British director Scott Mann released his debut feature film The Tournament in 2009, starring Robert Carlyle and Ian Somerhalder.
He followed it up with 2015’s Heist, which starred Robert De Niro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Dave Bautista. His latest film, Final Score, sees Mann teaming up once again with Bautista for an action thriller set in a football stadium.
I called Scott to find out more about the film, talk about working with Bautista again, and to discuss partnering with Sky Cinema for the release.
Final Score is out this week. Tell me a little bit about what the film is all about…
Basically some bad dudes take a football stadium hostage with thirty-five thousand fans to try and get someone out of witness protection. They threaten all the people in the stadium who are completely unaware that it’s all going on. Our guy Michael Knox, played by Dave Bautista, he becomes the fly in the ointment of it all. Die Hard in a football stadium I’ve heard a lot, which is probably a good quick way of telling you what the film’s about. Michael Knox has lost his niece, who he’s supposed to be looking after at the stadium and he’s got to get her back, all the meanwhile chewing through all these bad dudes who are trying to kill everyone. Obviously you don’t mess with Dave Bautista because he’ll destroy you (laughs).
You’ve worked with Dave before. The cast features some incredible actors such as Pierce Brosnan and Ray Stevenson. How did you assemble all of these actors for the film?
Pierce was first in actually. It was a very quick process because we kind of had a gun to the head. The stadium had been sold and was being handed over and we had this short period where we were allowed to be in there and actually film before it was demolished. We had a really tight deadline. Never before have I seen such a deadline honestly. We had a few weeks not only to write the film but cast it, get it done and get it shot. Everyone was working at a high intensity and the casting process was similar to that. We sent it out to Pierce, he loved it and signed on.
I worked with Dave on a previous film. We originally talked about him playing the bad guy in the film but then we talked about how much fun it would be to come at it from a different angle and have him as the good guy in the lead role. It kind of sprawled out into this really interesting idea. It was slightly different then than we originally started off with the writers in terms of the role but it put this angle into it that was really interesting. I’ve seen what Dave was capable of in Heist and he’s very underrated. He was such a pleasure to work with. It was exciting to see him in a role where he takes the lead and plays something different. It came together organically but in a rush.
I remember talking to Dave on FaceTime wandering around the pitch and the football stadium, which is where we lived for the best part of two or three months, and talking it through. We all got kind excited on the writing side and we worked on it all together really from that moment on. It’s been a bit of a collaboration getting the film to where it was. Dave’s been really involved in the things.
Ray Stevenson, who I’ve always loved as an actor, we immediately hit it off and he had some great ideas for the role and tried to have fun with it. That’s the thing with the film… you can go one of two ways – you can take yourself very seriously and go one direction or you can just have fun with it, and that’s what I wanted to do. That’s how we all embraced it especially as we were shooting it with the backdrop of Brexit and everything crazy going on in the world. It felt like a nice release just to get away from the more serious world issues. There’s an 80s throwback element to the film, which we all embraced and loved. One of the nice things about the film it has a tongue firmly in its cheek and it’s escapism from some of the darkness of the real world. Ray was great in that he had a lot of fun with the character. He’s a method guy so he went deeply into it all and was a lot of fun to work with.
This is one of the first films that’s taken advantage of Sky Cinema strategy so it’ll be available on Sky Cinema the same day that it’s released in cinema. What opportunities does that give you in terms of getting your film a much wider reach?
That’s a really good question actually. I was excited about the Sky Cinema aspect of it. The world has changed with film and TV, it’s changed a lot. Film isn’t what it was. It’s very hard to get films distributed. The way that piracy hs impacted cinema has caused major knock on effects. I’ve gone through different experiences with each film but I’ve seen first hand the impact that everything is having and how hard it is for film-makers to get films out there and get seen. What was exciting about Sky is that it’s a new model that they’re trying out, which is really to give more people the chance to see a film and give them the choice. You can see it in the cinema but if you’ve got Sky Cinema you can see it at home if you’d rather. I like that choice. We’ll see. Time will tell how it plays and I’m interested to see.
I do think not having traditional windows in the same way that you would normally gets me excited. I think there’s two ways of looking it; you can either be depressed about it or happy about it, and I’m very happy about it. I think the truth is it’s a complex area and we have to find a balance between exhibition of a film experience that works on both sides of it. I’m not a believer that Netflix on its own without a theatrical window is the answer to everything. I think there really has to be a balance between theatrical exhibition. There’s a different experience on a big screen with big sound and a collective audience experience… it’s very different than watching at home. They’re two different experiences and ones better for some things and one’s better for the other things. Having that choice and a balance of that choice is where I hope things end up in the wider scale of film releases.
