Brixton film Honeytrap had its first public screening ever at the Ritzy last night, as one of the films selected for the London Film Festival. Co arts editor Barney Evison went along to chat to local director Rebecca Johnson and cast-members Ntonga Mwanza and Naomi Ryan.
Rebecca, how does it feel to have your first screening here in Brixton where it was all shot?
RJ: It’s amazing, it’s like playing your home town as a band! It’s a mad feeling when you watch it, as so much is shot out there. It’s the perfect place for it to be shown. I want to sit and listen and pick up on people’s responses. When you watch a film with someone else, it changes your perception of it.
You’re up for Best British Newcomer at the London Film Festival awards (congratulations) on Saturday night, are you excited?
RJ: Yes! There’s another screening of the film at Leicester Square, then the awards. I’m going along with my mother, to hold her hand. It’s in a very posh banqueting hall, which my mum said was where Charles I was executed, so whether I win or lose it’s unlikely I will be executed – all things considered, not bad. All the other nominees’ films look like they’re really good, so it’s just great to be included.
Good luck Rebecca!
Ntonga, tell us about character Shaun.
NM: Shaun’s just out of prison and he’s decided to go down the straight and narrow. He bumps into Layla [the lead, played by Jessica Sula] and falls for her. He tries to keep her out of trouble, but he gets set up by her in the end. He’s a likeable character, a nice guy.
Do you think it’s difficult for people like Shaun to stay out of trouble once they’ve been to prison?
NM: Yes it’s very difficult. They say, “once a thief, always a thief”. The people around you want to try and bring you back. When you go up, there’s always something in life that wants to bring you back down. It’s very difficult for Shaun because his old friends are still around him and he still lives in the same area. Of course it’s going to catch up with him and pull him in.
Do you think Honeytrap is an accurate representation of youth culture today?
NM: Yes, this kind of stuff is still happening. Not only in Brixton but all over London – where I’m from as well, Leyton. That kind of stuff does happen.
What do you hope that people take away from the sreening tonight?
NM: That there’s a reason why Layla did what she did. Everyone has their own troubles and difficulties. It should open young people’s minds and young people’s eyes to the consequences of their actions.
Naomi, you play Layla’s mother Shiree. Could you tell us a bit about her?
NR: She’s the archetypal dysfunctional mum. She is financially taking care of Layla, but not emotionally. I must admit I didn’t like her very much when I first read the script – there’s a part in every actor that is very ego-driven, and you want the audience to like you! But then reading the script again, I decided that it was the challenge that I needed. It was a brilliant opportunity.
How was it, filming around Brixton?
NR: We were working in the community, shooting round here. The more we worked on the script, the more the story came out, the more emotionally attached to it I became. Working in Brixton was big part in connecting all the dots for me. There were a lot of local kids who worked with us on the film. On camera they were just playing themselves – as an actor that’s the fresh, punchy kind of delivery that you spend ages working on!
Did you know Brixton before?
NR: Not very well no. I’ve lived in London for about 10 years – it’s huge. There’s hidden gems everywhere – Brixton was a hidden gem for me. I came to work everyday thinking ‘this place is awesome!’ The local culture had a massive impact on the filming. It’s so lively, it was all happening around us. We’d be filming inside and we’d have to cut because we’d hear Brixton – children shouting, music playing, skateboards.
Honeytrap will be released for general viewing early next year. If you’d like to find out more about the film, read our interview with Rebecca for the October Bugle.