-takings and it became less funny.” However, the idea became a reality when Mark Watson met Mark Freeland, who is now at Hartswood Films: “At the time Mark was working at the BBC and read some of my work. He then came to see my Edinburgh stand-up show 50 YEARS BEFORE DEATH AND THE AWFUL PROSPECT OF ETERNITY.” Mark Freeland takes up the story: “I loved Mark’s original idea for LIFT. He and I were thinking about ways in which we could get it made into a series of ten minute episodes like MARION & GEOFF. It particularly appealed to me in that it was something so incredibly small but you could still talk about the big things in life. That was what was one of the things that was so fantastic about THE ROYLE FAMILY; it may look as if it’s just people sitting on a sofa, but the show is all about the big things – life, love, marriage, death… So having four characters in a small, enclosed situation was very alluring to me; there are no hiding places – the polar opposite of another Hartswood production, SUPERNOVA, which we filmed in the Australian Outback!” He continues: “Lucy Lumsden at the BBC had always liked the project. And then she discovered that she had four scripts that she liked, and they all magically fitted into the TIGHT SPOT theme and this comedy, which had always seemed a bit of an oddity, fitted the context. So we suddenly had to get our skates on.” Mark Watson did not find it difficult to turn his short film into a 30 minute comedy: “Once the characters are in place, it’s not so hard to keep escalating the drama and ratcheting up the tension between them. The challenge is to keep things interesting visually when there’s only one location, but the cast and director did a superb job of that.” Casting was key, as Mark Freeland explains: “Douglas came in and played the up-tight, everyman victim brilliantly. He just loved the script and fitted the part like a glove. Douglas has done a good deal of theatre work, and this is quite theatrical in the sense that no one leaves

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the ‘stage’, so he was very much at home. When you’re working with an enclosed space, you have to experiment a little and see how big or small you can go. As a stage actor, he has all these instincts.” Siobhan Redmond is also a consummate theatre actress, having appeared on stage numerous times, most recently in the title role in MARY STUART, THE LUNATIC QUEEN for the National Theatre of Scotland. “She’s an excellent comedy actress and well known for her TV appearances in shows like THE SMOKING ROOM and THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW.” Mark continues: “Rasmus Hardiker sprang to mind immediately for the part of Rocco. We had seen him in SAXONDALE and LEAD BALLOON and when we met him he just looked so like the character – hoodie and everything. He has a great face and terrific warmth. He also has a vulnerability and is completely natural in the way he looks and in his personality.” Mark knew Nina Wadia from his days at the BBC: “Again, she has done a lot of theatre and can play rather thick-skinned, tunnel-visioned characters very well – unaware of herself, but naturally positive – perfect for the part of Sunita” Mark Watson was equally delighted with the casting: “The four actors are all superb. Douglas Hodge does a brilliant, sour-faced job as the businessman; Nina Wadia is perfect as the maddening know-it-all; Siobhan Redmond gives a completely different quality to things with a mixture of dottiness and sharp-tongued wit; and Rasmus Hardiker is an obvious future star. It was a thrill to me to have gifted actors working on the script.” Director James Hawes James Hawes has built a considerable reputation in high-profile television drama and top-end documentaries. He directed several episodes of the re-launch of DR WHO, including the BAFTA winning Christmas special. Documentaries include a film written and presented by Prince Charles; the Emmy-nominated EGYPT’S GOLDEN EMPIRE and the critically acclaimed LAWRENCE OF ARABIA for the BBC and PBS. Mark Freeland explains: “James seemed the ideal person to direct LIFT. We wanted someone who would be able to direct a project that is deceptively difficult to do. It’s incredibly challenging to shoot in a lift as everyone is constantly in shot. In many respects shooting half an hour in a box presents as many challenges as shooting something on a grand scale, where you have lots of choices and lots of cutaways. James also had a wonderful opportunity to do something with those MARION & GEOFF time lapses. It means you can create a sort of mosaic of these people and the progressions of their individual journeys.”

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Mark Watson admits presenting a challenge to the director and cast by setting the whole drama in the confined space of a lift, but says they rose brilliantly to the challenge: “I laughed a lot watching it back, and I never really laugh at my own stuff. Or anyone else’s.” Mark Freeland adds: “After a day and a half the actors were going stir crazy. I can totally understand because at the end of the four day shoot I walked into the lift for the very first time and stood there for some minutes. It felt very claustrophobic, like being… stuck in a lift! The four cast members became incredibly good friends and it was a bit sad when everyone dispersed as they had become a little dysfunctional family!” Douglas Hodge plays Paul Sykes Paul Sykes is a constantly exasperated, highly-strung middle-aged businessman with commitments. Prowling like an animal, he emits massive sighs and desperately tries to make contact with the outside world using all the devices he can think of: phone, blackberry, palm pilot, satellite navigation system, tiny laptop, calculator… Douglas laughs: “You’d never want to be trapped anywhere with Paul Sykes. He’s on his way to give a presentation so already in a state of high anxiety when he gets into the lift. He’s not very good at talking in public and his stress levels get higher and higher as he sees the minutes ticking by and his promotion opportunities slipping away. “He’s also a complete insomniac. You know that Paul’s misery is self inflicted and if you step out of the house in the morning and you are completely impatient, you soon turn into a laughing stock. You know the sort – it starts with someone sighing very loudly in a dramatic way and then saying “It’s like living in a Third World Country” as they try to transmit just how amateurish everything around them is. I was delighted to be offered the part of Paul. The script was hilarious and the character really rang a bell. In fact all the people in the script are very familiar. It’s very rare even in sitcoms that I ever laugh out loud, but this was absolutely fabulous.” But he admits that LIFT was difficult to film: “It never for one minute dawned on me the misery that would be involved in standing in a small confined space with no time off whatsoever! Actually I became quite hysterical – I can’t control it. The worst and most pathetic habit I have is laughing when I find myself funny, which is sad; but I suppose we either got more and more miserable stuck in this place, or we became like hyenas!” The cast all cite the scene in which Douglas led a game of charades as the one that truly cracked them up. Douglas laughs: “That

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scene was particularly painful in that it went on and on – but I blame the rest of the cast entirely for the lack of professionalism!” Siobhan Redmond plays Christabel Christabel is a middle-aged, cheerfully dressed, four-times married, eccentric Scottish lady who keeps producing odd objects from her copious handbag. She’s relentlessly jolly, and without a shred of self consciousness. She’s also challenged in the bladder area and, in an effort to take her mind off this, tries to get everybody to join in a sing-song… Siobhan loved the script, and was also keen to work with James Hawes again: “I played a pair of identical twins in BBC ONE’s psychological thriller SEA OF SOULS which he directed and which I thoroughly enjoyed doing.” She comments: “It’s always fun playing someone who is completely outgoing and flamboyant, unselfconscious and with absolutely no filters. She is very colourful – not least in the way she dresses, and has quite a bit of life experience, probably helped by being married so often. Christabel sees herself as a sort of mother figure and decides it’s up to her to keep everyone’s spirits up.” But she admits that filming in a small space for four days began to take it toll: “It was really good fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but we did begin to suffer from cabin fever – and that wasn’t helped by the fact that Douglas Hodge is the most terrible giggler and that was unbelievably contagious. This was particularly the case when his character was meant to be acting out a game of charades and he was improvising like mad; I haven’t laughed so much in ages!” Siobhan hasn’t ever been stuck in a lift herself, but admits that she found it strange having to get into a lift immediately after the read-through when she went for a costume fitting: “I found myself looking for escape routes! I don’t think I’ll ever look at a lift in the same way again…” Nina Wadia plays Sunita Sunita is in her thirties. She has been stuck in lifts twice before and happily regales everybody with her experiences, seeing herself as the expert. She and Paul Sykes clash almost incessantly as Mark Watson explains: “Their personalities are somehow similar but maddeningly at odds.”

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