I’m hoping if Sky’s venture goes well people are then going to be open to do these crossovers with reduced windows and find a balance where you can experience the film how it. I think it’s a great thing personally. I’m really curious to how it plays out. Focusing the release into one bigger window allows a lot of crossover and Sky, with all the platforms they have to advertise on, it’s really exiting seeing what they’re doing with the film and how they’re putting it out. To see it get a lot of exposure is really nice. So far I’m really pleased and they’ve been doing a great job. I literally just drove past a film board of it five minutes ago. I’m hopeful that it’s taking a step towards the right future not the wrong one.
The screenplay for Final Score is written by The Brothers Lynch. How did it come across your path and why did you decide to direct it?
It was very strange. The guys had come across this situation with the club where it was going to be empty. It had been sold and it was getting handed over to developers. It was going to stay empty for six to eight weeks and they had this window to make a movie. They went through a very intense process and it was kind of a competition that the Brothers Lynch won, in terms of pitching for a film and writing the screenplay. I came across script and I met a few of the producers in February. We had to start shooting the film by June otherwise it was going to get demolished and there wouldn’t have been time to do it. It was a very quick turn around. I was really impressed with how well they’d done in putting a film together in such a short time.
Most films on average take about seven years in development and the rest of it. We were in a situation where they literally only had a couple of months to write the screenplay and moving that screenplay into production in a really tight timeframe. I’ve never seen anything quite that tight before. The thing that really turned me in a sense of wanting to do the movie was the fun it had. It was huge amount of fun to read and it’s the edges and the ideas within that that stand out. There was another writer who got involved in the writing process, a guy called Jonathan Frank, who I’d done a few films with in the past. We all worked to a production draft… a cast draft together because that was where you it needed a little bit nurturing, taking the story and everything that was there and massage the cast elements. Things had to get a little deeper and we had to dig into that a bit more before we could send it out to Pierce and Dave.
We had a very intensive polishing process that really didn’t end. The original draft had a British character, an English guy who goes to the match who is a fan of the club and who was a big football fan. As it developed and we explored cast, that’s where Dave came into it. I think he had the idea of it not being a British fan but it being an American fan and took it in a completely different direction. The rewriting process flipped it on its head. It was such a different angle on it and it was constantly a process of reworking, not just the actors and the timeframe, but also just practically making a film in real environment has its own set of challenges and opportunities.
I imagine if there’s one kind of film you don’t want a tight shoot and timeframe for, it’s an action movie…
(laughs) It’s true. You have to make the most of the elements you have. It would have been easy, but also bloody miserable, to take the attitude of let’s not do it because this isn’t right. If you take a resistant attitude to stuff it’s very hard to do and you’ve got to embrace what you have. If you don’t have time to do the thing you need to do, try to do something that delivers the same thing.
I made short films when I was a kind with no budget really. I grew up on that diet of filmmaking and I’ve never really had the opportunity to do anything with a big budget. The biggest budget stuff I’ll tend to do is television, which feels like a world apart in budget size to movies. Mid-sized films have been squeezed out of existence to a large degree. The only way to actually make a mid-sized film is to make it well below its budget. Pulling off a film for next to no money is a skill to embrace in a way because it lets you get into the genres that you wouldn’t otherwise get into. It always sounds a lot of money but when you break down what you’re actually spending that money, actually what you have to make the movie is a very tight budget. Everyone has to rally around the mentality of embracing what you have and doing it.
Coming from a background of doing those super low budget films as a kid, I think a lot of those methods combined with modern stuff you can pull off things that really look a lot bigger than they are. With Final score there was a lot of times when that came about. A lot of that was doing it for real. Doing the stunts for real and doing the motorbike jumps across the stadium. I’m personally a fan of keeping it real because I think you get something unique even if it’s not exactly as you might quite visage as opposed to anything fake. There is CGI in the movie, and there has to be for certain reasons, but generally the best parts of the movie are when you really film the spectacle.
What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
I’ve got a couple films. One of them I’m hoping it’ll get going at the end of the year. We’re just going into the casting of it now, which is an action thriller. I’m also doing a lot of TV stuff. I’ve really enjoyed doing television. It’s nice to work with really good people and really good teams of show runners and writers. I just back from Puerto Rico shooting a TV show for Sony. I’m probably going to go out in a few weeks and do another one. There’s more balance with the family, which is one of the big reasons. I’m writing a bunch of stuff and I get most excited when there’s a human element tied up in a genre wrapping.
Final Score is released in cinemas and on Sky Cinema from 7th September 2018. Watch the trailer below: